7-Day HMI Design Sprinting Process For Fast and Successful Outcomes

2/26/2024
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Will Breen
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Summary: Today, I share my innovative 7-Day HMI Design Sprint process, uniquely crafted to accelerate HMI projects from idea to prototype with remarkable efficiency and creativity. This condensed methodology merges the best design thinking with agile development, ensuring renewable energy startups can tackle complex Human-Machine Interface (HMI) challenges and swiftly achieve successful outcomes. I uncover valuable insights and foster collaborative breakthroughs that could redefine the user experience in your company. Explore how a one-week sprint could lead to months of progress.

Introduction to the 7-Day Design Sprint for HMI

Numerous factors contribute to a startup's success. There are varying opinions on the crucial elements necessary for a startup to thrive, but one constant stands out: speed. The more fast a startup, particularly those focused on renewable energy, can get out into the market, the higher their chances of success. In a recent interview with Y Combinator's founder and CEO, Michael Seibel (The Biggest Mistakes First-Time Founders Make), he emphasized that speed is often underestimated in today's venture funding landscape, where delays with launching new opportunities are common. The traditional practice of spending months on product revisions and updates must evolve. Urgency should now take center stage in product design.

I will elaborate on Arrow North's 7-Day Product Design Sprint offer in this article. At the end of the one-week sprint, my team receives all the creative and documentation assets necessary for software development.

My process begins by grasping the product's solution and brainstorming with the company to identify the ideal next steps. About midweek, I present a user journey map outlining the steps users will take to achieve their tasks using the tool. This guides the creation of low-fidelity wireframes for the journey map screens. Upon completing the low-fidelity phase, I craft a unique HMI design that reflects the client's branding and is development-ready to deliver a finalized HMI experience. Let's delve into the specifics.

Day 1

I start by gathering and analyzing all current go-to-market research on the business, product-market fit, customer personas, project requirements, existing creative assets, and technical product needs. On the first day, I lead focused discussions to ensure full team engagement before formulating any questions or suggestions for the HMI's delivery.

For example, a CTO may have technical queries that don't necessitate the CEO's presence, so these discussions are facilitated throughout the initial day. My objective on day one is to provide a comprehensive understanding and align the collected research to prioritize essential elements for the initial HMI concept. This process can be efficiently executed with tools like ChatGPT(s) to summarize and rationalize information, enhancing our research effort. Importantly, the research isn't simply copied and pasted between tools; AI is employed solely to streamline research requirements, not to dictate the appropriate next steps for the team.

Day 2

Expanding on the research from day one, I will now define the necessary user types and personas for delivering the HMI. This data varies from the customer personas of day one, as the information required for software usability and marketing efforts can be inconsistent. Following this, I will craft the user journey through a detailed UX mapping process, serving as the foundation for the HMI's design. Subsequently, I will review the UX flow with the team, refining the collected data into a more cohesive flow to establish the groundwork for the HMI designs. Once finalized, I will transform the map into a low-fidelity wireframe with fully functional components. Employing functional components to shape the wireframes enables me to swiftly generate frames and adjust the design elements within them to align with the team's branding and the desired creative direction for the audience. Utilizing a component-based design system allows the elements to be easily modified, facilitating a swift progression through the wireframing process and significantly enhancing the speed at which I craft the final HMI screens.

Based on the insights gathered on day one, I will start the documentation process outlining the necessary development steps to ensure the project's success post-sprint. This includes information about the internal system's build, an ideal tech stack, and the software specifications to ensure a comprehensive inclusion of the UX designs, project requirements, and software scalability.

Day 3

After setting a solid groundwork, I am now prepared to share my discoveries from the initial two days with the team. While I maintain continuous communication and engagement with the team throughout the first 48 hours, the complexity of the same-time progressions can pose a challenge for some stakeholders to track everything that has been accomplished. Therefore, on the third day, I dedicate extra time to present all my findings and outline a cohesive summary of the progress made on all deliverables to date. During the presentation, my goal is to clearly communicate my collaborative research, ensuring the team grasps it effortlessly, thus empowering us to proceed with confidence.

Essentially, I merge the results of the first two days, establish a tailored strategy for the HMI, and communicate this update to the team to ensure alignment with our current progress. I aim to collect the team's feedback to identify any minor inconsistencies in the strategy or user information, refining the deliverables to better suit the ideal experience for our audience. During the strategy presentation, I make sure to link the details to the team's distinctive offering and the solution that the HMI will also support. All strategic decisions are founded on the team's ideal user metrics and my corporate design methodology. When outlining the ideal user metrics, I suggest metrics that can guarantee the successful utilization of the HMI for the business.

For instance, not all renewable companies seek to boost sales of their software solution. Hence, I tailor the ideal metrics based on the information provided by the team on day one. I consistently align the ideal solution with my corporate design methodology alongside this documentation. My methodology empowers me to craft HMIs that are designed for scalability and user-driven adaptations that will manifest throughout the project's lifecycle. The essence of a "corporate" approach lies in designing an HMI system that fulfills the needs of not only the daily operator but also the managers, directors, and stakeholders. By defining and conceptualizing the process early in the project's lifecycle, I am creating a system built to withstand the needs of all unique user types and their Jobs-To-Be-Done.

Day 4 & 5

Once all strategic design aspects are finalized through the week, I will create low-fidelity interface designs to offer a realistic review experience of the end product. The design will begin on day four by outlining essential tasks necessary to execute the agreed-upon strategy set on day three. This phase will also define precise timelines and estimated hours for upcoming development milestones. Outlining the required specifications for a development team to implement or write the code for the HMI system to integrate with the company's machine or platform. This collaborative approach between design and development ensures a smooth and efficient product launch.

Furthermore, I'll craft high-fidelity interface designs following the ideal user flow mapping process from day three to present the envisioned interface design. Aligning with the company's established branding assets, I'll also establish an independent UI style guide, design system components, and design style documentation to provide a strong foundation for the design team when creating or revising screens. Maintaining the quality of the HMI design throughout the process is crucial. By systematizing the design process at the outset and defining the exact design elements before the final screen designs, we leverage the existing design elements with our pre-optimized component design base to ensure an accessible and intuitive interface.

Following the fifth day, we will showcase a clickable no-code prototype that offers a realistic representation of the new HMI design, enabling the team to interact with the interface firsthand. While the no-code prototype is beneficial for user testing, we streamline the process during the sprint by progressing with the initial design iteration and using the build to gather targeted audience feedback. This approach encourages a swift project launch to prompt user feedback and environment-specific testing, leading to more detailed responses rather than delaying the launch for internal stakeholder feedback. Prioritizing audience feedback is vital for a successful product launch. Stalling the project launch hinders the team's success and momentum.

Day 6

Before the final sprint day, I meticulously test, audit, review, and update any missing elements to ensure a seamless understanding with the company during the initial execution. The sixth day is dedicated to completing any remaining tasks before sharing the final interface. All design updates will be published by day's end, and the interface will be primed for future development or testing. Additionally, as previously mentioned on day four, I will furnish the team with a software specs document. This document encloses all design decisions and technical recommendations, serving as the blueprint for the software build based on the information the team and I collected during this sprint. It encompasses technologies recommended for frontend, backend, database, infrastructure, cloud deployment, product roadmap, ideal timelines, user research strategy, design system documentation, and more. This ensures that the project is poised for the most streamlined development from the start.

Day 7

On the final day, I collaborate closely with the client to ensure alignment between the HMI experience and the product or machine. I assess the UX to ensure a fluid and user-friendly experience. The HMI will be primed for development by the day's end, potentially initiating the build process. The company can utilize my no-code prototype for comprehensive user and feature testing, ensuring the right steps are taken post-initial build or before investing in HMI code development.

Rather than adjusting development execution based on testing prioritization, I focus on driving the project forward, nurturing growth and adaptability. In the software specs doc, I refine suggestions based on client feedback from previous days to finalize this deliverable. If the company chooses to extend collaboration beyond seven days, this day will involve setting up infrastructure and codebase for Arrow North Team to commence HMI development. Once the client confirms working with Arrow North, we can kick off directly on day seven with the defined scope of work and timeline from day six.

Success Stories: The Impact of Rapid HMI Design

Now that I've outlined the day-by-day base for the sprint, I'd like to share a brief case study about a local medical device and support startup in North Carolina. This startup provides a mobile application solution for children coping with uncontrollable illnesses. The app allows a child to simulate a seizure, aiding their doctor in understanding and treating their unique condition. I was responsible for designing the front and back end of the application, ensuring connectivity with various devices and portals to validate patient submissions and facilitate doctor reviews. This design project was part of a 7-day Design Sprint.

Following the outlined plan, I started with an insightful session on day one, meeting the client's CTO in person. Subsequently, I collaborated with the founder and project manager to ensure alignment and determine the next steps. On day two, I presented the user types and personas crucial for the app's design. After receiving feedback on personas from the team, we swiftly moved forward with the project. I then crafted the user journey for both the front-end app and the desktop portal. This phase demanded meticulous review and feedback to ensure a robust user experience.

Through detailed discussions and revisions, we finalized all the necessary elements for users to accomplish their tasks. Collaborating closely with the team, I designed mood boards, UI design tokens, and color palettes, aligning the app design with the client's brand. This strategic process streamlined the interface design by establishing specific styles and components essential for the UI design. Iterating quickly, we successfully delivered the finalized UI design within the designated timeline, paving the way for the project's successful development.

Why Speed Matters: The Competitive Advantage of Rapid Design Cycles

Reflecting on Y Combinator's CEO, Michael Seibel's insights shared in his video on "The Biggest Mistakes First-Time Founders Make," he highlights two key reasons for startup failures. The first is the failure to launch, and the second is neglecting the use of analytics. These points resonate strongly with me.

In the realm of software and hardware, delayed product launches and decisions made without data-driven insights (analytics) are critical factors that often lead to the downfall of startups, irrespective of their market position or funding availability. In my experience working with nearly a hundred startups over the past half a decade, those that faced setbacks or remained stagnant are usually the ones who overlooked user feedback and failed to engage with their user base from the beginning. Frequently, the primary obstacle to launching is the repetition of delayed timelines, hindering progress that can cause team members' demotivation.

Using an offer like the "7-Day Product Design Sprint" enables teams to swiftly design HMIs optimized for development. This approach allows businesses to gain an early competitive edge by progressing with product launches and establishing a foundation for prompt user feedback with iterative design updates. The design sprint builds momentum for the team to transition from refining design concepts without a clear basis to taking actionable steps toward launching and learning from the process.

The key is not to achieve a perfect HMI on the first try but to launch quickly, allowing the audience - not just stakeholders - to guide future priorities.

Launching Your HMI Project: Next Steps After the Sprint

Now that the team is aligned with the next steps and information captured during the sprint, I can promptly commence the HMI development on the seventh day, using the scope of work and timeline outlined during the sixth day of the sprint. The connection between design and development at Arrow North allows my team to initiate development on the final day of the design sprint. This involves setting up unique repositories and downloading the UI design code for future development use. While the sprint features a no-code prototype, the tool employed for crafting the prototype generates and submits frontend code for the developers' use.

Following the project's scope, the entire HMI experience is created and integrated into the client's product to ensure a comprehensive project delivery. I also dive into audience-focused user testing by sharing the initial delivery with select audience members for feedback on their experiences. By employing various methods tailored to the audience, I can leverage this data to inform future design, development, and product delivery decisions. This data-driven approach enables me to progress the business with the audience at the forefront of our minds.

Experience Our 7-Day Design Sprint for Zero

While the process may appear flawless, I am currently beta testing the 7-Day Product Design Sprint Process with new clients before its official launch. In conjunction with releasing this detailed article, I invite renewable energy startups to join my exclusive beta program. This program aims to expedite the design of their HMI and establish a solid foundation for success through the rigorous development guidelines provided during the sprint.

The 7-Day Product Design Sprint is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Given the sprint's nature, I emphasize the collaborative and exploratory process that the team must embrace. This sprint offers a unique opportunity to speed up the project's design phase with expert guidance, fostering focused discussions culminating in high execution standards.

Even if a renewable energy startup opts to pause the HMI development due to financial constraints, it will still own all the necessary information to resume the project when ready. Allowing startups to manage these substantial projects flexibly is a game-changer for teams juggling multiple aspects of their business concurrently. For instance, a team that completes the 7-Day Product Design Sprint can leverage the design to secure funding or pique community interest before proceeding with HMI development.

If you're part of a renewable energy startup, explore the 7-Day Product Design Sprint offer through the link provided. Don't miss out on this no-obligation opportunity.

Key Takeaways:

  • Leverage for Growth: The sprint outcomes can act as a crucial tool for startups to secure additional funding or generate community interest, thereby providing a significant advantage in the early stages of business development.
  • Accelerate Collaboration: Startups should engage in the sprint with an open mind to collaboration, as it is designed to involve team members in a joint exploratory journey resulting in high-quality design outcomes.
  • Start and End the Design Phase: By participating in the beta program, startups can expedite their HMI design process, gaining valuable insights and guidelines to drive their project forward effectively.
  • Embrace Flexibility: The 7-Day Product Design Sprint allows renewable energy startups to pivot and adapt easily, ensuring they maintain project momentum even during financial constraints and can restart at their own pace.