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Design Sprint: Facilitator tips for Thursday.

This is the fourth part of a 5-part instalment of Design Sprint tips, focussing on prototype day. We’re going to be ‘faking it ‘till we make it’, by designing and building a prototype in just 1 day!

It’s Thursday, it’s prototype day, it’s time to execute the plan we have been working towards over the last 3 days. Today is mostly about the prototype, so if you’re a designer you’ll be occupied with creating this deliverable on-time. However, there are other supporting roles and key tasks that must be carried out. The facilitator should lean on the whole team to keep the Sprint on track.

Time management

The Sprint is quick, the Sprint is relentless. It shows us how to spend our time wisely with a series of time-boxed exercises. However, prototype day is the only real day out of the whole week that feels more open-ended. Therefore it’s imperative that we are efficient with our time; once we’ve spent it we can’t get it back. We are committed to the Friday test, and we ideally do not want to be stressed out by pulling a late shift to get it done. Nobody wants to be eating pizza at their Mac after sundown. Here’s our first block of tips to make sure we give the team the best chance to succeed…

Minimise distractions

Ok, so it’s super important to not bother your designers at all! To do this we need to create an environment where they can focus and laser in on turning the storyboard into a tangible product. If possible we suggest moving the design team into a separate room. If space is hard to come by then encourage them to use a pair of headphones (over-ear if possible, noise-canceling even better). And of course, if they are listening to music, then we must prescribe the Design Sprint X Spotify playlist (Learn more about the science behind our productive playlist).


Now, the Sprint Book is pretty loose and fast about the format for day 4. There is no set formula for design. Each designer’s process is different, they have their own way of working, preferred tool, etc. But make sure the team doesn’t get lost in a time warp, let them use the Time Timer to visually track time spent.

Divide and Conquer

The mantra for the Design Sprint is ‘Working Together, Alone’. But this goes out the window on Thursday. The team format for prototype day is to split the team up into smaller working groups. The Sprint Book describes 5 roles: ‘Maker, Stitcher, Writer, Asset Collector, and Interviewer’. At a higher level though, we are forming 2 factions; A team to design the prototype and a team to create the user test.

The Makers

Usually assigned to a designer, the maker is one of the more intensive roles of the day. If you have the luxury we recommend splitting this role over 2 or 3 designers if you can. Take some time upfront to evaluate the storyboard and identify where the complex and time-consuming screens are. It’s tempting to split your time evenly over the number of screens, but this will trip you up. During your initial scoping keep an eye out for components that are likely going to be re-usable. Look at the various permutations of common elements design them to be versatile.

Ready to start designing? Not so fast, we have a couple more tips first. Treat the storyboard like a production line, and iterate over it. Without any finesse go through and wireframe the screens. Get the position right, the elements on each screen and rough spacing. It should be ready to Stitch together at this point! Only once you’ve finished wireframing should you move onto the visual design of the prototype.

To save time you might be tempted to use a designer’s best filler friend, lorem ipsum. But make the effort to use real text. Use the skills of the best Writer in the team, if you have someone from Marketing or with a content background then that’s a bonus. Real text gives the product more authenticity and the added context will give you more detailed learning results.

The Interviewer

There are two elements that can make or break the learning from a Sprint, together they form the zenith of the process. They are the user test script and the skill of the test moderator. We’ll talk more about this area in Friday’s tips, but suffice to say is that this is the capstone of the week, so now is the time to prepare. Divide the group so the Interviewer has support from a writer and maybe draft another for admin, technical checks and Asset Collection. Here’s the to-do list:

  • Make sure test users will be there
  • All time slots are accounted for
  • Test equipment, screens, audio, software (Zoom, Hangout, etc)
  • Prepare the interview script
  • Create the test hypotheses
  • Arrange user incentives (gift cards, bank transfers, etc)

Day Setup

Here are some tips to structure the day to make sure the team doesn’t deviate from the overall goal, super important when we’re not all working together throughout the day.


This links back to the first point we made about no distractions and trying not to bother your designers. However, it is beneficial to have 2 points in the day where the team converges into one again, to briefly discuss progress and offer feedback. Timebox these catch-ups to 10 mins and operate them as a mini Agile stand-up. Location wise, we would suggest gathering around the screens of the designers so we can all see the progress they are making, and check this off with our test script development.

A great tip from Jake Knapp when running mini critiques, to prevent people from trying to redesign somebody else’s work:

Make it clear that the person who designed those components is going to be responsible for figuring out the solution, not the group.

We usually do a prototype drop before lunchtime and mid-afternoon. Just make sure they are evenly spaced and leave plenty of time before the team do a trial run. Speaking of which, try not to leave the trial run too late, leave some time to be able to react to feedback and fix any bugs.

Build just enough

Keep the prototype lean, keep it true to the storyboard. The designers might be tempted to build out unnecessary interactions and functionality, basically making it pretty through delight. Remember if you’re not slightly embarrassed by the prototype then it’s not a lean MVP. Only build out what is needed to communicate and test the idea of the product — Not the entire product. Remember that prototypes are throw-away. Remind everyone of the ‘Goldilocks’ mantra; The prototype should have just enough quality to evoke honest reactions from customers.

Goal focussed

Do not allow people to force in last-minute changes that haven’t already been agreed on. But equally time is against you. Don’t be afraid to make decisions quickly and use your intuition. Remember the goal is to learn from the user test tomorrow, it’s not to have everything figured out and perfectly finished. Good luck.

Take a look at our tips for:

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