Creating Smart, Lean Design Solutions in 5 Days

PlaceChangers are a small startup who observed major challenges in the way consultations are currently carried out around urban and rural planning, and developed the idea for a digital service that would improve this process. They approached BLISS to engage our creative and UXD services in order to help define their product and business approach.

The Design Sprint

We never design in a vacuum, and from the smallest to the largest projects, our design approach has always been intimately linked with technical, marketing and business strategy. In order to improve this process, we have adopted ideas from Google Ventures’ Design Sprints. In their own words, the design sprint is “a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. It’s a ‘greatest hits’ of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more”.

We held an intensive design workshop where we thrashed out ideas and honed what the overall concept would become. For this, PlaceChangers invited potential users—a municipal planner and a neighbourhood planning advisor & process expert. The workshop interrogated the original business case, and explored the needs and desires of the various types of users and stakeholders. This was a physical session where we encouraged participants to bring their expertise to the table and explore the full potential scope of the project, through exercises like brainstorming, role playing, scenario mapping and sketching.

BLISS then produced a creative and functional brief outlining the proposed product. We used the brief to generate a selection of user flow diagrams for different roles, and a range of high fidelity visuals of user interfaces that cover the key app layouts. These assets formed the foundation for the PlaceChangers MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

From Concept to Reality

We established that PlaceChangers needs to Inspire, Educate, and Engage; and used this as a mission statement to help inform our ongoing decisions. The scope for what this product could become is huge, but it was essential that we initially concentrated on the core functionality that will differentiate it from the competition, and lend an innovative edge that helps garner investor interest.

In terms of getting a usable MVP off the ground, we developed ideas for an intelligent commenting system that will become the differentiator that sets PlaceChangers apart from competitors. The app will centre around a map interface that allows users to pin stories to geographic spots. Other users can then comment and engage in a dialogue around these stories. Users can be citizens, local businesses, experts etc. who are all encouraged to partake in engaging and useful discussion.

The goal of the MVP is to secure further funding that can be invested back into the product to build on the initial feature set. We have already seen progress, as the outcomes from the design sprint enabled PlaceChangers to emerge as finalists for an investment pitching competition in January 2016.

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