Case Study

How Notus went from abstract concept to validated product in 3 weeks with Design Sprint


Community-driven marketing platform that helps teams find the common interests of its consumers.


New York, US


Marketing, SaaS

Company Size

2 — 10 employees

Services We Provided

— Design Sprint
— Product Strategy
— Product Design
— UX Research
— Art Direction

The Client

Notus is a tech company from New York City who had identified an urgent need in their market. While it was common knowledge that the future of marketing was organic, most SME marketing teams did not have the time or resources to implement a successful organic strategy. They were either haphazardly publishing content, throwing spaghetti at the wall, or spending excessive amounts on paid ad campaigns that were less effective, but more predictable. 

Notus developed an algorithm that combined the magic of authentic organic influence with the stability of hard data. They described it as an: “Acquisition engine for identifying where your target audience is, what and who they are influenced by, in order to engage with them where they are and build 1-1 relationships with them at scale. We call this earned community-led growth.”

The Challenge

The founders were coming from a strong start: 1) They’d correctly identified a profitable opportunity, 2) They’d diligently listened to and explored the challenges facing their target user, and 3) They’d created the tech side of the solution and proved it worked.

However, they were lacking product expertise and had no alignment or clear direction on what the final product would actually look like. They had asked Povio agency to help them with design and development, but before starting that stage they were missing an important step: Defining and validating an MVP. 

They called on us at Human First, as experts in Sprinting to solve complex problems. It wasn’t the first time we’d been brought in at this stage, so we had our recipes at the ready.

The Solution

Given the clear mission and the strong foundations, we were clear on the perfect approach: Design Sprint. By utilizing this approach, we were able to conduct two rounds of Design Sprints and validate the final scope of the MVP. Despite being physically separated, the fully remote nature of the Design Sprint allowed us to work collaboratively and efficiently. As a result, we were able to develop a clear product direction that met the needs of our users

What did the process look like?

We started with an extensive preparation stage with a series of expert interviews. Since the founders had already done extensive field research it was important to organize and analyze that data. We then led the team through the 5 day Design Sprint process:

  • Day 1: Understand – we worked together to fully understand the problem and create a Customer Journey Map
  • Day 2: Sketch – we used the strengths of the team to build a huge bank of ideas and options
  • Day 3: Decide – we led our tried and tested decision making workshop to select the strongest solution 
  • Day 4: Prototype – our experts created a high-fidelity clickable prototype that looks and behaves like a real product 
  • Day 5: Test – we tested the prototype with real users and compiled their reactions and feedback

At the testing stage, we uncovered something that surprised the founders: Various aspects of the terminology, features and tools inside the prototype were not resonating with users at all. In fact, they were losing interest before they even explored the tools, because they didn’t see the point of the product itself. 

Even though the tech capacities of the product solved specific problems that these users had expressed, they had a hard time connecting the dots. The founders had been too close to the problem and had made assumptions based on their own experience bias. In short, users couldn’t see the value of the product because it hadn’t been designed through their eyes. 

So you can probably guess what our Human First team did next, right? (It’s in the name!) We took the prototype, switched to a user-first lense, and got started on the final fix.

The Final Fix

Since we had detailed, user-generated data from the first Design Sprint, we were able to progress directly to an: Iteration Sprint. With the context from the previous work, we moved fast and smart, fusing the Define, Sketch and Decision stages together. 

This time the team learned from our initial findings, and pivoted the product to an educational focus. Instead of showing users eye-straining tables full of data and vanity metrics, they presented clear strategies and actionable steps to organic growth, with simple explanations – who to target, how to approach them, what to say, how often. We then proceeded to creating a new and improved high fidelity prototype, and proceeded straight to a successful user testing stage. The difference in feedback in the space of a week was astounding. 

We then completed the project with an: Execution Sprint. Based on the last round of feedback, we filled in all the gaps, such as missing screens and information, and prepared detailed designs so the MVP was fully ready for the development stage.

“Our decision to use Design Sprints for Notus was driven by the need for quick results. It was crucial not getting into the analysis paralysis that you'd typically get in your normal building cycle. The Design Sprint process is so streamlined and effective that it was the perfect fit for bringing Notus to market.”

Sharika Chauhan, COO at LedgerComm
Yuliya Bel
Co-Founder and CEO, Notus

The Results

This project is a textbook example of the rapid results that Sprint methodology offers:

  1. In just two weeks we designed two different prototypes and tested them with ideal target users from established companies 
  2. We avoided massive budget wastage by compiling rich sources of data and learning before diving into development
  3. We de-risked the project direction and saved months that would have been wasted working on an idea that was completely misaligned with user needs
  4. We created a working MVP that was hit with real users and achieved alignment with all stakeholders

Aside from pulling off the immediate MVP goal, Notus was able to reap the benefits of the Sprint work in the long term, with countless knock-on advantages:

  • The team could leverage the detailed user feedback on both prototypes not only for development, but to refine all areas of their strategy including marketing, sales and customer service. 
  • Screens from the MVP prototype ended up being used into the final product, as the prototypes were so realistic and so closely tailored to user needs
  • Having a tangible prototype also attracted exciting new talent to expand the team

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