The design sprint is not a one-size-fits all tool. Design sprints need to be adapted to suit the problem that a product team is trying to solve in context of the customer experience, which may range from a virtual dressing room to an augmented reality game. A good case in point is the development of products that rely on voice assistants.

The rise of the voice interface is nothing short of astonishing. Voice is the story of just about every major event in recent weeks ranging from CES to the Detroit Auto Show.  As we noted on our blog, businesses at CES 2018 were demonstrating a wide variety of products that rely on voice assistants, ranging from appliances to smart eyewear. And the marketplace is just warming up. In Amazon’s quarterly earnings announcement February 1, CEO Jeff Bezos said,

We’ve reached an important point where other companies and developers are accelerating adoption of Alexa. There are now over 30,000 skills from outside developers, customers can control more than 4,000 smart home devices from 1,200 unique brands with Alexa, and we’re seeing strong response to our new far-field voice kit for manufacturers.

And let’s not forget that Apple, Google, and Microsoft are developing voice-based solutions, too.

And yet, not all products using voice assistants are going to succeed. Designing for the voice interface is obviously not like designing for a screen-based interface, and the voice assistant needs to meet a customer need that no other interface can do as well. Businesses need a test-and-learn approach to vet products relying on the voice interface, which is where the five-day design sprint comes into play.

Google Ventures has popularized the use of the Design Sprint to reduce the risk of developing new products. With design sprints, development teams create and test product prototypes within a five-day time frame. Teams identify a problem to solve and pick an important place to focus. Then, over the course of five days, they build and test a prototype with customers.

Design sprints are, for good reason, a popular way for teams to test any new product. But as I argue in a new Mind the Product post, applying the design sprint for a voice interface requires an attention to the nuances of voice. In the post, I discuss the example of a retailer using a design sprint to create a prototype for integrating voice into a loyalty program. How could a voice assistant, for example, help a customer check the balance of their account?

To demonstrate how the team might need to adapt a design sprint for voice, I discuss the creation of a storyboard that illustrates the customer interface. Typically with a design sprint, the storyboard resembles a rough wireframe based on, say, a screen-based or app interface. But with a voice-based experience, the team needs to depict a dialogue that a customer is having with the voice assistant, and the depiction needs to flesh out the environmental elements that inform the interaction, such as whether the customer is at home or in a car. Consequently, with a voice-based product, the storyboard will look more like a comic book narrative, highlighting when and where a voice experience could bring utility and delight to the customer journey.

By being creative and open-minded, a product development team can use a design sprint to ensure that the outcome of their work is a lovable product, not a gimmick that creates a nice news story but never catches on with customers. For more insight into how to adapt the design sprint for a voice-based product, read my post. And then check out our white paper, Creating a Voice-Based Product with a Design Sprint, to learn even more.

Mike Edmonds

Mike Edmonds

Managing Director, VP Product