When it comes to UX design, the clue is in the name – User Experience. As UX designers, we must place users at the centre of everything we do.
As such, the discovery phase should allow you to understand your users, the problem you are trying to solve and the context in which that problem exists. It should give you a clear idea of what needs to be done and how best to do it. This phase is about detailing your problem, framing your problem and gathering evidence that supports the direction you want to take.
This is an essential element of any successful UX project, which is why it should be conducted at an early stage rather than during later phases, such as during product design.
So, what is the Discovery Phase?
The discovery phase is the process of exploring the problem you are trying to address to help you find the best possible solution. It provides you with an opportunity to thoroughly examine your problem and detail the rationale for addressing it in the first place. It is the solid groundwork that will set your project up for success.
Gov UK describes the discovery phase as a phase during which you can learn about:
- Your users or target market.
The discovery phase is largely about research and ensuring you know your users inside and out. This will involve building user personas and conducting interviews and surveys. The aim is to understand your users’ needs, motivations and behaviours.
- Your organisation’s goals and objectives.
The discovery phase also involves learning about your organisation’s aims and objectives and how these might be best achieved through a digital service or product.
- What your users are trying to achieve
This one should be a bit easier to determine, as this will align closely with the purpose of the product you are working on. However, it’s still important to validate these assumptions with your users.
- The business context
This is all about understanding the bigger picture – what are the political, social or technological changes or constraints that might have an impact on your product?
- Opportunities for improvement
Here, you should consider whether there are any methods you can employ to make your project run smoother; for example, you could set up clear channels for internal communication with any stakeholders before beginning work.
The discovery phase is vital to the success of any project and should not be skipped. Here are five reasons why:
- A better end product
The discovery phase might seem like a lot of extra work at the outset, but trust us, it’s worth it. This is your chance to get inside the minds of your users so you can figure out what they like, dislike, and any potential pain points you can address during your product design. Taking the time to lay solid foundations during this phase will mean that you are less likely to encounter problems further down the line. Using this time for exploration may give you essential insight you can apply later on, ensuring you make the correct design choices for your target market.
- Improved stakeholder relations
The discovery phase is also a significant opportunity to build better relationships with your stakeholders. This is the time to get everyone on board with your project, from senior management to the front-line staff who will be using your product. By involving them in the process early on, you can ensure that they feel ownership over the project and are more likely to support it in the future.
- Increased team morale
Carrying out a discovery phase will also help to increase team morale as it will give everyone a chance to get involved in the project from the start. This can help build a sense of common purpose and understanding between various team members involved in the project at different stages.
- More efficient working process
An effective discovery phase will also make your team’s working process more efficient in the long run. By taking the time to understand the problem and explore potential solutions early on, you can avoid any major redesigns or reworks further down the line. This can save your team a lot of time and effort in the long run, as well as ensuring you allocate your budget wisely and get the best return on investment.
- Greater user understanding
Finally, perhaps the most important reason to carry out a discovery phase is to gain a greater understanding of your users. This is essential for any product development team as it will help you to design and build a better product that meets their needs. By committing to a discovery phase, you are factoring in essential time to get to know your user. Doing this at the beginning of the design process will set your project up for success.
What you will have at the end of the discovery phase
At the end of your discovery phase, you should understand your problem better as well as have possible solutions for it. You will also know your users better, what their needs are and how to cater for them. Furthermore, you will have established better relationships with your stakeholders and team members. Finally, you will have a more efficient working process in place. All of this together should result in a better end product.
Conducting a discovery phase can seem like a lot of work, but the benefits are clear. By taking the time to understand your users and the context in which your product will be used, you can design and build a better product that is more likely to succeed.