What Is A Discovery Phase In A Web Development Project – And Why Does It Matter?

If you’re thinking about investing in custom application development, a new WordPress website, or any other web design or development project, one of the first things you’ll do when contracting with a development company is go through a “Discovery Phase”.

Not sure what that means – or why it matters? Don’t worry! We’ll explain what the “discovery” phase is, why it matters, and share a few top tips to help you define your goals for your web development project. Let’s get started!

What Is The “Discovery” Phase? 

The “discovery” phase is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a chance, both for you and your development team – to “discover” the purpose of your web development project, and ensure that you get the product that you truly need.

It sounds simple, but in practice, it’s actually quite complex. The discovery phase could include:

  • The drawing up and systematization of your requirements for your website
  • Research performed about your target audience, their needs, and preferences
  • An analysis or audit of the efficiency of your current website
  • Meetings to discuss the expected and required functionality of your website
  • Analysis and research of competing websites, applications, or products
  • Usability testing of your existing website
  • Assessment of the technical requirements of your project

And much more. The discovery phase is, essentially, meant to define all of the technical requirements of your website, and ensure that they can be implemented within your timeframe and your budget.

Why Is Discovery So Important?

Discovery is important because it allows you to define your requirements, features, goals, and more – before your project begins

This may seem like a small thing – but it’s not. The cost of adding additional features or changing the scope of a project once it’s underway is massive.

If you begin a project without going through the process of discovery, it’s entirely possible that you will overlook a necessary function or feature of your website.

If this happens, you can expect to pay much more money when you, inevitably, have to add it into your website at a later date, and most of the development work is already done.

Further, the discovery process is important because:

  • It leads to better solutions – The discovery phase is when the team working on your project can become more familiar with your products, your company, your organizational goals, and more.

    When your development team has this understanding, they may be able to develop better solutions, and make smart, informed changes to your original project scope.
  • It’s objective-focused, not deliverable-focused – The discovery phase allows you to define your objectives for your project – not just the deliverable.

    Just because a deliverable, like a website, is delivered on-time and on-budget, doesn’t mean the project will be a success. To truly succeed, the deliverable must meet your organizational objectives, such as improving SEO (search engine optimization), increasing conversion rates, and decreasing website bounce rates.

    If you start a project by simply defining the deliverable – and not the objective – you may end up with the wrong solution.
  • It prioritizes user needs – Most client briefs and projects are not user-focused. They do not consider the user’s perspective, only the goals of the project.

    A discovery phase allows your web development team to take a deep dive into your proposed project, and truly understand how your users will interact with your website or your web application.

    By doing so, you can reduce the risk of building functionality or producing content that your users don’t care about – and wasting both time and money.

    But by performing user research and assessing every part of how your users interact with your website, user needs can be prioritized – ensuring a better and more satisfying user experience
  • It provides you with more context for your project – The discovery phase is a period of time when everyone involved in the project, from developers to managers, executives, stakeholders, and more, can get on the same page.

    It will reduce the risk of misunderstandings and costly mistakes, and allow both your team and your team of developers to make better, more informed decisions – and provide you with a better overall product or website.

Our Top Tips For A Successful Discovery Phase 

A great web development team will walk you through the entire process of discovery. But if you’re not sure where to start, these tips will help! 

  • Get everyone involved – Anyone who will be involved with the web development process should be included in discovery. The more input and expertise you have during this phase, the more effective it will be.
  • Focus on user observation and analysis – User personas and statistics are not the same as real users. Make sure to meet with users of your website or product in-person and observe them, and ask them questions about how they interact with your website.
  • Get buy-in from all stakeholders – You can reduce the risk of unhappy stakeholders – such as upper-level executives – by including them in the discovery process, and making sure that they sign off on the project, before work begins.
  • Make the discovery phase a separate project (with clear deliverables) – A discovery project gives you the opportunity to see how you work with a web design and development company, without the risk of signing a full-scale development contract. If you don’t like how discovery was handled, you can simply choose a different development partner! 

Discovery – The Most Crucial Phase Of The Software Development Cycle 

A proper discovery phase helps you avoid wasted time and money, define your user needs, and get a better handle on your organizational goals. For the above reasons and many more, you should never start a new development project without going through a comprehensive discovery phase.

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