Matthew  Williams Matthew Williams | 17 Sep 2023

What is Discovery?

Discovery isn't simply collecting information; it's about building collaboration, defining goals, engaging with end users, challenging assumptions, and creating a structured platform for exploration. It’s a dynamic and ever-evolving process, and what you uncover during it will always be unique and variable. 

How does Discovery help with de-risking?

Building Collaboration: A successful digital project requires seamless collaboration between your internal teams, and between you and agency teams. A well-executed Discovery process acts as a catalyst, bringing these teams together. It fosters open communication where you should put aside unconscious biases, stereotyping, difficult working relationships etc. It should establish trust, and provide a fertile ground for ideation. It's a chance to push the boundaries of creativity and innovation, setting the stage for a successful partnership.

Defining goals and targets: This needs to be aligned to the business goals. Ask: Why are we doing this in the first place? What does success look like?  Does it align to the vision of the company and not just what Marketing thinks we should do? Without a clear direction, teams can easily wander off course. Discovery helps define these guiding lights. It allows you to pinpoint your objectives, ensuring that the user experience and design teams have a laser-sharp focus on crafting user journeys that lead to conversion. In essence, it aligns everyone towards a common goal.

Engaging with end-users early on: The voice of the end user is paramount in digital projects. In the Discovery phase, engaging with stakeholders and end users takes centre stage. It's a dedicated effort to understand their needs and motivations. Why do users behave the way they do? What information are they seeking next? Ways to do this include talking to customer services teams, field teams, qualitative research, quantitative studies etc. 

While prototype testing often occurs later in the design process, Discovery provides a unique opportunity to explore open-ended subjects around user experiences and attitudes. This exploration yields valuable insights that shape the UX planning and design briefs, making them more attuned to user expectations.

Be careful though, there can be reasons to take risks and it’s important to know the level of risk that your organisation is comfortable with. For example, prototyping can essentially be about taking risks, making mistakes, learning and iterating. So if this is the culture or mindset you want to foster during this phase, make that clear. 

Challenging technical preconceptions: During the initial stages of a project, technical recommendations are made based on client briefing documents. However, these recommendations often rely on assumptions, creating potential pitfalls down the road. 

Discovery is where client and agency teams can challenge these assumptions. By collaborating closely with in-house technical experts, they can dissect and scrutinise the technical landscape. 

This process helps sense-check recommendations and propose the most suitable solutions, free from any preconceived notions. The agency should facilitate essential conversations with third-party vendors, ensuring the project gets the best-fit technical solutions. It’s worth noting that there probably isn’t a ‘perfect solution’. Something will have to compromise, but as long as the pros and cons (and risks) are taken into consideration with each decision, you’re making the right choice for your organisation.

Creating a platform for exploration: Discovery is all about exploring everything, in a managed and purposeful manner. It ensures that no crucial information or insights are overlooked. However, it's essential to acknowledge that a wealth of data and ideas can surface during this phase, which can be both overwhelming and distracting. 

The key is to focus back on the key issues and distil the information into actionable findings to guide the project's delivery.  

In the world of digital projects, success is far from guaranteed. Countless variables, evolving technologies, and changing user expectations can make it feel like navigating a labyrinth blindfolded. If you or your agency take this part seriously, it will set your project on the right course, ensuring that you're not only well-prepared but also capable of adapting to the unexpected. 

Yes, it adds another layer to your web and digital projects, but embrace it, invest in it, and watch as it becomes the key to your project's success and a shield against unnecessary risks.