Your digital project should start with a discovery phase

Why run a discovery phase?

If you are thinking of launching a new digital product for your business, a period of discovery is integral to gathering the requirements and opinions of your audience. A discovery phase brings key project stakeholders together, facilitates collaboration and ensures that you create something that all parties can buy into.

What’s the aim of a discovery phase?

The overarching aim of the discovery phase is to define and consolidate a clear list of user, business and commercial requirements for a new digital product. The challenge then is to develop a UX, and formulate a technical approach, that can not only meet immediate requirements but also scale and adapt to longer-term objectives.

Where do I start?

It all starts with the ‘expected change’. What do you, or your client, want to achieve with a new digital product? For example, there may already be a version of the product that is not currently generating the right type of leads, so the focus is therefore on identifying who the target audiences are, how they can be reached and the types of information that they are looking for.

What are the steps?


Fact-finding is a hugely important part of the discovery process. This could be anything from gathering audience insights from focus-groups, to a competitor review. The pre-planning phase is a great opportunity to collate all of the information that has been gathered to date and to highlight any areas that may require further exploration. The more information that can be shared prior to the workshop, the better.

If there is time to do so, it is also a good idea to ask attendees to complete a short pre-workshop task. This can be as simple as asking them to share some of their own examples of best practice. Ultimately, it means that the attendees are starting to think about the process before they come along to the session and arrive with a collaborative mindset.

Analysing the data

If the client already has a live digital product and they are looking to launch a new and improved version, a great starting point is Google Analytics and heatmap tools such as HotJar or CrazyEgg. Google Analytics can be used to determine the most visited pages, scroll-depth, drop-off points and much more. Heatmap tools are really helpful if you’re looking to see exactly what users are doing on your site and what they are interacting with it. They can also be used to add surveys or questionnaires, allowing you to collect qualitative feedback that could prove invaluable.

2. The workshop

How long should it take?

In our experience, for a standard workshop session, it’s advisable to allow a full day with room regular breaks. The session should include a series of different exercises and the key to getting the most out of participants is to ensure that they remain engaged throughout. Exercises should be collaborative and encourage each participant to contribute as much as possible. It’s often a rare opportunity to get people from different business areas together in the same room so make the most of it.

Who should attend?

From the agency, the key people generally tend to be:

  • UX Lead - Manages the direction of User Experience on the project
  • Facilitator - An impartial participant who keeps the workshop moving, ensuring that timings are adhered to and that each participant has their say
  • Solutions Architect - The designated technical lead for the project who will be on hand to discuss both short-term and long-term technical requirements and their feasibility
  • Project Manager - Responsible for planning out the project flow, ensuring that everything discussed is achievable in the suggested time frames and budget

From the client side, there will ideally be a mixture of people from different areas of the business who will be coming at the project with their own unique perspective. This may include, for example, the product owner or members of the brand team. This is, however, entirely dependent on the size of the business. In a start-up it’s likely that one person will be responsible for a number of different roles. What is consistent though is that there should be someone in the session who is able to make key decisions on behalf of the business.

What’s the format?

The format of the workshop is very much dependent on the required outcome. It may be, for example, that you or your client have already worked up some audience personas prior to the workshop and therefore the focus is on mapping the journey of these audiences - what is considered a conversion for them and how we can add value to their journeys.

Depending on the required outcome of the session, relevant exercises will be selected from the ‘UX Toolbox’. These exercises can include (but are not limited to):

  • Competitor audits
  • Audience persona development
  • User journey mapping
  • Card sorting exercises
  • Site maps
  • Content hierarchies / blocking

What are the outputs of the workshop?

Typically, the objective of the workshop is to get to the stage where all attendees have agreed on the basic hierarchy and flow of some key product areas. Depending on the format of the session, simple blocks may be used to create visual content hierarchies, or alternatively this may happen after the session when the agency team re-group to discuss findings and next steps. These simple hierarchies provide a clear idea of what takes priority on the page and can then be further developed during the wireframing phase.

3. Post workshop

What happens after the workshop?

Following the workshop, all of the information captured in the workshop and basic structures are shared with attendees, along with any initial insights. The next step is to take this information and to develop it into something tangible. Content hierarchies become lo-fi wireframes, which then become more polished as the process goes on. Again, this is a very collaborative process involving both client and agency, with regular sharing of ideas.

The deliverable at the end of the discovery process is a set of approved wireframes that can be taken into and referred to in the next phase of the project.

Interested in running a discovery Session for your digital product? Get in touch.

T +44 (0)161 240 3424