As part of our continuing work on the new University website, we are undertaking a series of Design Sprints. These are fun, interactive sessions with students, staff, and other key audience members.

Most organisations know what their biggest challenges are. Although, if you ask around, you may find that everyone has a slightly different interpretation of them. And without a shared understanding of a problem, it’s really hard to get to a solution.

That’s where the Design Sprint can help.


What is a Design Sprint?

A Design Sprint is a structured ‘design thinking’ process that translates business objectives into actionable insights in just a few days.

The aim of each Sprint is to fully understand a problem and generate design ideas as possible solutions. A prototype is then built in one day (a prototype is a working demo of the solution based on the best idea). The prototype is tested with real users, generating feedback at a very early stage without building the full product or website.

We have created a list of challenges that are suitable candidates for a Design Sprint. These are mainly based on our research last year into Top Tasks – a big thank you to everyone who helped with that.

  • Staff profiles
  • Modules
  • Course pages
  • Subject pages
  • Search
  • Clearing
  • Services
  • Open days
  • Course comparisons
  • Research pages
  • Voice and chatbots
  • Jobs
  • Room booking
  • Staff and student pages (apps)
  • Accommodation
  • Country pages
  • Schools
  • Events
  • Location (campus, Dundee, Scotland)
  • Homepage


What does a design sprint look like?

Traditionally, Design Sprints last five days and require the full participation of everyone involved for all of those five days. We are running a compressed three-day version that only requires the participation of people outside of the Web Services team for a single day.

↓  We need your help with this part  ↓

Day 1 – Problems and solutions

Morning (“Understand the problem”)

  • Discuss the challenge
  • Present findings of our customer research
  • Review existing solutions (our existing website, existing wireframes or designs, solutions from other industries)
  • Capture good ideas from discussions with a quick drawing on the whiteboard
  • Discuss process for sketching

Afternoon (“Everyone’s a designer”):

  • Sketch early ideas
  • Share and discuss each other’s ideas
  • Vote on best ideas
  • Attempt to generate a single solution

↑  We need your help with this part  ↑

“The immersive process means the group agrees on and shapes the design — moving away from the old delivery & review process that can be painful for all.”

Rebecca Sheasby, Senior UX Designer – The Telegraph Digital Engineering and Product team


Day 2 – Prototype

On Day 2 our team builds a prototype from chosen solution to test the ideas from Day 1. The prototype is an experiment in order to test out a hypothesis. Anything can be prototyped in a day if it is clearly mapped out.

Typically this will be very visual. Functionality will be limited to a few key interactions. However, the prototype will be realistic enough to enable an assessment to be made about the viability of the solution.


Day 3 – User testing

On Day 3 our team runs user tests to get feedback on the prototype. Watching our users try out the prototype is the best way to discover major issues with the solution, which in turn enables us start iterating immediately after the testing.

We aim to get an authentic reaction from a potential user. This will either validate the ideas generated on Day 1 or indicate that the problem is more complex than originally thought.


What are the potential outcomes of the Design Sprint?

The most significant outcome of a Design Sprint is that in less than one week, we can;

  • create alignment around a problem
  • define a core concept and create an interactive prototype
  • validate solutions with real users and get actionable feedback

In terms of the solution itself, a Design Sprint can have the following outcomes:

An efficient failure

The prototypes didn’t hit the mark, but we learned something and saved our team weeks or months of work building the wrong solution. We may run a follow-up Sprint.

A flawed success

Some of our ideas met users’ needs but not all of them. We learned something and can now iterate and test again.

A big win

The concept met the users’ needs; they were able to complete tasks easily and engaged with all the features we mapped out. We are ready to move forward!

Following a ‘big win’, there will then be additional work, including but not limited to:

  • High-resolution design work
  • Usability studies
  • A stakeholder review to get feedback from leadership teams
  • A technical review to ensure the solution can be built
  • Content modeling
  • Implementation by the development team


How can you help?

We are reaching out to people like you to ensure we get your input and can make the most of your experience. This process requires participants from different organisational backgrounds to diversify creative thinking, challenge viewpoints and help solve problems.

Research has shown that 5 participants are enough to get 85% of the usability problems that affect 1 in 3 users. If you are a student or member of staff, then you can be that participant. In 2017, the University website was viewed over 16 million times by over 2.4 million people from over 200 countries. You can play an influential part in the new website by participating in a Design Sprint.


You can make a huge difference to the success of our your new website.


We welcome everyone who has a passion for improving the future website experience to join us at a Design Sprint. Frustrated by something on the website or maybe just inspired by the potential of a fresh start? Then choose a session or two and let us know you’ll be there by registering on Eventbrite: 

Book your place at a sprint

We will run design sprints throughout 2018, one every two weeks.

Subscribe to our mailing list using the form on this page for updates on new Design Sprints as they are confirmed


What would you have to do?

The morning session (9:30am to 12pm) will involve group discussion about the challenge being addressed in the Sprint. The afternoon session (1pm-5:00pm) is when everyone gets to sketch out their ideas for solving the problems identified in the morning session. Ideas are shared and voted on, with the aim of establishing a single, winning solution.

What training or skills do you need?

No specific training or skills are required, just a passion for improving the digital experience for millions of people. This is a creative process but there is no expectation on you to create beautiful sketches (although, if you can, great!). All required information and materials are provided on the day.

What about refreshments?

Refreshments are provided throughout the day, including lunch at 12pm.


Do Design Sprints actually work?

Design sprints help solve big problems in a short period of time by exploring and discussing ideas. They help to generate a strong, effective solution to a problem. Companies like Google, The Telegraph, and the BBC regularly use Design Sprints to solve problems and move important projects forward.

“Bringing together people from around the business meant it was truly a collaborative effort, everyone had their say and could bring their expertise to the experience.”

Becca Allard, Marketing Manager, The Telegraph Digital Engineering and Product team


Design Sprints help teams like ours to avoid making the mistake of building a solution without fully discussing the problem with stakeholders and users. Full development of a solution typically takes months of complex work. If the solution isn’t effective, then it requires further work.

The Design Sprint process is an effective way to quickly generate and test a prototype that may be the precursor to an effective solution. We can do this in just three days.


Is this just about design?

This is where the name Design Sprint is misleading; the challenge may actually be more about the functionality or the content than the design. For example, our course pages currently contain a large amount of content. We will run a Sprint to help us to address this challenge.


Where can you read more and get inspired?