What is a Design Sprint? | Day 4: Prototype

September 15, 2021

Day 4: Prototype

In this article, we will take a deeper dive into the fourth stage of a design sprint. You will learn how to create a prototype of your service or product. This is part 5 of 6 of the “What is a Design Sprint?” series.  

Not in the right section? Use our directory to get to the right spot:

  1. Summary of a design sprint.
  2. Empathize with users.
  3. Define the long term goal.
  4. Ideate on the best solution.
  5. Test the prototype with users. 

Build a Prototype

A prototype is a facade of the experience that was envisioned while sketching, during the previous day. This “lesser” form of a prototype takes less time and effort than fully building out a product or service and having to rebuild it after receiving feedback. By focusing on the customer-facing part of the product, the prototype can be finished in one day, allowing for user testing to be accomplished the next day. Additionally, it allows for faster internal testing, helping you and the team discard ideas that are not effective while identifying ideas that are.

Generally, you want to build out the components of the prototype, create the user friendly text, add images, icons, and other relevant visuals for the components, and the interview script to be used for user testing. If a Rumble was selected in the decision making process, make sure to consider how to present both ideas to the testers, such as creating an alternative brand or product.

Whiteboard with sketched brainstorming ideas and post-its
The Design Sprint 2.0: Storyboard

Prototyping Methods

The most common method used during this stage of the design sprint is the Storyboard Method. This requires you and the team to map out each step of the experience that you want to test and the parts you need for the prototype. Draw five to seven frames (and no more than fifteen) to start. The first frame should contain the first scene to provide context to the users before they interact with the product or service. Narrow your solution into four or five panes to show to testers. 

The most common tool is using a whiteboard and sticky notes. Some common digital tools used by us at A2J Tech are Figma, Illustrator, and Adobe XD. Using these types of digital tools to create mockups or sketches are helpful for the story boarding process.

There are many tools out there to create a prototype. However, it is also important to use tools that you and your team are comfortable using. Do not try to use a new tool for this process since it will be less efficient, causing a delay for this phase. The most underrated tool that can be used is pen and paper! It is easier to sketch out a prototype than to learn a digital tool. Even if a tool you use does not suit the project, try to make it work for this phase. 

Mobile app prototype displayed on tablet and mobile
Design Sprint: Digital Prototypes

Another method to create the prototype is the Why, How, Prototype, Iterate (WHPI) Method. The “Why” is what your prototype needs to achieve, such as your long term goal. The “How” is what the solution needs to achieve the “Why,” such as the solution you and your team voted for. For the “Prototype” stage, one person on the team is given roughly an hour to create their prototype. Once a prototype is created, it will be evaluated by the group, based solely on the question, “What about this prototype do we believe will help us achieve our desired outcomes, and what could be refined or omitted to help us achieve those outcomes?”. The “I” in WHPI is “Iterate,” explained in further detail below.


The process does not stop here! Another reason why this process is “iterative” is because you keep building off of the original prototype after the team provides feedback. This helps identify any flaws or other areas to flesh out before the prototype reaches the user testing stage. To keep building off of the prototype, another team member is assigned an hour to create another prototype using that feedback. This cycle can be repeated as needed, but do not do more than five rounds. The ideal number of iterations is three or fewer. Even if you did not use the WHPI method, the iterate stage is applicable to any prototyping method.

mock-up of different screens from a mobile app
Digital Surgeons: Design Sprint Outcome

In Summary…

Building a prototype is easier than it sounds. It requires numerous tasks to be completed within a day in preparation for testing tomorrow. However, it is easier to accomplish with the storyboarding and the WHPI methods. Additionally, allowing team members to improve on the current service or product at least three times will create a sound prototype that is ready for user testing.

Next Steps

If you are interested in the details of the next stage, continue reading with the next blog post in our series, the fifth stage of the design sprint: test the prototype with users.

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