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A Q&A with Jake Knapp

Sara Doltz

We asked the designers at inUse to contribute all their questions about the Sprint method. And then we gave Jake Knapp a call. Here's what he had to say.

How much research do you have to do before a sprint? Is it possible to start from scratch? I find it hard to start from zero research, if it’s not a very defined problem.
​– This depends on the team. I think it's fine to start without research, because the design sprint is one way to conduct your first round of research. Of course, if you can do research ahead of time, you'll be better off—but I don't believe you should wait for it, especially if there are already some strong ideas on the team. I like to harness the team's energy and start sketching and possibly prototyping those early ideas—you'll find out soon enough if they're right, and if they're wrong, they represent a powerful learning opportunity.

In the case where the system/application has a heavy backend, with lots of integrations and a technical legacy, would you recommend to do Sprint? And if yes, how do you make sure it's feasible? So you don’t design amazing artefacts that never can be realized?
– Yes. Be sure to have at least one person—preferably a few—in the room who knows the limitations of your tech. Interview those folks during "Ask the Experts" and be sure you have sprint questions identifying specific risks (For example, "Can we handle new data types?" "Are new integrations feasible?").

– All of that is not to say that you shouldn't be optimistic in your sprint and risk-leaning as you consider solutions. Strike a balance where you ask those legacy experts to help you understand what is and isn't feasible, but you still encourage the team to be bold and take risks on their solutions, provided they believe those solutions could be built.

I was in a sprint a while back and it was the most fun I ever had at work, but I was exhausted by the end of the week. Do you recommend doing sprint after sprint, every week or can you do it more as a focused effort?
– Sprints are fun but also very hard work and it's not a good idea to do them every single week—at some point you have to go back to execution mode. Doing back-to-back sprints, two or sometimes three in a row, can help you build confidence as you refine a solution and act on what you learn in your tests. Even in those situations, I would recommend spending less than the full five days on the follow-up sprints if possible. And avoid more than three sprints in a row if you can. 

What “level of problems” do you think the method is best adapted for?
– The design sprint was created and optimized with big problems in mind—things like completely new products, marketing campaigns, redesigns, or new features. If there is a lot of time, money, or opportunity at risk if you build or do the wrong thing, or if you need help getting a stuck project started, then use a design sprint. The process can work on smaller projects, but it's important to make sure the design sprint doesn't become a "solution for everything". 

How does design sprints work with the classic agile development process, both in timing and in material?
– Ideally at the start of a new project, before the team has begun execution, and ideally with the engineering team involved in the design sprint. You can think of it as a sort of sprint zero. It can be very hard to get agile teams to slow down and stop writing code just to make sure you're building the right thing... but of course, it is better to wait one, two, or three weeks and build the right thing than to hurry up and spend months building the wrong thing.

There are still tickets left to the FBTB19 conference. If you are intrested in attending Jake Knapp's workshop there are very few left – so get yours today.

Art: Lisa Lindahl

What type of UX:er are you?

Ingrid Domingues

The user-hugger, the artist and the world improver are three flavours of UX. All are needed in different contexts, in different settings. I strongly believe that if we were to admit this, when planning initiatives and defining teams, we could deliver substantially better UX and our digital initiatives could have a greater impact. Do you agree?

“There are 27 definitions of UX”, the Gartner expert on UX told us in a meeting at the clients office some weeks ago. He then beautifully explained how the business needs for UX services in the industry are changing, from simple automation at the workplace to complex empowerment at the workplace and in daily life.

Well, even though this makes perfect sense, the problem is that the world is even more complex than that. As I see it, today we have all the technology needed to make every digital part of a service perfect. Perfect in the sense that it eliminates every unnecessary interaction and totally supports the free spirit of humans. Technology as e.g. hypersonic sound, motion capture, hololens, AI and chatbots.

Despite the technological sweet spot we are in, loads of subpar digital services are still developed and maintained today. Most of the administrative work at any place, whether in the industrial, financial, or public sectors, still ties the human in to deficient digital services. Decision makers and developers working with those types of solutions are tied to old legacy, and will be for some time. This means a lot of solutions on the factory floor, in process industry, and in workshops suffer from that same deficiency.

The need for user experience design is enormous, but as long as there are disparate visions of what this means, there will be disparate behaviours among UX:ers. Actually, this is not a groundbreaking discovery. These different behavior types have been around for the last 15 years. It’s just that the increased expectations on UX work make it more obvious.

Certainly, most of us exhibit a combination of those different behaviours, usually with one more prominent. Most of us also develop from one to another during the years. However, I think it would be easier for both the client and the UX:er if we were open about this.

I have come across three type of UX:ers. I don’t mean to say that this is the only correct way of describing UX behaviours, just that it helps me to navigate this complex world.

The user-hugger

A person who considers UX to be all about understanding and meeting user needs. The user-hugger is very strong at doing user research and is usually good at explaining how the solution should be designed in order to substantially improve the users every day life. They are often trained in the areas of user-centered design and human cognition.

User-huggers feel discomfort when they have to come up with solutions without having enough data about users. During my years I have met product owners (PO) who, when I ask what their biggest problem is, answer “the UX:ers”.  The PO is then referring to their experience that UX:ers are not so good at explaining user needs in a good way to developers, and then when they deliver, the UX:ers are very dissatisfied.

In my discussions with those POs  I always detect problems in how the work is organized.  However, this problem is sustained by the user-huggers´ behaviour. They struggle to explain what capabilities and design elements of the solution that are mandatory (based on findings) and what part of the design that can be designed in many different ways.


Not seldom, user-huggers make impressive as-is user journeys, but struggle to take it into a preferred state. This is where the user-hugger needs a colleague world improver, a product owner or a project leader who can coach her into a way of connecting user needs to business impact.

User-huggers usually love doing UX testing They see this as one more occasion to learn about user needs and expectations. If the team regards as a way verify their design, the user-huggers way of working seems slow and unproductive.  

User-huggers excel in early phases, and in an environment where user needs are totally undiscovered, and when they either learn to understand, or they have others that covers up for the business perspective on things.

The artist

A person who considers UX to be a matter of good design. I often hear them say things that make design sound like the solution to every problem. Skilled artists are able to dig through data in back-end systems, build prototypes, and present polished design suggestions in no time. This person often has their roots in front-end programming and/or visual design.

The artist cannot  thrive in an environment where they are not supposed to deliver some design suggestions. They become unhappy and sometimes unproductive in an environment where the task is to help an organisation understand user needs and making the decisions needed to initiate a project.

The artist thrives in teams that work on a product where the scope is set and where there is a good room for redesign and re-builds. They hate to deliver work that is “ugly” due to constraints in technology, time, or visual style guides. On rare occasions, the artist gets so occupied with defining a beautiful front-end design that they ignore the back-end and requirements for maintainability. In these cases they need a team that slows them down, and expands their focus to the whole instead of the details.  

The artist is all for doing UX testing, preferably based on great looking prototypes, and loves to see response for their design. They are quick in understanding what can be improved, and usually have some suggestions ready when testing is done.    

The world improver

A person who considers UX to be a means to improve business, organization, and society at large. They strive to get a good grip on the type of business the client currently has, and take time to talk with decision makers in words that they like and understand. I’ve met with world improvers who say “I look at decision makers the same way I look at my users. I do some research on them”

The world improver could have any background, but often engineering or industrial design.

The world improver hates to do design where there is no definition of the impact for business or value to users. Usually, they are not a skilled designer, but are good at sketching out and testing concepts. They love helping businesses make a plan for a UX initiative and are good at coaching teams and facilitating workshops.

The world improver will do all in their power to ensure that any initiative and delivery has defined goals, and that the design work aligns with those. UX testing is one of their superskills, and they see that this provides the best opportunity to determine whether or not the design meets the desired impact. The biggest problem for the world improver is time. There is often a lack of time to do everything, to meet with everyone, and to follow up on the initiatives they want. They also risk being spread too thin in a large organization, becoming someone who just comes in and gives directions, never doing the hard work.

There are different initiatives where each UX type excels. Assign the user-hugger to do user research, and you will get deep an rooted insights. Assign the artist in development teams and you will get beautifully designed solutions. And assign the world improver when a business needs and wants to make impact by digital innovation.

Let's welcome Neha Kumar

Sara Doltz

Neha Kumar works at the intersection of human-computer interaction design and global development. Today we add her to the list of speakers at FBTB 2019!

Neha Kumar is an Assistant Professor at Georgia Tech, with a joint appointment in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and the School of Interactive Computing.

With a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley’s School of Information and masters from Stanford University, Kumar says that she thrives in spaces where she can use her background in computer science, design, and ethnography all at once. Kumars work lies at the intersection of human-computer interaction/design and global development.

She says that the focus of her research is to understand and critically examine the technology practice and the sociotechnical context of the people that she study, and to leverage this understanding to design appropriate technology and inventions for them.

Neha is also the co-founder of a non-profit mHealth start-up, which targets concerns regarding children’s health – early detection of growth, development, and immunization issues – in the Indian context. This idea won first prize at a health hackathon organized by CAMTech and held at GE Research in Bangalore, in 2014. It also won an Innovation Award from CAMTech in early 2015.

From Business to Buttons 2019 is in May and there are still tickets available. Get your's now and see Neha Kumar live at Scandinavias largest UX and Service Design conference.

A great talk: Global UX: Designing for Women's Safety in Urban India, by Neha Kumar.

How to convince the boss!

Sara Doltz

Do you want to join FBTB in May? Does the Boss not understand the great value of service design and UX? We're here to help!

This year's theme: From Design thinking to Design doing

We, designers, have long known that design is an important tool for creating business value. And we have actually convinced many about this already. Now is the time to put words into action. Getting to practice once the preaching is done. Your stakeholders believe in you, management is engaged – how do you get the most concrete grip on your everyday life in order to get the most out of your day? You will find out at FBTB this year.

No external marketing on the stage

Many other conferences recuperate costs by selling speaker slots. This means that much of what is said on stage is colored by someone's or a company's personal agenda. This is not the case at FBTB. We want you to get the most bang for your buck and not have to sift knowledge out of a stream of market buzzwords. We pay our speakers – not the other way around.

The world comes to you

By taking 10 speakers from all over the world, your boss saves a lot of time and money. Instead of traveling abroad by air, staying overnight and attending a conference, the overhead costs are dramatically lower.

Even more concrete

FBTB has always been a place for concrete, solid advice and inspiration. But with this year's theme we will approach tools and tips along the way.

We have no inspirational lecturer on futuristic AI robots that skip obstacles – instead, we put a lot of effort into telling you how your organization, and you as a designer, can use machine learning to add value to your solution/service.

No one will be talking vaguely about Lean UX – instead, the focus is on how design leaders should build teams to create efficient and fun design organizations that support their way of working.

Marc Stickdorn will talk about doing the hard part – How to actually embed service design in your organization. His focus is the difference between theory and practice of using service design to really have an impact on people. 

Theese are just some of the hands on advice you'll get during the day.

Design IS business

From Business to Buttons is about how to become successful in this borderland between business and design. Digitization is here and everywhere around us, whether we want it or not. Going to FBTB means learning to prioritize, and to use design methodology to develop your business.

Good price now

If you buy before March 31, the tickets are cheaper, you'll save 1000 SEK a pop. There are also group discounts so you can go with the whole team. If you hace any questions about the discount, send an e-mail to Jane Murray or just send you boss to: www.frombusinesstobuttons.com and tell him or her to buy tickets now!

The Director of UX at Alibaba to FBTB19

Sara Doltz

Pauls Fu's full title is Head of Alibaba International User Experience BU, Sr. Director of Natural Human-computer Interaction Lab. He is the latest addition to the speaker line-up!

Pauls Fu's full title is Head of Alibaba International User Experience BU, Sr. Director of Natural Human-computer Interaction Lab. His team is responsible for design, research, and development of AliExpress, Alibaba.com, Lazada, 1688, country Taobao, Tmall Genie products.

As the bridge between end user and business, the mission of the team is to design useful, usable, desirable products with quality brand image. The natural HCI lab is working on research the latest interaction technology by leveraging AI, human five senses, and emotional computing, in collaboration with Tsinghua and Zhejiang universities. 

Paul has 18 years of work experience, including tenures with Augmentum, eBay, and Fatbrain.com. He has a Ph.D. of Human Factors in Industrial Engineering from Purdue, M.S. and B.S. from Tianjin University. Paul is also a coauthor of the book “Human Computer Interaction: User Centered Design and Evaluation” in Chinese.

Tickets are moving fast at this time so get your tickets to FBTB19 today!