Design Sprint

Mobile Game App

Design, test and iterate

GRDF seeks to increase interactiveness in their onboarding process. The natural gas distribution operator sees a scalable digital product that is built to drive employee engagement and foster strong team spirit. A fun and protean tool that is able to span across departments to provide a playground to share knowledge and extend care within a team. New joiners can learn in-demand skills and know-hows while getting to know who brews the best Espresso and plays the inside centre at rugby games. This cool mobile game app will highlight the public company's people-first approach and its longstanding culture and value.

What is happening here? 

Full cycle design sprint delivered in December 2021. This design methodology is known for its problem solving, result-oriented virtues to fast-track produce user-centred solutions to address specific real-world problems. 


10 work days from 22nd November 2021 - including user research and design iteration and product pitch on the second week.


My client is a public utility company who strives to provide undisrupted natural gas supply for the French territory through solution engineering and the construction and maintenance of infrastructures.


black & white sketch of men's & women's faces

Who was in the team and what was your role? 

Mallory : UX research & design

Though I single-handedly wrote up the user test script, I co-conducted 5 heuristic usability tests with Yann who was the indispensable gamemaster

Adeline : Project innovation 

Fanny : Project innovation & UX

Marwa : UI UX design

Stéphane : Sprint master

Yann :  Developer & UX design 


Being the leading gas distribution operator, GRDF is entrusted with the unparalleled importance in ensuring the reliable, sustainable natural gas supply to every household and office within the French territory. 


The agency has extended its innovation arm to cover its onboarding process in which newcomers will be trained to perform technical procedure including build and repair of fixtures in emergency situations that are by nature stressful. 


Uncertainty and stress impairs cognitive ease which in turn put mental systems of memory search, concentration, decision making, hand-eye and hand-ear coordinations, collaboration, interpersonal as well as communication skills to the test. 


To add elasticity to mental strength, the innovator agrees to create a multiplayer mobile game app that is designed to augment trainees' soft skills and technical knowledge. The game will provide an immersive environment in which trainees are asked to complete a series of specified tasks in close collaboration with their peers. In their upbeat virtual missions, each trainee is required to relay an instruction aloud before her/his colleague completing an action according to the instruction read, and repeat - known as turn-based or gameplay. Trainers can decide at discretion when and whether or not to send unplanned emergency event to a particular trainee, to foster situational engagement by intensifying certain sections of the gameplay. The success of the game will not be determined by one incumbent or lucky random highflyers but the wholesomeness of their team effort.  

What is design sprint? 

description of a standard weekly agenda for design sprint
Image credit "A brief history of design sprint"

A simple put is that a full cycle design sprint is found on the 5-step design thinking process, which being empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test. It has similarities to Lean UX and Double Diamond UX progresses.

Lean UX focuses on minimising time and resources (or "break the silos" in business jargon) and test a Minimum Workable Product (MVP) as early as possible during their 3-step design process: Think, make and check. 

Double Diamond breaks design process into 2 phases or 2 diamonds. First phase emphases on discovering and defining the problem and the second phase, develop solutions for the problem and deliver the product. As Figure 1 below illustrates, the first diamond represents the research phase that will start with the divergence of ideas, it is when designers work independently in silence and ends with the convergence of ideas where designers come together to share, deliberate and vote for the most suitable design. The second diamond sees designers develop and deliver product with the same method, over which designers will elaborate detailed design (diverge) before a delivery (converge).  The Double Diamond has 4 principles inform its process: 1) Focus on the user's problem, 2) communicate visually and inclusively, 3) collaborate and co-create and 4) iterate on the outcome. 

It's noteworthy that all these UX design processes are iterative and non linear - the magic is in the revision! 

image describing the double diamond design process

Figure 1. Double Diamond Design Framework

What has been done in the first week

This is the overview of the output at the end of the fifth day. Let's take a look into what has been done in this busy week.

An overview of project output of a design sprint for a multiplayer game

Food 🥦🍔 🌻🍆🪱 for Wireframe 

Stakeholder and User Interviews

These sessions are particularly useful to understand the kind of problems the client faces. Expert interview creates a safe place for designers to ask questions that return extensive insights to paint the picture of client needs and pain points. It is also a great occasion for product roles to understand where the project stands and what kind of business support it has - this a key information could be overlooked by designers yet it is the soul of the project and holds fundamental importance to determine the final destination of the product. When the design sprint is put forward, it often means the project carries certain degrees of importance, as such an expensive sprint team is formed to conceptualise ideas and move things forward. The main focus will point to the prototype for it will provide instrumental visual assets, which may joined by other important motions, that stakeholders can use make sound good business decision. Design sprint is a great, versatile tool to get buy-in and drive decision while stakeholder, expert and user interviews lend you the lens to investigate what users really need.  

Empathise user 

Day 1 : Understanding needs and define the problem


After one hour of introductory meeting with the team, the design sprint kicks start with the stakeholder interviews. There are rounds of interviews, in that we try very hard to understand the context and why the firm seeks to build a native game app; a considerable effort to meet internal clients needs. GRDF has some 11,900+ employees as of 2020, a large corporation. So we put on our researcher/entrepreneurs' hats to ask big questions, like: 

To our questions, our stakeholders has responded with pre-selected personae, which is helpful to understand who are the end-users and what their problems are. It seems that we are on track to define the main question of our quest. 

Image and description of personae

Define the problem

After a morning of discussion with stakeholders, and after writing up many questions, we finally settle one the last one.

👉  How can gamification measure and improve learning outcome on in-demand skills and increase team collaboration in a demanding situation?" 

Define the question during a design sprint of a multiplayer game app

Now we have a real problem to solve and a "North Star" statement to develop

Keywords and subjects of interest

About HMW "How MIGHT we" and HMNW "How MIGHT NOT we?" 

HMW is widely used in many well-established organisations such as design agencies, multinational corporations, government agencies and universities.

How MIGHT we?

HMW invites participants to unearth ideas that challenge the status quo. To reveal hidden ideas that hover in our subconscious minds, the participants are sometimes asked to deliberately ignore constrains that often given raise by economic, technical or other factors. 

How MIGHT NOT we? 

How might not we, on another hand, explores the new frontier that will lead to omit an existing design or practices purposefully. In an effort to negate an ingrained business practice, a formulation used by convention or a deep-seated theory by teaching. In successful cases, designers will identify obstinate practices that get in the way of decision making or business growth. Eliminate this obstacle means a big stride towards success, either in increasing revenue or decreasing cost. In some very fortunate cases, it can cumulate to a happier society. 


Method : HMW "How MIGHT we" 

We all have coffee and are set to rake our brains. Once we identify the areas that are to be developed into a HMW statement (Step 1),  we expand each area with the help of the e-learning instructional design system model, the "Dick Carey Principle" (Step 2). We used the ARCS Model of Motivational Design developed by John Keller (Step 3) as a reference to understand what motivate online learning. And that is how our HMV statement itemised into Action, Who and What. 

Step 1: Identify scope

What might we in process

Step 2: Expand and develop

Instructional design process of multiplayer game app

Step 3

Rely on this instructional design model to provide a strong reference when designing the gameplay. This list is suitable for developing heuristic evaluation for e-learning.

developing heuristic evaluation for e-learning game app

Step 4

Each of the sprinter takes turn to present their own point of view (POV) then we go ahead with the HMW that get most of the votes. 

How might we and POV

Step 5

Discussion about long-term objectives and obstacles, then speak about them in details with stakeholders. In some design workshops, designers may document this and have stakeholders to sign a copy of the printed version before developing the next step.

Define long term objectives and obstacles in a design sprint

Step 6 


By now, we have all the high level decisions made for the project. It is time, we create a user journey to understand how the user interacts with the game.

NOTE N Map during design sprint

Step 7

Next we move on to gain perspective on the high level design features. This exercise will increase understand on the best products in the market, a simplified version of a competitive analysis. 

High level design snapshot

Ideate 1/2

Day 2: Sketch da ideas

Today our team will explore potential solutions to the problem we defined on Day 1. It will be a big day, because we will have expert interview in between the production time. I am particularly pleased about meeting the stakeholders again, we can finally ask the questions we missed yesterday. And I have my questions ready before the meeting this morning! 

Ideation and sketches

Conceptualising idea

After having refreshed ourselves with these creative methods, we reorganise our notes, then jot down more ideas in drawings and texts. We had some crazy 8 fun; sketch the screens to illustrate a design summary. We saw lightbulbs everywhere!

I start out to create a 8-part narrative by illustrating a technical lead who receives an urgent phone call...  in face of a stressful situation, his team will go through the emergency protocol, gain batches after playing the stress management and know-hows games.

Narrative expressed in a series of sketched images

Next, I sketch a stressful situation in which 2 technicians express doubt in choosing between a red and a green button (below left), this plot will later be translated into the unplanned events. As to the sketch on the right below, it will be adopted into the game configuration as well as the avatar screens. 

Set the sense and login page

My sketch below provides 9 different screens of the game, it will become part of the turn-based interaction.

Sketches of game app interface

Crazy 8

You cannot be too inspired

There were a number of polemic subjects that sparked passionate debates after a string of stakeholder interviews. My favour one is the question which involved whether we should design game interactions as explicitly suggested. One of the training specialists shared with us their gaming experience, in which trainees were once asked to play a turn-based game. The game is by nature highly interactive and demands full attention, it requires players to relay terms that will seem only straightforward to its very own game designer. What adds additional complexity is that if one of the players failed to either relay a term or execute an instruction with 100% precision, the game will subsequently end. We have gone a great length to study the feasibility and desirability, if it would suit the goals, the behaviour and the context of our users. And when our ceiling-high posts-it menaces to rocket and pierce the faux ceiling, we realise that the majority of us have voted for adopting the turn-based interactions while adding distinctive educational features to match our client's unique requirements. 

One thing I am sure of is that, I will regret if I hadn't asked the stakeholders of which game inspires them most and the list of jargons.

Ideate 2/2

Day 3: Vote for the best screens and Storyboard-it

It looks like we have some voting to do. Once we choose our favourite sketches,  we move on to create the user flow. For which, each of us have 6 posts-in to work on. 

Once user flows are ready, we vote again to capture the most relevant posts-in to lay the basis for our storyboarding. We choose 12 user flow posts-ins and develop an extra posts-in to compliment the flow. We can hardly believe it, storyboard done and dusted!

User flow in process
Story board in the making

Then the screens are developed step-by-step according to the storyboard. Below are screens concerning the RTS gameplay. 

Develop interface based on story board

The same method is applied to create the dashboard, the obvious challenge here is to design the display of data points, between users i.e. players and trainer. Below is a draft copy of the initial dashboard (Yann's sketch) that provides an ego-view leaderboard.

Design process of a leaderboard

Warning: FLASHING CONTENT below. If you are sensitive to flashing image, please scroll down quickly to skip it. I am still working on how to collapse the paragraph. Apologies, please bear with me. 

Understanding attitude and mental constraints

This game has meant to create an immersive experience, more particularly carrying out tasks in uncomfortable situations, facing ambiguity, distractions of competing objectives, noise and unplanned events, to challenge players' cognitive ease that will eventually amount to a domino effect to induce cognitive load. 

Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahnamen (Tversky and Kahneman (1973)) famously provided a powerful insight into how people make decision and how judgements happen. One of the most revisiting areas are behaviour and attitudinal's decision making.  Kahnamen explained in his book, Think fast and Slow, through the personification of the complex inter-working of the brain, whereas the fast thinking brain, he called it "System 1" is in charge of providing evidence and emotional input while the slow thinking brain or "System 2" is responsible for judging the input. When facing uncertainty, the fast thinking brain provides countered-advice to slow thinking brain before reaching a supportive decision or rejecting System 1's suggestion. Kahnamen went on to prove that although human mind is capable of rationalising and analysing, the imprint of one's past experience forms part of the semantics structure of the brain, and this huge personal database contributes to subjective bias, which can trigger affect heuristic when facing a question. Unlike usability test that is to identify a problem based on computing and analysing functionality flaws, "available heuristic" assesses likability based on bias of "System 1". According to Kahnamen, heuristic plays an important role of regulating the mind and avoiding cognitive overload, it is skilled to replace a difficult question by an easier one. For example: "Do you think the temperatures will fluctuate between 12.3 to 15.7 celsius during the 46th and 47th weeks in the North of France in the next 10 years?" This question requires statistics review to check temperatures in certain periods of the previous years then study the meteorological forecast before giving a quality answer. So for "System 1", the part of the brain that releases our day-to-day invaluable intuitive judgments, to perform its function and to avoid cognitive overload, or in plain language making life simpler, will seek to answer an easier question, like "How do I like the weather last autumn in France?". Though both question will return either "yes" or "no", the mental work behind differs so as to the reliability of the answer. According to behavioural economists, this kind of substitution is ubiquitous, and is not uncommon to be found in the area such as executive decision, financial market, political election, commerce and personnel review. 

Flaws in human judgement or behaviour economics is relatively new which contradicts the traditional view of an all-mighty human mind is capable of. Yet this theory has proven being useful in many areas, and most remarkable application is found in the fields of consumer behaviours, economics, medicine, judiciary and public policy. 

I borrowed Kahnamen's powerful theory of cognitive ease and cognitive overload to create the visual experience below, which is designed to stimulate a cognitive overload, that is, as an ultimate goal, to awake the more deliberative, logical, slower thinking part of the brain, which operates in an static state by default. For during most of our days, the fast thinking part of the brain does the most of the mental work which, oppose to its logical counterpart, operates in an autopilot fashion. This means our brain is capable of assessing information between size and intensity, recalling memory, making involuntary comparison, to cover the significant portion of our daily intuitive decision making process without a noticeable effort. This is self-explanatory of how System 2 can indulge in the luxury of relaxation when it is not being summoned. Despite its laziness and slowness, the logical brain is responsible of complex computation, producing high level abstract thinking and reasoning, it sometimes even refutes our own intuition when it detects self-critic is needed.  

Understanding these psychological principles can help designers to make fair design decisions . The size of the screen, the pace of the game, the progressive information disclosure, the narrative design, the consistency, the predictability, the visual representation, users' attention, the instructional design and the control and freedom available to users, all actively contributes to the likeliness that the user will have towards our product. Even the slightly positive change in the interface will culminate to a positive user experience. Heuristics and usability are distinctive subjects require mastery of understanding and planning to sustain success. 

Game on! To experience cognitive load, consider the question below while reading the animated message. 

Press "z" to reset screen size.

Are you frowning? If yes, it means the exercise is stretching your mental effort. Be aware, don’t let your emotional "availability  heuristics" produces too hastily a conclusion and replaces the hard question by an easy one, like “Do I like to have fun?”, or “How do I like to have fun?” or “Do I like the colours of these fonts?”

If you tried to answer the question above, you should have by now experienced a moment of cognitive load. You were trying hard to think and reason while the flashing image disturbed you constantly. At the same time, there was an influx of thousands of new thoughts triggered by a mental shotgun by your intuitive mental system as you perceived the animated visual message. Your fast thinking system activates a search in your memory, forms a familiar picture based on your own experience and proposes to your slower, more logical mind, for it to assess the validity of the proposal. While your logical mind focuses on analysing the relevancy of the hypotheses, you may have experienced physical change given raise by your own mental effort, such as a higher heart rate, dilated pupils, blushing face and even sweaty palms - a sign that your logical brain is at work. You were likely to cease feeling the tension once you abandoned the exercise - a sign that your logical brain is at rest. The intention of this exercise focuses on how human minds and bodies react to a demanding mental charge. You now understand the principle of affect heuristic and substitution - our tendency to conform and conclude with little doubt by evidence of limited knowledge generated by intuition - and some physical reactions related to mental effort. Now let's have some fun and play the game.

Prototype 1.0

Day 4: Prototype delivered by close of day!

Click on the screen or hotspots to play the game. 

Press "z" to reset screen size.

Check out the flow plan below to see how screens interact with one and others. 

Overview prototype with flows

What I love about prototyping is that I actually got to create the nifty interactive components to bring the design to life. For this product, I used the ease out + time delay functions of the prototype interactions to create the progress bar (timer) and play hey presto! by creating variants to display different states of the components, especially the on/off state of the game board. All this can be found in the prototype above and the improved version below. 

Interface design

As we race against the limited time to produce a functional prototype for testing the next day, we decide to use illustrations curated from Freepik and other stocks. My teammates downloaded the vectors and took it from there to elaborate the design - as such changed colours of the uniforms of the graphic to match those of the GRDF gas engineers'. As designers, we all know the importance of working with the style guide, yet our UI design mood that day is to push the artistic boundary, so instead using the standard font, we choose to use a more playful font which denotes the cyber-atmospheric virtual world and the emotion sought after the gameplay. Yet the corporate colour scheme is here to stay to adhere a strong brand consistency. We would have created our avatars only did we have enough time. A huge lesson learnt on time management and work allocation during a tight design sprint. 

See how the avatar screen evolves in its own UI - credits to our UI designer.

Design process interface

Character design

Coming soon

User test

Day 5 : 5 Heuristic usability evaluations

I volunteered to prepare the test script (enclosed below). The strategy I used was to develop a script to test with end users, in our case, gas engineer on training. But I was wrong, and it turned out the script I prepared wasn't quite right for heuristic usability evaluation.  Yet, usability test deals with a larger scope of work, it extends to cover the context, goals and behaviours of the user while heuristic evaluation invites experienced evaluators to critique/discuss best practice and overall performance and interface design. I was underprepared, still deleting the questions enquiring background information of users had eventually prevented to me to ask redundant questions to expert evaluators. I have listed out the main distinctions between the two tests in the paragraph below.

To develop a list of the heuristics, I then chose to have evaluators commented on each screens. The decisions was made quickly to facilitate a throughout a test without missing any interaction. We were lucky, the tests went extremely well so as to the collection of data. 

GRDF User Test Script FR v1

Usability test and heuristic usability evaluation

If it is safe to state that a good product solves users' problems and thus desirable by its targeted audience. Then usability test is one of the most cost effective tools to assess and render the product to be more attractive to users through design iteration. 

Not only by nature user test is cheap, it is easy to set up too. All required is additional screen recording and mirroring softwares, a professional mic will be useful to ensure the quality of the sound, in case you plan to present the footage in a stakeholder meeting. The footage will help designer to tell a compelling story and underline the pressing issues the company should be focusing on. It helps to align the strategy and move things forward. Studies show that UX matured companies test their most and less successful products regularly as they clearly see the benefits of this equation: 

 Understanding user needs + Improve product features = Increase competitiveness + Drive better engagements

UX designers should incorporate a coherent testing strategy through different product development stages: research, design and after launch. It is clear that user test should not be a once-off annual event, as it often leads up to temptation to pack too many different objectives into just one test. As many researchers will appreciate the fact about testing a hypothesis against multiples objectives will certainly results in compromised data and therefore wasting the time and effort of the organiser. Instead, define clear key goals of what and who you are testing and outline specific questions seeking for answers. Prepare a detailed script with possibility to recall a passage verbatim, never mind to be slightly robotic at the beginning, all effective test moderators rely on practice to gain fluency to probe deeper product knowledge that means gaining access to invaluable information for product improvement. The advantage of using a script is that it guarantees the quality of the conversation by covering every important point. Talking to a stranger may trigger stress, even experienced moderators may find it challenging to cover all obvious questions when conducting user tests without a well structured script. Moderators should use their own judgement to ask additional questions to gauge product experience when the users is willing to share inner insight.

As to the difference discussed in the paragraph above, here are the definitions of heuristic usability evaluation and usability test.

According to Jakob Nielsen is his book, Usability Engineering, usability testing is defined as “a technique used in user-centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users. This can be seen as an irreplaceable usability practice since it gives direct input on how real users use the system.”

In the same book, Nielsen defines heuristic evaluation as “a usability inspection method for computer software that helps to identify usability problems in the user interface design. It specifically involves evaluators examining the interface and judging its compliance with recognized usability principles.”

Usability test vs Heuristic evaluation

I will add the fifth row: 

5| While designers are in-charge of analysing the data for the usability test they conducted, evaluators are to develop heuristic evaluation report on the product tested. 



Note-taking is one of the most useful skills to UX designers yet many design teams still struggle to fully recognise its significance. While the moderator conducts test with the users. The design team will take note to document feedback. There are different tools available to keep track of user's comments, such as word processor, spreadsheet, etc. My team opt to write posts-it notes directly on Mural app. The notes are categorised into three levels of importance, high, medium and low for the test I designed and conducted with 5 users, about 45 minutes per session. With the comments users generously provided during conversations, my team went on to produce a handsome amount of notes. And when I finished the tests, I joined my team to re/group the notes to create a database which we had largely depended on to understand users pain points and for the prioritisation of tasks. A way to prioritise tasks is to analyse feedback against the frequency appeared in the notes - base rate. One way to do this is to reorganising the notes by codes, that is to classify the inputs with specific codes and a space to add detailed description of the comments. This is hard work yet it provides comprehensive analysis and a basis for iteration. 

Why recording

The user test footage serves to bridge information gap between what is said and what is understood. Multitasking in the form of listening and typing the same time requires extraordinary precision of hand-ear coordination: recalling information from short term auditory memory then translate it to motor command. The chance to capture every user feedback that is crucial for feature improvement in just one take is seemingly a mission impossible to ordinary people. To alleviate such risk, test organiser can use screen recording technology to record the session for future review.

Observation and note-taking

Though it is for the evaluators to establish the evaluation reports, the task of organising the design iteration rests with the design team. 

The panel on the left hand side below shows notes taken during the tests and are being moved to the right panel when the tests are completed. The move facilitates to the compiling of the to-do-list, paves the way for the prioritisation before design iteration.

Qualitative data processing
Qualitative Analysis - User feedback on Game 1.0

What has been done in the second week? 

Design iteration

Week 2

Day 6-7: Interface major overhang overhaul

As the qualitative observational research leads us into a deeper understanding of the product and the to-do-list guides us on what details to be changed to meet iteration. 

Prototype 2.0

Day 8-9: Product pitch

Press "z" to reset screen size.

Growth & reflection

It's an immense pleasure to learn about design methodology, meet new people and co-create work in a team. Game design is an exciting area, surly there are so much to learn before I will be able get a good understanding on any end-to-end game development. Below a summary of the challenge and things I have learnt through additional secondary research, desk, literature and conferences. Below are some key takeaways.

Mobile game

Advantages and disadvantages of asynchronous and synchronous gameplay has been a high level design decision to study since 2000 - when asynchronous design started to gain popularity for its capacity to deal with locational differences and provide causal players flexibility to join in a game without being penalised due to limited time - designers should have a clear vision of the purpose of the game and while keeping in mind the importance of scalability. A forethoughtful game designer will seek answers to questions like: 

> "Why are we designing this? What is not working with the existing systems?"

> "Who am I designing for?"

> "Is it for honing a particular skill set?"

> "Or creating a space for social bonding?"

> "How many players will play the game?"

> "Is location an issue?" 

> "Design between intensity vs learning outcome." 

> "Does the game provide an immersive experience?"

> "How do we measure success?" 

> "Any field observation possible?"

Understand technological constraints related to mobile game design, include security and support.

PC game

Set the goals straight from the beginning: Ask your team "What is really important?" Open world vs server world? Security? An orderly step-by-step approach? 

> Server capacity to load content and connect to social networks

> Latency/Jitter - prototype with stimulate latency and focus on solution while accepting jitters. (Robert Boehm from Exit Games)

> Connection: When unstable or Wifi only

> Scalability: Plan carefully to ensure upscale coverage

> Choice of technology : Consider adopting well established tools and middleware such as Unity,  Game Centres, OpenFeint, Box2D, Corona, Marmalade, Papaya, SmartFox, Exit Game Photon and many more well-established platforms and frameworks that are not listed here. 

> Game perspective and Latency: Use Bird's perspective or Ego perspective? Choose a method that will help to minimise a negative user experience.

> Meta communication: use only text snippet and emoji to avoid locational issues and spamming.

> When synchronisation (real-time) is a main consideration, consider how to manage gamer leave prior to her/his own losing game to leverage the effect on the leader board. It was said social shame could be a solution if fake account is no longer a helpless issue. (Matthias Hellmund from Exozet Games)

> Multiplayer turn-based game: Time management.