Our latest blog has been written by Josh from Nth, a company that Hethel Innovation has worked closely with in the past couple of months.

To find out more about Nth, you can visit their website here.

What is a design sprint?

A design sprint is a process which brings together; a business strategy meeting, a UX/UI design session and user research, with added quickfire ideation, into a lean workshop process. It aims to be a highly flexible tool that any team can use to create a new product, create new features, invent new processes or test any hypothesis to a problem that would usually require development of some sort before being ready to test (that can be digital or physical development).

In Google Venture’s words “The sprint gives you a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer reactions, before making any expensive commitments.”

The process takes between 3-5 full days and has a framework which is followed each time: 

  • Monday; share information about the challenge and create a user journey
  • Tuesday; sketch on paper a large number of possible solutions
  • Wednesday; vote on the best solutions, then draw a storyboard
  • Thursday; make the storyboard into a realistic prototype
  • Friday; test with 5 customers/users, make notes and discuss what has been learned

This is a high level summary but should give you an idea of the process. 

What is its history?

A design sprint is a shortcut to innovation. It was first conceived by Jake Knapp at Google in 2010. It has undergone a huge number of versions and iterations with input from many Google employees, startups and other smart people. It is one of the tools that is used by Google Ventures to help it’s portfolio companies. Over the years it’s proven just how much value it can add, here are just a smattering of the GV portfolio companies: Medium (yeah, this medium), Slack (that other window you have open) and Stripe (have you spent money on the internet recently?). So there’s some evidence it works. 

What were the successful case studies from the book?

The design sprint book is a really comprehensive read and I’d recommend it to anyone. Since the book release there has also been a concerted effort to keep a record of stories from companies doing sprints around the world, see them on SprintStories

Some of the examples in the book walk through how the design sprint helped a robotics company, a coffee company and a healthcare company. They all have entirely different offerings, but by following the specific steps of the innovation process they stayed focused, created solutions and tested hypotheses to their most burning usability questions.  

Some other examples from the Sprint Stories include the British Museum finding intuitive ways to improve their visitor experience, the US Marine Machinists Corp created a new way to share CAD files to avoid design duplication and a domestic abuse charity in Russia created a better UI for their support app. It really is incredibly versatile and can be used in any industry from manufacturing to education. 

If you are interested in innovation then using the design sprint method is a really good place to start. It helps you uncover incredibly valuable insights really quickly and that’s why here at Nth we are so enamoured with it. 

Why are design sprints so useful?

If you ignore all the Google shine that comes along with a design sprint and just think about the benefits in terms of solving problems then you can really start to see it’s value. It makes use of short bursts of creativity, limited by a stopwatch. This time frame forces you to tackle the small task at hand. It also focuses on removing discussion from the process. Most of the time there is sketching, or voting or some other non-verbal communication going on. This saves time and helps you think. 

Once you are at the prototyping stage there is a real focus on using mock ups which helps get it all done in just a day. Research by the Nielsen Norman Group helps prove that, when it comes to usability testing, 5 people is the most balanced number of testers. Testing the product on 6 people or more achieves a diminishing return in terms of the value of the feedback derived. 

Nth can help with this.

Nth is well placed to help with your sprint, we can manage everything and keep the team focused and moving along. We can help with the practicalities of making the prototypes and getting users into the building for you. If you then want to move the solution forward we’re right on hand to translate the learnings from the sprint into code. We also can offer a lot more support in the product development process, just reach out here


Innovation is obviously a buzzword. Companies are obsessed with it. To be honest there is a reason to be. Innovation is what has created everything around us and it’s inevitably what will get us out of all the messes we currently find ourselves in. Whether you’re a charity with absolutely no tech knowledge or a fintech using AI and deep learning, innovation can hold the answer to your problems. 

All it really requires is some time, a bit of outside the box thinking and the freedom to express and consider wacky ideas without them being shut down. I personally find the process for creating new ways of doing things incredibly fun and if the outcome can sometimes help you disrupt your own business model, help more people and create more value then what’s not to love?

Visit nth.work to learn more and get in touch here.