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Discovery: The Key to Success in a Web Project

The Discovery phase

Discovery is a core factor in the success of a website launch. You might say learning as much as possible about project requirements before you start seems like common sense. Yet you may have noticed that some businesses use their online presence effectively, while others are unhappy with every new website they order.

It turns out there’s an explanation for that.

The difference between success and failure doesn’t come from pure luck. More often than not, the difference is whether the project begins with a discovery process.

During the discovery phase, communication is key.

What is the Discovery Phase of a Website Development Project?

The name itself is pretty explanatory, but there are some nuances you should be familiar with. In a nutshell, the discovery phase is the first thing done during a web development project. During discovery, the developer and client work together to gather the information that is relevant and required to build an exceptional user experience.

Some examples of this information include data such as the company’s user/buyer personas, pain points, and journey maps. Research and stakeholder interviews are typically done to help the web developer establish a solid foundation of details. The developer will use this research to inform their work during the project’s design phase.

6 Benefits of Discovery Before Launching a Website

The Discovery phase gives website developers numerous benefits that set up the entire project for success. Since the discovery process demands answers to difficult questions, it prepares your company in several ways.

1. Discovery Allows Companies to Anticipate Potential Setbacks

You’ve heard the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That adage is as true as ever when developing and launching a successful website.

If there’s one thing planning truly helps with, it’s forecasting any potential setbacks. Knowing what to expect gives you a much better chance of avoiding complications. Or, at the very least, be prepared to correct them quickly.

2. Know What Features Your Visitors Want

By closely examining the needs and anticipated usage patterns of a company’s customers, web developers are given foresight into what kinds of features, design, and flow the website needs.

After all, a major part of the goal is to create a website experience that meets your customer’s need.

3. Create A Useful Structure That Helps People Navigate The Site

We just touched on how discovery can help with the customer’s journey; this leads us to consider a website’s navigation. Navigation is a major player in good website design. Site visitors need to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.

During discovery, web developers learn the user’s goals for visiting a company’s website, and the goals you have as an organization: What would you like the user to do? Considering those two things, web developers zero in on what information and pages should be prioritized in the website’s navigation.

4. Discovery Leads To An Accurate Budget

It’s impossible to plan for the unknown. If you try to develop a website, piecing together what components and features as you go, there’s no way they will be able to provide their client with an accurate quote.

Once a web project has been started, it’s more complicated to build in new, unplanned features than it is from the beginning. This slows the process down and takes up more resources and dollars, and it makes deadlines slip.

Since discovery allows developers to see the full scope of a project before it starts, it allows them the opportunity to create an accurate timeline and budget.

In the discovery phase, your project’s roadmap and timeline begin to emerge.

5. Determine Whether You Need Outside Help

A lot goes into creating a website – from web design, content creation, web development, to timely ongoing updates once it’s launched. By doing a discovery phase, you will know what needs to be done and whether or not your organization is prepared to do it all in-house, or if you need to work with an agency partner.

Beyond that, you can get a head start on creating content and even a digital marketing strategy before your site is launched. For example, if part of your new website includes a blog, you’ll need a plan to produce content regularly. If your staff doesn’t currently include a writer or editor, this will give you time to hire one and have them start building out your content.

6. Get Your Product Launched As Quickly As Possible

An hour of planning can save you hours of doing – that holds especially true when planning the timeline of your web development project. Discovery keeps your web development process on track and on time.

Starting the Discovery Process

A discovery process forces you to spend time and money before seeing any results. Many companies skip the discovery phase because they think it wastes resources.

In reality, discovery forms the basis for successful website development projects. Without them, you don’t have a proper map to help you reach your destination.

Some people try to avoid discovery because it can be a messy process. You have to ask a lot of questions and think about a lot of scenarios. Your agency partner will ask a lot of questions, especially ones beginning with “Why.” The answers aren’t always obvious.

You might find times when you don’t know which person within your organization can answer a certain question.

By the end of the discovery process, you may have met with several teams, team leaders, and third-party consultants. It’s a lot of work, but it ultimately pays for itself.

Some Questions to Ask During Your Discovery Process

As you head into discovery, you are looking to acquire certain data and information. You’ll need to ask the right questions to gather this information. When you start your discovery process, ask questions like:

  • What are all of this project’s goals? Write down a list and be as inclusive as needed. Talk to stakeholders and customers, and write down their goals as well.
  • Does another company already offer a similar product or service? Know your competition and look for ways they are leading in the industry and ways in which they are not. What do you do better or differently from any of your local competitors?
  • How can your organization take a fresh, innovative approach that will impress the site’s visitors? Competitor research may inspire fresh ideas that will make visitors to your site happy and turn them into repeat customers. Build on what the competition is doing right, and learn from their mistakes.
  • What are the project’s milestones? Start mapping out the milestones and list all the work that needs to be done between them.
  • Realistically, what deadlines should be set to reach milestones on time? Make deadlines for you and your team to stick to. Just be realistic about how long each milestone will take to complete.
  • Does your organization have the technological tools and personnel to complete the job? This is another big question in which being realistic is of the utmost importance. Designing and developing a website takes a specific set of skills—both technologically and organizationally. Identify all the people it will take to complete your project’s milestones. Begin assigning roles based on your employees’ roles and skills, or seek an outside agency or contractor to complete the project.

The specific questions that you ask will vary depending on what type of site you want to launch. A media site, or nonprofit organization site, for instance, will have different requirements from an e-commerce store.

If you’re unsure what questions you need to ask, you should talk to an experienced company that has worked on various web projects. When it comes to discovery, you can’t underestimate the value of experience.

Decide Whether You Have the Tools for Your Project

If you work for a large web development company with plenty of experienced designers, programmers, and content creators, then you may have all of the tools you need for your project’s discovery phase.

Many companies, however, quickly learn that they don’t have the expertise to conduct their own discovery process well internally. The beginning of the project, especially, requires extensive brainstorming, the shaping of ideas, and creative concepts that fit together in a way that will keep visitors on the site.

Consultants with experience working with various companies can give you the direction you need to succeed. When talking to a third-party company, you may discuss topics like:

  • Building an adequate information architecture
  • Revising parts of your site that don’t work well
  • Establishing project deadlines and requirements
  • Developing wireframes that will make the creation process easier for designers and content creators

You’ll also have an opportunity to discuss budgetary constraints, identify the tools you need to build your site, and consider whether you would benefit from custom applications.

A Discovery Phase Is Worth the Effort

Right now, you may feel overwhelmed by the thought of starting your next project’s discovery phase.

In return, though, you get to establish a clear plan for your project. You’ll avoid unexpected pitfalls that could cost your business money and time.

Most people find that discovery also gives them peace of mind. Investing in the discovery process means you’ll experience less stress over the coming weeks or months.

Contact today to get more information about your options. With the right support, you can complete your discovery process and start reaching milestones to finish your web project.

Are you ready to build your business online?