A Source of UXProject's Truth
Where does the discovery phase fit in
There are several stages in the project life cycle in which different methods are carried out – Discovery phase, Define (research) phase, Design phase, and Production phase.
The project has to start or has to have a Discovery phase. The Discovery phase is a process focused on identifying the target audience, their problems, and their needs. In this initial research, we test your ideas to see if they can solve users’ problems and meet their expectations and needs. In this phase, we determine what is relevant for the users and the stakeholder.
Although essential, this phase is often ignored or even refused by the stakeholder. Clients often see it as an unnecessary time-consuming phase that prolongs what the stakeholder wishes to see. Clients often conclude that provided information is enough for the UX designer to do their work.
By investing a few weeks of discovery at the beginning of a project, companies usually avoid investing 2x, 4x, or even 8x more time (and money) in fixing things later.
Starting a digital project on a solid foundation is crucial. It provides us with a sense of direction and purpose. By investing a few weeks of discovery at the beginning of a project, companies usually avoid investing 2x, 4x, or even 8x more time (and money) in fixing things later. It is more cost-effective to demolish a house built on a poor foundation and start over than to try and fix it. Skipping the Discovery phase leads to ill-defined goals and unchecked hypotheses, which leads to more expenses.
During discovery, the team (appointed for the project) works with stakeholders to understand business objectives and desired outcomes. We try to find answers for the questions such as ‘what do we want to achieve?’ and ‘for who are we designing this project for?’. Analyzing both the business and the production aspect, we minimize the risks and potential issues that coud occur during the Production phase. Production cost will likely decrease by splitting features into ‘crucial ones’, ‘nice to have’, and ‘unnecessary ones’. The discovery phase will give us a clear understanding of which feature goes into which group. Answering all of the questions, prioritizing, and selecting the core features will result in a very detailed project timeline.
For the UX design team to start creating ideas, we first have to understand where the client is coming from and where their product/service can fit in the users daily lives. For the UX design team to begin with the project, we need to answer several questions. The most important ones are the following:
- What is the purpose of the project?
- What is the business need? Are we solving the business problem with this idea?
- What are the problems that the stakeholders have with the product?
- What do we know about the user?
- What are their needs and journeys?
- What are the problems which the users have, what are their pain points?
- Do we have the right people, materials, and knowledge to tackle this request?
- How exactly will users use this solution?
We are not only providing answers – We are providing possible solutions
But we are not only providing answers to these previously set questions. We are providing possible solutions and hypotheses based on the gathered information. Those solutions are called deliverables.
The main deliverables of the discovery phase for the stakeholders are the following:
- Define the full scope of the product
- Define goals that the product needs to achieve
- Define target group definition (the primary and secondary target users)
- Define user scenarios (analysis of user types and their motives for use)
- Create detailed user flows
- Define the sitemap (site’s architecture)
- Create the full list of product features and functionalities (what functionalities do users need and what issue are we resolving with them)
- Define the MVP
- Define the project roadmap
- Create software requirements specification
- Define the needed budget to successfully deliver the product
- Give the full production timeline estimation
The deliverables are the result of the conducted research and analyzed data. They serve as a source of truth for the product development team.
What comes afterward? When we have provided solutions and hypotheses, we need to confirm them with data from real customers.
Why it is important to do research
When research is not an option for the budget because of the lack of time or resources, it should still be completed in the following manner. Looking for current business, user, and competitor data (competitor analysis) will help lowering the risk of creating a product that the customer does not want to use. Best practices, benchmarking, and team’s own expertise can help define the project more clearly. The only “wrong” data is no data at all.
If the discovery phase is skipped there is a high probability that personal assumptions about other people’s needs and preferences do not correspond with reality.
Nobody wants to make an ambiguous design, but a design based on real data. That is why it is essential to conduct UX research verifying or denying our assumptions. UX is all about the user, hence the name USER experience. The product needs to be usable and later desirable by the user.
The more you talk to users, the possibility of end product being better get proportionally higher. By doing research, you avoid wasting people’s time. Doing research also increases the chances that the user will have a great user experience.
With research, it is possible to:
- Save time (and resources) for changes later in the product development process;
- Reduce the risk that the product will not fulfill its goals and will not survive on the market.
- Answer the question: How do you know it will work?
- Have a full understanding among the entire team of what, for whom, and how we want to develop the final product.
Mistakes in the design phase without research are cost-inefficient.
That is why we advise to do user research at all stages wherever possible and whenever necessary. The earlier the research is carried out, the more impact the findings will have on your product. Hours saved on UX research can render into many days, weeks or months of extra work on improvements and changes later. Mistakes in the design phase without research are cost-inefficient. Do not throw away your precious work when not being prepared from the start of the project.
- Derežić, D., How to organize remote discovery workshops — tips, tools & templates, 2020, Bornfight https://www.bornfight.com/blog/how-to-organize-remote-discovery-workshops-tips-tools-templates/
- Crnogorac V., Why discovery workshops save projects? 2018, Bornfight https://www.bornfight.com/blog/why-discovery-workshops-save-projects/
- Derežić, D., Product Discovery Workshop: what it is and why you need one, 2019, Bornfight https://www.bornfight.com/blog/benefits-of-a-product-discovery-workshop-and-why-do-you-need-one/
- Derežić, D., Product Discovery Workshop: top 5 benefits for Clients, 2019, Bornfight https://www.bornfight.com/blog/product-discovery-workshop-top-5-benefits-for-clients/
- Rosala, M., The Discovery Phase in UX Projects, 2020, Nielsen Norman Group https://www.nngroup.com/articles/discovery-phase/
- Dzid, S., What Is the Discovery Phase of the UX Process And Why You Should NEVER EVER Skip It, 2018, Medium https://medium.com/@sarahdzida/what-is-the-discovery-phase-of-the-ux-process-and-why-you-should-never-ever-skip-it-cd0458f5efdd
- Kompaniets, A., What “Discovery Phase” Actually Means For Your Project, 2020, Uptech https://www.uptech.team/blog/project-discovery
- Kotorić, D., UX Discovery: what it is, why it’s essential and how I go about it, 2021, Bootcamp UX design https://bootcamp.uxdesign.cc/ux-discovery-what-it-is-why-its-essential-and-how-i-go-about-it-a4948bc3e5c0
- Samji, R., Choosing a User Research Method — Discovery Phase, 2020, Medium https://medium.com/apply-digital/choosing-a-user-research-method-discovery-phase-5172364c5fe7