- Project duration: 3 weeks (from concept until it was turned over to the development team)
- Goal: Redesigning the current platform and improving the user experience; however, we ended up rethinking the target customer and the platform from the ground up while testing new ideas.
- Interesting information: The entire Sprint was run remotely, using platforms such as Miro and Zoom.
- 6 concepts and 1 interactive prototype were generated;
- We gathered feedback from 3 user tests;
- We managed to define the new target customer;
- Most importantly, the team is now aligned and knows what to focus on next.
How Everything Started
In Romania, where our story takes place, the entire school system was forced to undergo a massive digitalization process due to the government’s lockdown. It turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Edus to enter the spotlight, save the day, and scale their business.
What is Edus?
Edus offers a complete education management solution, with more than 100.000 active users and a presence in more than 650 schools across Romania. It is known for helping all education system beneficiaries get together on the same platform — parents, students, teachers, and school representatives.
With years of experience working with the education system, they help teachers focus more on teaching, improving students’ academic performance, and raising new generations, while reducing the time assigned for administrative work.
Initially, they came to us looking to improve their platform’s overall experience and set a baseline for future development. What we ended up doing was a two weeks Design Sprint, creating and validating a new direction for the platform.
Also, we had to take into account some related challenges:
- A significant part of the teachers is not very tech-savvy and resistant to change.
- Many students don’t have internet access, email addresses, or even devices.
- Romania’s educational system is outdated.
Here is the story of this particular Design Sprint.
Durran Design Sprint Process Overview
We used a two-week Design Sprint process, consisting of a Research and Strategy week and the Design Sprint week itself. On top of this, we added one more week for finalizing the designs and handing the project over to development.
Also, given that the whole process was remote, we made some slight adjustments, like splitting the first day of the Sprint in two and moving some of the exercises offline, to make it less exhausting.
On Edus’ behalf, the team’s setup was as follows:
- Project Manager — also the decider for the Sprint
- Chief Technical Officer
- Marketing Specialist
- Business developer
On our behalf, it was me as the facilitator and designer.
All the action took place on platforms such as Miro and Zoom, but you can check out the whole toolkit at the end.
Project Kick-off / the Strategy Week
The first week was dedicated to preparations and strategy.
Before starting this whole journey, I reviewed their current platform and researched one of their main competitors. Then I structured the week around two main workshops with the deciders from Edus, since the next step was understanding the product itself better and setting a common ground for our discussions.
On a conference call with their Founder and Project Manager, we discussed their challenges, goals, target users, how they plan to monetize their platform, and their main opportunities and advantages.
For the next step, we analyzed their competitors and how they compare to them, followed by a SWOT Analysis and 4P’s of Marketing to have a clearer view of their business and how and to whom they sell. We also tackled the Value Proposition canvas and created a Positioning Statement to understand better the next steps and how they want to position themself before their customers. The whole day was summarized with the Business Model Canvas, so the information can be easily revisited and shared with the whole team.
The next day we spent time understanding and defining the main user personas, creating an empathy map and a customer journey map to see where the most challenging parts of their journey were.
Besides this, I’ve done my research, creating a mood-board with their competitors and a couple of possible design directions, mapped out the app’s current flow, and had one-on-one calls with the team members who would be part of the Design Sprint.
The Outcome of the First Week
- A clear understanding of the context and the challenges they are facing.
- Overview of their existing strong points — the sales team, connections with the educational system, experience in the field, etc.
- Clearly defined user persona, with empathy map and a customer journey map.
- A clear understanding of the aspects that should be improved — adding new features, finding new strategic partnerships, improving the platform’s overall experience, etc.
- A clear understanding of the biggest struggle for their users at the moment regarding the platform — in our case, the onboarding process.
The Design Sprint Week
With the information acquired during the first week, I started to populate the boards for the Design Sprint, so when the Edus team got into the project, there was already information there.
Day 1 — Understand the Challenge, Map It Out, and Find Inspiration
After a brief introduction, we moved to the Expert Interviews. The aim here was to understand the context and the challenge better and get a common ground for those involved in the Sprint. While the experts were talking, the rest of the team took How Might We notes on post-its.
We managed to do all this remotely by using Miro and creating virtual post-it notes, making it super easy to see the post-its and move them around.
As a next step, we grouped the post-its and voted on them. There was already some exciting stuff emerging.
Then, we moved forward with creating the Long term goal — the ideal outcome for our product — and the Sprint Questions to see what could stop us from getting there. We voted on them, and the decider picked the final versions.
As a starting point, the map was partially filled in by me using the insights from the Pre-Sprint week, so when we got there, we just added the remaining information and the HMW notes. Once this was done, we picked a target area for our Sprint. In our case, the main pain-point was around the onboarding process for new teachers.
For the Lightning Demos, everybody took 45 minutes of offline work on their end, and by using Loom, they created short videos to highlight some examples of how others have approached similar challenges and also jot down two or three lines about them. Once this task was finished, they sent it over, and I added them to the Miro board.
Day 2 — Inspirations and Sketches
We started the second day by looking through the inspirations we found for our challenge, from competitors (Class Dojo, Edmodo, etc.) to several other examples, like Masterclass, Monday.com, Zapier’s onboarding, Survey Monkey’s quiz creation process, and many many more. Everybody presented their nugget of inspiration.
For the next step, we went through everything we accomplished so far — HMWs, Long Term Goal, Sprint Questions, the map, and the Lightning Demos — and started to take notes. Everybody individually wrote down things they found interesting and inspiring. Once this was done, we moved forward to doodling and after that to Crazy 8s.
We finished the day with yet another offline task — The 3 Part Concept Sketch, which is a great way to showcase ideas, create solutions fast, and decide what we want to build and what should be in it. Before putting pixels on the screen, using the old school pen and paper, each team member created their own concept, took a photo of it, and sent it over to me. It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty; it just has to be good enough to understand what is there.
Day 3 — Concept Sketch and Storyboard
We started the 3rd day with the team voting on things they liked in the submitted concepts. We created a heatmap of various aspects that looked interesting and worth exploring later on. Then everybody presented one concept different than the one they created, so we could make sure that everybody voted on them for the same reason.
For the following phase, each team member chose their favorite concept for solving our challenge, voted on it, and then presented it to the decider, followed by the decider picking the concept we moved forward with and explaining the decision to the team so that everybody could understand the reasons behind it.
The User Test Flow was the following step, which went in a similar style — everybody wrote down their thoughts, voted, and then the decider picked the version we were to use.
We finished this very intensive day with the Storyboard, which translates to creating the prototype’s backbone. For this, we used the screens we had already and cut them so we could fill each step on the storyboard, and we also added a list of the elements needed to be on each screen, making the prototyping step even more straightforward.
Day 4 — Creating the Prototype
Using all the insights we acquired so far, we moved forward to creating the prototype.
For this process, we used Sketch for designing the screens and InVision for the prototyping part, tying everything together for the user test. The storyboard was a massive help for this whole process, having all the information in one place, without back and forth or second-guessing.
Day 5 — User Testing
The last day was reserved for user testing. We had 3 teachers that agreed to try our prototype and give feedback on our work. We were excited about this step, given that some of the teachers are not very tech-savvy. For this whole process, we used the InVision prototype and Zoom — which proved to be very helpful, given the fact that a lot of teachers were already using Zoom for their online classes.
During the sessions, we took notes in Miro. The feedback we received was mostly positive — they liked the new flow and the platform’s new design. We increased the sizes for buttons and input fields, which they really appreciated. Also, one issue that they wanted to see fixed was to find a way that when they create a new account for the students, they didn’t need to add their email address. It was a tremendous deal because there were still people who didn’t have access to the internet or didn’t necessarily own a device yet.
We got some push-back on one of the features we wanted to implement, so we decided not to move forward with that for the moment, saving some time in the development stage.
Based on their feedback, we reorganized the sidebar menu to better fit their way of working.
“I believe that the main obstacles we identified through the Sprint were our main pain points — the onboarding, and even more importantly, aligning our team on the same goals. Up until the Sprint, we didn’t really make time as a team to think about whether what we were doing was right or wrong in these crazy times. This process should be implemented in our projects more often and at a very early stage.” — Costina Papari, Project Manager @ Edus
The Outcome of the Design Sprint week
- Validated idea & user flow.
- Validated design direction.
- A clear understanding of the users’ problems and how to solve them — an easier way to onboard new users, let users into the platform even if they don’t have an email address, reorganize the sidebar, etc.
- An idea bank that they can come back to.
- Alignment between the team members regarding the target customer, challenges, solutions we used, and what to focus on next.
Once we finished the Sprint week, we used all the learnings and feedback from the user testing to make some adjustments and move forward to create the rest of the pages.
Since the flow was validated during the user feedback session, we didn’t change too much in that area. Our focus was on creating a Design System and the rest of the pages needed so that we could hand the project over to the developers.
The Design System itself is convenient — the developers can use it to create all the necessary elements and states. It’s also beneficial for coming up with new pages fast if required and making sure that everything is consistent.
We used Sketch for designing the screens and handed them over to the developers using InVision.
In one week, we managed to design a good part of the screens required for the redesign of the platform.
Once that was taken care of, we passed over everything to the Edus team’s developers. After two months, with a few check-ins and clarification calls, the new platform was ready to welcome the new academic year’s teachers.
During the Sprint, we generated 6 concepts and 1 interactive prototype.
At the end of the Sprint, we tested the prototype with three 3 who helped us validate our direction while giving us valuable insights about how to reorganize the sidebar, what are their main pain points (e.g., they needed a way to add students without email addresses) and how they actually use the platform.
Another Sprint outcome was identifying a new target customer by moving the platform from focusing directly on schools, to opening it up for teachers, students, and parents.
We also prepared some suggestions for improving the platform even further and aligning the team that we prioritized using the Impact / Effort Scale.
The Edus team’s feedback was very positive for how they felt during the workshop and how much progress was made. Also, the team stated they would recommend the workshop to other people as well.
I liked the friendly and open approach. I think it would have helped if we had more time for offline work. — Edus team member
My Remote Design Sprint Tips
1. Over-Prepare, Over-Explain & Show Examples
It’s better to over-prepare, especially if you are facilitating your first Sprint. For us, it was a lifesaver to create a checklist so we could make sure that everything is done, note down the outline of the Sprint in Notion, break it down in days, and specific exercises so that we could follow the timeline.
Also, make sure that you explain everything in great detail and answer the questions, so everybody understands what they need to do and how to do it. As much as possible, make sure you show examples — this helps a lot to understand better the exercises they have done.
Besides, given that they have offline work, they need to understand what they have to do in order to get the proper results.
Another important aspect is sending out an email with what they need to prepare before the Sprint — such as making sure to have a good internet connection, webcam and microphone, use headphones, and a quiet space. These seem pretty obvious to some until they are not.
Before the Sprint itself, make sure to have a Pre-Sprint week as well, where you can spend time to understand the goal of the project, the business, the users, and the challenges that need to be solved.
2. Have a 1-on-1 Call With Each Team Member Who Will Take Part in the Sprint
This step helped us create an overview of what each participant does, understand both the product and the users, grasp the differences between how each team member sees these aspects, and spot the miss-alignments.
It also gave us time to explain to them about the Sprint, how and what will happen, what they need to prepare, and showcase the tools we’ll use — such as Miro.
3. Initiate Them in the Tools You’ll Use
If we are talking about the tools, this is one of the critical parts — you have to make sure that everybody can use the tools. We had some hiccups with Miro initially, even if we demoed it and let them use the tool in our one-on-one call. Prepare for this. Technical problems will happen.
4. Breaks — HAVE BREAKS!
A Remote Design Sprint is not like an in-person one, so make sure you include regular breaks in the schedule. The workshops lasted for 3 hours each day, and we took a more extended break after 1,5 hours.
Design Sprint Toolset
- Miro — the online collaborative whiteboard platform we used for the whole Sprint. We wrote post-its, voted, took notes, uploaded the lightning demos and sketches, and in the end, we exported the entire thing as a PDF and handed it over to the Edus team.
- Loom — the video recording tool we used for capturing ideas and explaining them for the Lightning demos.
- Zoom — we used it for the whole video conference and user testing.
- Notion — used it for sending over the Sprint Brief, putting together the summary after the Sprint, and tracking almost every aspect of the project.
- Sketch + InVision — for creating the prototype and sharing it with the teachers for the user testing and finally with the developers.
So far, I covered the story of how I ran my first Design Sprint at my newly launched design agency called Durran. Since then, I have run several other similar quests for businesses interested in using all the advantages a Design Sprint has to offer.
We also put together a PDF version of the case study that you can download for our website.
Thank you for making it this far. I appreciate it!