Design Sprints for Banks: A Step-By-Step Process | Windmill

The Design Sprint Process for Banks

Windmill Editorial Team
  • Financial Services

Digitally delivered financial services, known collectively as fintech(s), have become, very quickly, an enormous industry. According to research from CBInsights, fully one-fifth of all unicorns (start-ups valued at >$1bn) are now fintechs, a sharp increase on even a couple of years ago. 

This is great news for consumers and businesses, who can manage their finances in an increasing number of slick, convenient ways. But more of a challenge for large banking industry incumbents, whose tried-and-tested methods and products are being, well, tested by a sea of small companies with big ideas. 

It’s a situation that places the onus on banks to constantly question whether their services and delivery can be competitive going forwards. For that reason, the rapid digital transformation of products and services is perhaps the number #1 issue banks are grappling with today. 

And the best way to start the transformation process and fend off challengers is a Design Sprint. 

How much time does the Design Sprint process require of me? 

A Windmill Design Sprint, all-in, takes ten days. Product heads and Directors in banks are busy people, and experience has taught us that time is of a premium. As such, a Windmill Design Sprint has four days of workshops, instead of the traditional five, of which just two days’ stakeholder participation are required. 

The Design Sprint process 

Before a workshop begins, Windmill conducts preliminary research. Then begins the five-step process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. 

Day 1 – Empathize 

The first day is about defining the challenge, building empathy user personas, and mapping how customers will interact with your product. For a bank, such work will include looking at existing actors, systems, workflows, and problems in order to build out a vision for the product. 

The Design Sprint facilitator will guide the workshop team through a series of exercises, such as building an Empathy Map or a Journey Map. These are worked on in sessions of up to an hour and help a team understand the unique needs of their prospective customers and begin to design intuitive and intelligent solutions.  

Empathy is a critical element of a Design Sprint and foundational to the ultimate success of a product.  

Day 2 – Ideate 

Now that the team has a solid understanding of the problem, it’s time to ideate. It’s the job of the facilitator to create a high-performing space, literally in terms of having posters of personas on the walls and figuratively in terms of creating an environment in which people are comfortable sharing ideas.  

To coax the most interesting ideas from the workshop, the facilitator will guide the team through activities such as Lightning Talks, How Might We, Affinity Mapping, SWOT Analysis, and Value Proposition Canvas. Being spontaneously creative is difficult and hard to repeat, so the value of the activities is providing the structured environments that allow ideas to flow reliably and repeatedly. 

And remember, this is the final day that requires stakeholder participation. At this point, you can put your feet up and rest assured that Windmill will handle the remaining stages of the process. 

Day 3 – Prototype 

With the problem understood and potential solutions mapped out, the team turns to prototyping. The goal is to build testable prototypes that can generate useful data. They don’t need to function or even look nice—in fact, the aesthetic usability effect says that attractive designs can actually degrade test data quality by concealing flaws. 

Day 4 – Test 

Experts in user testing will write test scripts and source users, who could be sourced internally or from a user testing company. Testing may seem unnecessary but is actually fundamental to the success of your product. It also re-establishes the user at the center of the process. Testing data will inform the next iterations and everything that happens after a design sprint. 

Days 5-10 – Reporting 

With the workshop stage of the Design Sprint process wrapped up, the Windmill team compiles a product proposal and workshop report. The report contains actionable data as a basis for decision-making. We know as well as anyone the level of rigor needed to make decisions at a bank, but thankfully have numerous success stories of taking on full-stack development work of financial services products. 


Whether it’s revamping an ageing app, moving into a new space, or taking advantage of new technologies, Design Sprints are ideal for banks under pressure from challengers. A Design Sprint is the first step to product success. Book a Design Sprint now. 

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