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Every successful design project starts with a discovery phase. A common goal to all discovery projects is the need to define the current state of a product, capture pain points, potential areas to enhance and define next steps. Often clients fail to accept the importance of a discovery phase, and due to budget constraints choose to bypass it, not realizing that “saving” on this phase may be costly at a later part of the project.
What We Discover
When working on any product, there is always a preconceived notion or general direction of what to achieve and how to reach that goal. Internal personnel who deal with day-to-day project development will have ideas of how it should all shape up. They might have some of the best ideas because they know the product best. A contracted agency, brought in, will form their own picture of the end result. Problem solving is human nature, but looking at a product from different angles takes work, and the discovery phase is designed for just that.
Analytics: Looking at Some Hard Facts
The goal of the discovery phase is to look at some hard facts, and learn the product’s current state to its core. A deep dive into a website’s analytics will reveal pain points. Traffic patterns and behavior flows can illustrate how users arrive to the site, the sections they view, time spent on a page and where they go from there.
Learning these patterns can indicate areas that require extra attention, and help prioritize future web projects. While every designer’s dream may be a total rework, the reality is that more often than not, budget and time constraints don’t allow for it, and incremental redesign may be necessary. Analytics point to where work is needed, and measure success rates for any new project.
Customer Service Calls
A great source to dig into during a discover is the customer service log, if available. Knowing how to read between the lines, User Experience experts can decipher personal complaints from real platform issues. When going through logs, UXers will look for patterns and noise around specific issues. Often customer calls reveal existing platform bugs, but many times they lead to UX issues experienced along the way.
Reviewing Open Bug Reports and Requests
Reviewing the list of open bugs will supply an overview to existing website issues, and in return may shed light on UX matters. Reviewing the process of how items are reported and handled may teach a UX expert how internal teams work, and show which processes may be streamlined.
Open tickets may indicate business goals for the near future. Why do we want to know about existing projects during the discovery phase? Knowledge is power. Our goal during a discovery phase is to know everything we can about the product, company and teams involved. While User Experience has its own tone of voice, it is important that all members of an organization can share and communicate. When partnering with us, we become part of your team. We learn how your team currently operates, not only so we can know the product as well as your internal personnel, but also so we can make the best recommendations for your company and its end-users.
Interviews of Internal Stakeholders
One of the most important and interesting aspects of the discovery phase is interviewing internal stakeholders. This is when personal opinions and company politics come into play, and a UX expert becomes a psychologist. We are here to listen! We want to hear about where you’ve been, how hard you worked to achieve a target, what worked and what didn’t, and the lessons you learned along the way. Why? Because you are hiring us to enhance your business. Stakeholder interviews are when everyone receives a clear stage and gets to tell their story — Why do you feel that your department requires prime real estate on the homepage? Why do you think users can’t find a certain feature? Etcetera. — We want to hear what you have to say, and we take it all into consideration during our assessment. We often discover during such interviews that not all stakeholders follow the same business strategy, or share the same aims. Departments can operate in silos. and don’t always use their website products to the full extent in order to reach a common goal.