Discovery is such an important part of every project we do. No matter how small the project – whether it’s a website refresh, adding new functionality to an existing site or creating a whole new site from scratch, we never skip this important stage of our project process.
As our in-depth discovery service is so important, we felt that it deserves its own ‘case study’, instead of only being a by-line in our case study pieces, which focus on the design and development that follows.
This article illustrates all of the possibilities of what we can achieve with our stand alone discovery process. We also consider the challenges of doing discovery in isolation, and why we feel it’s always preferable to handle the end to end delivery of each project we work on.
The discovery process can include:
- Project scoping, planning and resourcing
- Stakeholder surveys and interviews
- User persona development (workshop)
- User journey mapping (workshop)
- User centred content strategy and prioritisation
- Site map and full resolution wireframing
- User Acceptance Testing (UAT).
Project scoping, planning and resourcing
Before starting any project, including discovery only, we always begin with a deep dive into the organisation’s existing online presence.
Based on our initial conversations, we have a general idea of what they would like to achieve and with this in mind, we look at the existing website’s performance, how easy it currently is to maintain, and we assess the clarity of its content – does it reflect the organisation’s mission and purpose?
We then look at the resources the project will require and the availability of our team, and bring all of this information to any initial discovery conversations with the primary stakeholders.
Stakeholder surveys and interviews
Following the initial conversations, we then dive deeper into the organisation’s mission, purpose and their objectives for the project. Depending on the size of the company, we may begin by creating a stakeholder survey, to identify the different stakeholder groups and what their individual objectives are.
We follow up with in-depth stakeholder interviews, which build on the results from the surveys, helping us to really get a feel for the combined objectives of all those invested in the final outcome.
The discovery stage follows the identification of representatives from all the key stakeholder groups. Depending on the organisation, we may hold these sessions in person at our offices at Somerset House, or at the client’s office if this is practical.
Often, we are working with stakeholders in global organisations, with offices across the world. In this case, and of course when COVID restrictions apply, we work with miro project boards, allowing us to have the ‘in person’ discovery session remotely, and retain digital copies of the input from all parties.
During this stage of the discovery process, we find that by bringing together multiple stakeholders, we can all have visibility of everyone’s input, and we are able to clearly define:
- A strategy for presenting the organisation’s aligned mission and values
- Any press and publicity acknowledgements and opportunities
- What the top level key desired features are.
This helps us to focus on a well defined outcome for the project that will meet the requirements of all involved.
User persona development
To ensure that we meet the needs of the key audiences of each client, we spend some time defining the key audience groups. Once this is agreed, we then co-create, with our clients, ‘user personas’ for these different groups.
Creating personas with a ‘real’ background story – not just who they are as an audience, but actual individuals who represent audience groups – helps us to imagine how each of these people would use the website, where their ‘pain points’ might be with the current website (and whether it has even been designed with these groups in mind) and how we can address these.
User journey mapping
Once we have our personas, it then becomes possible for us to map out how they might wish to use the website, and how our client would like to direct each audience differently, to meet both their needs, and the needs of the organisation.
Depending on the services offered, there can be several different user journeys for one website, and our focus is to make each of these journeys accessible and easily navigable for all users, from the website homepage.
User centred content strategy and prioritisation
Although we want to meet each client organisations’ needs to help them achieve their outcomes, our design process always starts with a people first approach. The best way to direct people to what we want them to engage with, is to understand what it is that they need most. By meeting each user group’s highest need, we make our client’s clients happy, which benefits everyone.
Taking the user journeys created in the previous step, the next stage is to prioritise the content into a hierarchy that makes navigation intuitive for anyone arriving at the website’s homepage. This means always keeping our client’s mission, purpose and values front and centre, followed closely by the services they offer (the need they meet).
All of the above steps are followed in close collaboration with the stakeholders, sometimes in one meeting, and sometimes we reconvene following research and analysis on both sides to ensure we are all in agreement before we move on to the next stage.
Site map and full resolution wireframing
The penultimate stage of our discovery process is to take everything we’ve learned, and create a full site map of the proposed new website and a high resolution wireframe, to provide a visual of how the website would look, and how an actual user journey would look and feel.
At this stage it is possible to hand over these assets, for another agency or individual to move the project forward. However, once this has been handed over, we then have no say in whether the wireframes we provided will be used, and may not always have the opportunity to explain our reasoning behind them.
User acceptance testing
The final stage in our discovery process is user acceptance testing. Following presentation of our findings and advice to our client, we then move to UAT to ensure that what we are proposing will meet their needs.
A Discovery first approach
We take a discovery first approach with every project, as we find that this makes the planning and resourcing stages much more streamlined, with less, to no need for unexpected changes further down the line. This helps us to deliver our projects on time, and on budget.
We offer a standalone discovery service, which is ideal for those unsure of whether they need a new website or simply new functionality, or a refresh of their existing site. However, for a full scale project, we recommend taking advantage of our end-to-end project service, to guarantee a high performance, low carbon, aesthetically pleasing online presence that delivers results.
If you’d like to learn more about our discovery process, do get in touch and we will be happy to help!