For clients who need a new or redesigned website, discovery can be a contentious part of the process. After all, discovery requires an in-depth review of a project and its goals, which takes time and investment. And, once it’s complete, your client doesn’t have anything to show for it beyond a really great plan, which from their perspective hasn’t even started. What’s the point of dedicating so much energy to discovery if it doesn’t immediately generate a tangible result?
No matter what your clients may think, discovery is the most important part of any project. If anything, you should encourage an even longer discovery process to uncover and analyze each problem their website should address. But even when discovery is an understood part of the process, it demands more than a focus on uncovering firm solutions.
When discovery functions as a continuous process, you and your clients learn the critical information you need while challenging the assumptions about the project’s needs. To protect the health of your client’s website or app project, you have to question the reasoning behind every decision by consistently asking “Why?”
Dispelling Common Misconceptions About Discovery for Website Projects
Years ago, when website redesigns followed a more linear, waterfall-like progression, discovery was seen as the initial, fact-finding stage of a project. You and your clients would put your heads together and conduct all the appropriate research for a project upfront. When discovery was “complete”, ideally every potential stumbling block would be uncovered so design and development progressed smoothly going forward.
However, regardless of your research methods, initial discovery research won’t uncover everything. A new software update may be released, or a corporate acquisition in your client’s orbit could shift design priorities. New opportunities and risks always come up over the course of a project, which is why agencies like yours may have adopted processes borrowed from Agile methodology. Discovery should function with just as much flexibility.
The value in discovery isn’t digging in to find every potential unknown in advance, which simply isn’t realistic. Effective discovery should reduce the likelihood of surprises while ensuring you have a strategy in place to address new information and keep your project on track.
But you shouldn’t view the information-gathering stage of a website redesign as a one-and-done undertaking. To draw the most value from discovery, you should allow it to function as a continuous investigative effort that shapes each decision throughout the design process.
Successful Discovery Should Be a Fluid Work-in-Progress
In the conventional model for discovery, your agency researches your client’s business to uncover how their redesigned website should function. But instead of thinking of discovery as a process that will form the pieces of a new website, you should see it as an effort to reveal the strategic objectives that are driving a site rebuild, migration, or whatever the work entails.
One of the dangers of discovery is that clients sometimes want to see a deliverable result at the end. While creating a document with a list of formal requirements may have merit, it ultimately becomes an artifact that’s rarely seen again. Don’t fall into the trap of creating a website plan that will only collect dust on a virtual shelf somewhere after discovery is presumably over.
Requirements that are set too early take shape in tangible ways that leave little room for flexibility in a project. Rather than trying to define every detail about your client’s new website in advance, discovery should be focused on building a framework that will inform decision-making throughout the process.
Incidentally, you and your client can be so focused on a new website’s requirements during discovery that you fall prey to bikeshedding. This term is inspired by an incident that involved city officials assigned to approve a nuclear power plant who spent countless hours debating the placement of a bikeshed. The concept refers to fixating on trivial details at the expense of what’s most important.
Focusing on the bigger picture during initial discovery allows it to provide more open-ended guidance throughout a project. As a result, discovery thrives as an ongoing work-in-progress that will better serve your client's needs.
Allow Discovery to Guide Decisions Rather Than Deliver All the Answers
Instead of aiming to establish a project’s requirements, initial discovery should be structured to set guidelines that will support a successful outcome for your client’s business. As unexpected issues arise, you and your client can apply those guidelines in a way that allows discovery to act as a living thing rather than a checklist of details that are better left as development tickets later in the process.
As unforeseen issues come up, they shouldn’t be seen as errors that could have been resolved from the beginning. They’re opportunities that are part of any successful website project.
If a new direction for a project is a worthwhile addition, then you can use the insights from discovery to further examine its impact on objectives for the site. Then, you should factor in the resulting impact on the project’s budget and scope. Will this shift serve your client’s goals in a clear, measurable way? Or can it wait to be incorporated into a subsequent version of the site? At every potential shift in direction, you have to continue asking the hard questions that will keep the project focused on what’s most important.
How Discovery Acts as Therapy for Your Client’s Business
Being transparent with your clients about changes to a project allows them to make a more informed decision about their investment. But even at the earliest stages, when you and your client are discussing goals for the project, your ability to ask uncomfortable questions as a third party can clear the way toward better results.
Sometimes, a client will be resistant to the discovery process because they’re eager to hit a deadline and feel they already know what they need. As you dig into the reasoning behind those assumptions, discovery functions almost as therapy by exposing the communication gaps within your client’s organization.
Fundamentally, your agency is most concerned with making sure a client's project delivers the right outcomes. That focus allows you to poke and prod at what may be touchy subjects within the organization and further question whether a design priority really serves the project’s goals.
For example, personalization is a common buzzword. If a client wants to pursue those capabilities for their website or app, you have to shift focus back to the project’s goals. What will it give them as a business? Does it increase engagement? Improve relevance for SEO? And how will that translate to conversions? As you drill further into their reasoning, you can determine whether it will be a good investment and serve their ultimate goals.
Continuous discovery keeps a project grounded in the fundamental questions for your client’s business. As any potential developments arise for your agency, discovery provides a way to continually challenge assumptions and find the way forward that will deliver the best results.
Uncover a Framework to a Stronger Website Design With the Right Agency Partner
Discovery is a crucial part of every project, but it doesn’t have to be viewed as a routine, research-driven pursuit. Discovery isn’t just about finding a way to identify and avoid every pitfall in a project. It should be an exciting investigation into finding the strategy that will tick all the boxes to serve your client’s needs.
Effective discovery provides a way for your clients to make a more informed decision about their investments. Regardless of whether initial discovery uncovers what may be a bigger problem with their digital business than expected or a surprise development that reveals a fresh opportunity for growth, it’s also how you create a better outcome for your client’s business.
But discovery also isn’t something you need to undertake for your clients alone. At Chromatic, we’re experienced with conducting in-depth examinations that reveal key insights to guide a project’s decision-making. Plus, we know how to conduct these difficult conversations with your clients and manage those relationships with expertise and grace. If you’re ready to uncover more in discovery that will deliver the results you need, we should talk.