The agency Discovery Phase. What is it and why do you need one?
When you need a digital solution delivered — whether you’re working on behalf of a large organisation, a burgeoning startup, or your own solo endeavour — a digital agency will typically recommend undertaking a ‘Discovery Phase’ before launching into any design or development work. It’s an extremely important part of the process, especially when the solution is not clear-cut and there’s still lots of hidden depth that needs exposing.
But what exactly is a Discovery Phase? What happens during it? And why do you need one?
What is a Discovery Phase?
A Discovery Phase is an intensive period of research & design undertaken at the very start of a digital project, in order to achieve the expected end result. Usually involving UX Designers, Technical Architects, and Project Managers, the aim of the Discovery Phase is to gain a detailed understanding of scope and budget, as well as the tech issues and how we might solve them.
What happens during a Discovery Phase?
While the exact specifics of a Discovery Phase will differ depending on the unique needs of each project, at Gravitywell the process typically includes the following:
Let’s make sure we collectively know enough about the situation. What is the competition doing? What products or services can fast-track us to the solution? What ideas can we borrow from other successful projects?
A crucial part of the discovery phase, workshops help identify and solve any problems with your solution prior to development.
We’ll also use these collaborative sessions to work on Wireframes and produce new ideas!
Wireframing is a quick and easy process for communicating your idea. They're essentially rough sketches of the layout of each screen, and can be created with pen and paper, online sketching tools, or more dedicated software tools. We may also want to evolve these into Clickable Prototypes.
To help evaluate your solution, nothing beats testing with actual users. Often overlooked, this feedback is invaluable and can help inform the optimal direction for your project. There are a number of ways user testing can take place, including focus groups, surveys, interviews, and guided screen recordings.
Solutions to technical challenges
Before we commit to development, let's make sure we have solutions in place for the key technical challenges.
Timeline & Budget
Mapping out a timeline and budget for the first release of the project, so we all know what can be delivered.
Why do you need a Discovery Phase?
A Discovery Phase is crucial for a number of reasons. Firstly, the project is clearly defined at the outset with expected timelines and costs, which reduces the risk that budget will be needlessly spent further down the line. Changes made during the development stage can be costly, so these are best avoided.
Because research is undertaken, the Discovery Phase also highlights and eliminates any incorrect assumptions that stakeholders might have held prior to the process. The project requirements can be validated based on evidence rather than conjecture. During this phase a balance can also be achieved between defined business goals (of the stakeholders) and the needs and wants of the user.
Finally, a Discovery Phase is the perfect opportunity for you to test drive your relationship with your chosen agency. Committing to a full project only to realise that you aren’t a fit for each other could be a disaster, so this phase gives you a chance to review before proceeding full steam ahead. In fact, it’s important that you assess an agency before committing to any project — ideally they have the skillset to go all the way from discovery phase, through design and development, and onto launch. Here’s a concise guide on how to choose the right digital agency.
What have we discovered?
Hopefully the above has shown you the importance of undertaking a Discovery Phase as a precursor to any digital project. The benefits are obvious, and the outlay is a fraction of the overall project budget. However, this additional cost is often the reason stakeholders are averse to committing to a Discovery Phase — but rather than asking how much will it cost, perhaps the real question should be ‘what is the cost of not doing a Discovery Phase?’
If you would like to chat about your discovery phase, project or learn more about the Gravitywell process, don’t hesitate to get in touch.