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How to craft a killer minimum viable product in less than a week

by Otto Becker, Full-Stack Architect at Nortal, April 10, 2018

Whoever said – “Slow and steady wins the race” – obviously never designed a user interface. Sometimes a mad dash to the finish line is the way to go.

You want to build a killer user experience (UX), but your endless procession of client meetings and emails has created a communications swamp. The result: misunderstood priorities, a mediocre prototype and a lot of wasted time. Does this sound familiar?

There is a way out – design sprint. It’s a great workaround that Nortal has used with success several times.

The design sprint simulates the fast-paced, pressure-cooker environment of a hackathon. The concept involves sending the design process into hyperdrive, squeezing a hefty amount of interviewing, collaboration and design work into a few intense days. At the end, the client gets a clickable prototype that not only meets their needs but is visually impressive enough to be sellable within the company.

We recently had fantastic results from putting this strategy into play in Finland where a large industrial client had asked us to develop a user interface for their maintenance data platform.

Design sprint — craft a killer MVP in less than a week

Each day our team spent several hours with the stakeholders throughout the company to understand their pain points and hear their ideas. Top management wanted to be able to see and present the value of preventative maintenance. Line managers needed to track key performance indicators (KPIs). For the “machine whisperers” working the factory floor, a holistic view of the equipment status was the priority. Along the way, we constantly called on them to verify the work we were doing on our digital drawing boards.

On the final day we presented a high-fidelity Proto.io demo along with a slide deck explaining how our UX solution would answer their prayers. It was an outright hit. We got a big thumbs up from management, who told us our design was years ahead of competing equivalents they’d seen.

Like a hackathon, but not

Agility has arguably become the most sought-after virtue in the breakneck world of IT development. It’s no wonder then that the hackathon, the quintessential way of working in an agile fashion, has been adopted as a template for the design sprint.

Design sprints and hackathons have a lot in common. Both entail working closely with the customer, understanding users’ problems and producing a prototype in a short period of time.

That’s where the similarities end. Hackathons are, at their core, highly competitive events where a killer pitch and a great presentation are key objectives. They’re generally far more intensive than design sprints, which are relaxed affairs between the design team and the customer. The goal of a design sprint is to create a high-quality, graphic representation of a design solution.

And it’s really the quality of that representation that’s key. Even when managers understand that great user experience and service design are must-haves, they still have to have something close to a finished product to gain traction within the company.

Nobody is going to get excited about crude wire frames with buttons. They won’t intuitively see how the design will benefit them. But if you create a great-looking demo with all the functions, chrome and polish, everyone from employees to investors will get on board. This is one area where Nortal shines.

Setting up a design sprint takes commitment from both sides. The company has to set aside time and make the right people available. The results will be well worth the investment.

To find out more about design sprints and how Nortal can help you achieve your goals, get in touch with us!

Otto Becker

Otto Becker, a Full-Stack Solution Architect at Nortal, is driven by customer success. Becker has over five years of experience in international IT project management, product management, solution architecture, business process development and sales. He's a curious, tireless self-learner and a change agent by nature. To see how he could help your business succeed, get in touch with him by email.