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The Importance of UX Discovery: How it Impacts Your Business’s Bottom Line

As a user experience designer, the first step in the process is UX discovery. This critical step sets the foundation for the entire project and is often referred to as generative, foundational, or exploratory research. While some may see this as an unnecessary step, it is a valuable investment in the long run. By conducting research in the discovery phase, we can reduce waste, plan project scope, identify potential problems, explore the feasibility, gain a deeper understanding of our users, and identify potential opportunities. 

Overview

The discovery phase helps us avoid creating designs that miss the mark. We use a variety of methods to gather insights. We may conduct surveys, interviews, or focus groups. We may also analyze data from website analytics or perform usability testing. The goal is to gather as much information as possible. We need the information we collect during the UX discovery phase to avoid losing business. All these elements are crucial to creating user-centric designs that meet and exceed user expectations.

Scope creep is what happens when changes are made to without any control procedures. Those changes affect the schedule, budget, costs, resources and compromise the completion of milestones and goals.This can be avoided with the UX Discovery process.
Scope creep is what happens when changes are made to the project scope without any control procedures. Those changes affect the schedule, budget, costs, resources and compromise the completion of milestones and goals.

Common Problems Solved

One of the common problems projects encounter is a too big scope. It’s essential to balance exploring enough potential solutions and keeping the size manageable. If we aim to cover too much ground, we risk spreading ourselves too thin and not being able to gather enough in-depth information on any one aspect of the problem. Conversely, if the scope is too narrow, we may miss crucial information that could inform our design decisions. We need to ensure that we have enough information to make informed design decisions but not so much that we become overwhelmed and unable to take action.

Using it to Gauge Feasibility

More focus on technical details can detract from the primary focus of the discovery phase, which is to understand the user experience. While it’s essential to have a solid understanding of the technical requirements of a project, it’s equally important to ensure that the resulting user experience is the central focus. We need to provide technical details on how they impact the UX.

How To Perform a UX Discovery

To approach the discovery phase effectively, cross-functional teams can avoid bias and bring various perspectives to the process. Stakeholder interviews are a vital component as they help us understand the goals and objectives of the project from the perspective of those who are invested in its success. By gathering insights from stakeholders, we can better align our design decisions with the overall vision and direction of the project.

Stakeholder interviews help designers determine how the organization’s broader goals tie into the project’s purposes, which is essential in ensuring that the design solution aligns with the overall business strategy. These interviews also provide valuable data and insights about how problems affecting users impact backstage work, which helps to ensure it also supports the internal processes and workflows of the organization.

Furthermore, stakeholder interviews help designers avoid repeating the same mistakes by uncovering solutions that have been tried before and whether they have worked. This information is crucial in creating a more effective solution that addresses the underlying problems more effectively.

Defining the project vision involves identifying the core values and purpose of the project. These insights guide our design decisions. A clear and well-defined project vision helps ensure that everyone involved in the project is working towards the same goals and objectives.

The project vision is another critical component of the UX discovery phase, as it sets the direction and purpose for the design solution. Take the time to define the project vision carefully, as it ensures that the solution aligns with the overall goals and objectives. To determine the project vision, designers may conduct a heuristics review of an existing product, perform comparative research, or even engage in brainstorming sessions to generate ideas.

Once the project vision is defined, designers can think about features that will help achieve the vision. By understanding what defines success for the project and identifying potential pitfalls that may arise, designers can ensure that the design solution meets the users’ needs and achieves the project vision.

Understanding the targeted users is also crucial during the UX discovery phase. This involves gathering insights into the people’s needs, goals, and desires using the product or service we are designing. Designers should identify the different types of users interacting with the product. This can help to ensure that solutions are relevant to each and that the product is accessible to a broader audience. 

There are a number of methods and approaches on can use when creating a user persona. UXPRESSIA is an excellent software for making this an easy step.

Once the different user types are identified, designers may then focus on defining the primary user. This user type is the main focus of the design solution and represents the core audience that the product is designed for. Defining the primary user’s roles and typical background is essential. It is also important to identify the defining attributes of the primary user, such as demographic and behavioral information, to help shape the design solution. Understanding the user’s goals is crucial to developing a product that meets their needs. By prioritizing features and designing solutions that align with the user’s needs, designers can create a product that provides real value.

A strong value proposition is a crucial part of the UX discovery process. This involves identifying the unique value that the product or service will provide users and communicating this value clearly and compellingly. A well-crafted value proposition can help ensure that users understand the product or service’s benefits and are motivated to engage with it.

Through research and analysis, designers can uncover new opportunities and create innovative products that meet the needs of users.

UX Discovery Approaches

As a user experience design expert, workshops are a critical component of the UX discovery process. They play a crucial role in aligning teams towards a common goal, establishing ideas, and planning for things that need further understanding.

  • Kick-off workshops are an excellent way to establish alignment right at the beginning of a project. They help set expectations and goals for the team and ensure everyone is on the same page. During these workshops, the team can discuss the project’s scope, timelines, and deliverables, among other essential details.
  • Assumption-mapping workshops can help the team establish ideas and assumptions that need further validation. By bringing together different perspectives and knowledge, the team can identify potential blind spots, identify knowledge gaps and plan for further understanding.
  • Research question generation workshops can align the team on the types of things they want to cover during experiments. By bringing everyone together, the team can brainstorm the questions they want to ask during user research and ensure that they cover all necessary topics.
  • Affinity diagram workshops help synthesize the results of a research study in such a way that allows uncovering themes and opportunities. By grouping data into meaningful categories, the team can identify patterns and gain insights into user needs and pain points. This helps to inform design decisions that better align with user needs.
  • Service blueprint workshops can help map the overarching impact that a product or service has on a business and its customers. This workshop enables the team to gain a more holistic view of the service and how it impacts different stakeholders. This helps identify opportunities to improve the service and provides insights that can guide the design process.
  • Problem-framing workshops are a valuable tool for helping the team prioritize their goals and focus on solutions that add value. By defining the problem clearly, the team can ensure that they focus on the correct issues and are not wasting time and resources on irrelevant solutions.
Creating a service blueprint diagram during the UX discovery phase is a great way for a company to see all the areas that their ideas might impact the business.
Creating a service blueprint diagram during the UX discovery phase is a great way for a company to see all the areas that their ideas might impact the business.

Popular UX Workflow Processes

The process of user experience design involves multiple stages and approaches, each with its unique benefits and challenges. Two popular UX workflow processes are the Double Diamond Method and Lean UX.

The Double Diamond Method is a four-step process that involves discovering, defining, developing, and delivering. In the discovery phase, the design team works to understand the user and the problem they are trying to solve. The delivery phase focuses on developing and delivering a solution. This method is iterative, repeating each step until a satisfactory resolution is reached.

On the other hand, Lean UX is a design process that focuses on reducing waste and maximizing efficiency. It involves rapid prototyping and testing, which allows designers to quickly iterate on designs and make improvements based on user feedback. Lean UX is based on the principles of Lean Startup, which emphasizes rapid experimentation and iteration.

Each UX workflow process has its advantages and disadvantages, and the choice of workflow process will depend on the project’s specific needs. As a UX designer, it’s essential to understand both methods and use them appropriately.

UX Discovery Checklist

When it comes to UX discovery, having a solid framework to start from can make a big difference in the success of your project. Here are ten key questions that you can ask to help guide your UX discovery process:

What problem is your product solving?

  • Understanding the problem that your product is solving is the foundation of any successful UX project. By clearly defining the problem, you can ensure you’re addressing the suitable user needs and pain points.

What is the main product problem you want to solve with this project?

  • Identifying the main product problem you want to solve with this project will help you focus your efforts on the most critical issues. By keeping your goals in mind, you can ensure that your UX design decisions are aligned with your overall objectives.

What data have you been tracking, and what tools are you using?

  • Data is critical to understanding user behavior and identifying areas for improvement. Ensure you’re using the right tools to gather and analyze data and track the metrics most relevant to your project.

What’s your typical user like?

  • A clear picture of your typical user can help you design a product that meets their needs and preferences. Understanding age, gender, education, and location can all help you create a more compelling user experience.

What do you want users to do when they land on your website, and what is the business opportunity?

  • Knowing what actions you want users to take on your website or product is critical to achieving your business goals. By identifying the key opportunities for your development, you can design a user experience that supports these objectives.

Do you have customers we could speak to understand their pain points better and what they love about your product?

  • Speaking to customers can be incredibly valuable in helping you understand their needs and preferences. By gathering feedback from real users, you can get a more accurate picture of what’s working and what’s not.

What’s your business model?

  • Understanding your business model is essential to design a product that meets your company’s needs. By knowing how your product generates revenue, you can develop a user experience that supports this model.

What’s your ultimate goal with this project, and what are you trying to achieve?

  • Having a clear understanding of your goals and objectives can help you stay focused and aligned with your company’s vision. By defining success metrics and keeping them in mind throughout the UX design process, you can make sure you’re making decisions to help you achieve your ultimate goals.

How are we going to track this?

  • Tracking progress is critical to understanding how well your UX design decisions work. By setting up systems to track metrics and evaluate the success of your project, you can make sure that you’re making data-driven decisions.

Are there any time frames, tech requirements, or constraints?

  • Understanding any time frames, tech requirements, or constraints upfront can help you design a UX solution that is feasible and realistic. By identifying any potential roadblocks early on, you can adjust your plans and ensure that you can deliver a successful product within your constraints.

Common Considerations

As a user experience design expert, I understand the importance of the UX discovery phase in product design. During this phase, it’s essential to ask the right questions to gain a deeper understanding of the project’s goals, users, stakeholders, and constraints. Below are some questions you can ask during the UX discovery phase using the following suggestions:

Clients:

  • What solution are you looking to achieve (website, web app, app, etc.)?
  • What is the purpose of this solution?
  • Who are the primary decision-makers of this project?
  • What is the problem or need that we are looking to solve?
  • What’s the source of that problem?
  • Why hasn’t it been addressed before?
  • Who are the users/customers?
  • Why is this project important to them?
  • Why is it a priority today?
  • What are your customers/users trying to achieve on a larger scale?
  • Who are the users?
  • Who are the buyers?
  • Is there any existing solution for collecting your customers’ / users’ feedback?
  • What assumptions do you think you are making about your users?
  • What do you know for sure about your user needs?
  • Who determined these were user needs, and how?
  • What data suggests this (analytics, personas, user feedback, etc.)?
  • What are the most common problems faced by your users?
  • What are the risks if we are wrong about the user needs?
  • Do you have users to speak with?
  • What is your business model?
  • What is your value proposition?
  • Is there any documentation already (business presentation, etc.)?
  • What is the business opportunity? (lead generation, sales, referral, showcase, information, etc.)
  • What are the key performance indicators (KPIs)?
  • How does this fit into your overall digital strategy or ecosystem?
  • Are there any constraints (technical, commercial, etc.)?
  • What is your key differentiator?
    • How are you better than your competitors?
  • Are there any relevant sites we can review?
  • Who are your biggest competitors?
  • What are your main concerns regarding competition?
  • How do you hope to differentiate yourself?
  • Do brand guidelines or style guides already exist?
  • How often do you see this solution being upgraded: next year or in 5 years?
  • How will you personally define the success of this project?
  • When do you need to achieve these goals?
  • How many people are you allocating to this project?
  • Who will provide support or additional resources if needed?
  • How much budget do we have to work with?

Stakeholders:

  • What is your interest in this project?
  • What is its impact on you or your organization?
  • What are you worried about in this project?
  • Who could be affected?
    • During the project? 
    • After the project?
  • How have you been involved in the project before?
    • Did it work, or didn’t it work? 
    • What went wrong in this case?
  • What is the reason why we should undertake this project?
    • Who benefits the most?
  • What is the role of this project in achieving your own success?
  • How will you define the success of this project?

Users:

  • What does a typical weekday look like?
  • Tell me about your job.
  • What are your daily responsibilities?
  • What are some of the apps and websites you use the most?
  • How do you currently manage such problem(s) / task(s)?
  • Are you looking for a solution/an alternative to a particular situation or task?
  • Tell me about the last time you tried to solve this problem/task
  • How do you think this solution could _____?

Benefits and Expectations

One of the key benefits of the UX discovery phase is the ability to find gaps in the market and identify new opportunities by thoroughly researching and analyzing the competition, ensuring that it stands out in a crowded market.

The context of use is another crucial aspect of the UX discovery phase. It involves 

understanding the environment and the user’s interaction with the product. By understanding the context of use, designers can create a product that fits seamlessly into the user’s life and provides a valuable solution.

The expected outcome of the discovery phase is to clearly understand what to focus on and where to put energy. This involves creating deliverables such as problem statements, service blueprints, journey maps, user need statements, personas, wireframes, and concepts. These deliverables provide a clear understanding of user needs and goals, helping the team prioritize features and functions.

In addition to creating these deliverables, as a UX professional we advocate for the user, ensuring that their needs and goals are represented in the project’s vision and goals. They serve as a communication bridge between stakeholders, facilitating discussions and providing that everyone is on the same page. This helps to create a shared vision centered around the user and their needs, guiding the development of the product or service.

Common Times to Use

The UX discovery phase is often necessary after a merger and acquisition, changes to policies or regulations, shifts in organizational focus or goals, and critical problems preventing progress. During a merger and acquisition, the discovery phase can help identify systems that need to be consolidated and anticipate potential problems that teams may face. 

Similarly, changes to policies or regulations may require a reassessment of user needs and pain points. Shifts in organizational focus or goals require a new understanding of user goals and how they relate to the new direction. Finally, if critical problems prevent progress, the discovery phase can help identify the root causes and potential solutions. 

UX Discovery Tips

Some considerations need to be considered to ensure that the discovery phase is completed correctly. One of the most important things is to appoint one key decision-maker who can act as a tiebreaker in case of conflicting visions or exact directions. This person should be required to make strategic decisions for the project. Without such a person, it cannot be easy to move forward and make progress.

Access to users is also crucial. Talking to users and understanding their pain points and needs is essential to creating user-friendly products that meet the needs of those who will be using them. Access to analytics data is also essential. Data can provide valuable insights into a product’s use and where improvements can be made. The data can help in understanding how the product is currently being used.

As a UX professional, it’s essential to approach your research with a mindset of efficiency and effectiveness. A literature review can help you reduce, reuse, and recycle insights, minimizing your research footprint and maximizing your impact-to-effort ratio. The internet is full of resources, including academic journals, blogs, and other research repositories. Searching for research that has already been done on your specific topic can also be helpful, as it allows you to identify key themes, trends, and challenges that you may encounter during your own research.

One of the main benefits of conducting a literature review is that it allows you to gain a broader perspective.This can help you develop more focused research questions, leading to more meaningful insights and recommendations. By reviewing what others have already learned, you can avoid conducting research that has already been done. This can help you focus your efforts on conducting research that generates new insights.

Wrapping Things Up

In conclusion, the UX discovery phase is essential to any successful UX project. It allows designers to gain a deep understanding of the users, stakeholders, and project goals, ultimately leading to innovative and practical designs. Through research and gathering insights, designers can identify new opportunities and establish a strong foundation for the project. Defining the primary user and understanding their attributes and roles helps to ensure that the final product meets their needs and expectations. By developing a clear and compelling value proposition, designers can align design decisions with project goals, ensuring success. The discovery phase is critical in the user experience design process and should always be noticed. Investing time and effort in this phase will pay dividends in the long run, ensuring that the final product is usable and meets the needs of both users and the organization.

Helpful UX Products and Resources

Are you looking to level up your UX discovery process? Look no further than this curated list of must-read books. Whether you’re a seasoned designer or just starting out, these resources will help you navigate the complex world of user research and product design. 

The User Experience Team of One” by Leah Buley is an essential guide for solo designers, while “Just Enough Research” by Erika Hall offers practical tips for conducting user research on a budget. “Sprint” by Jake Knapp and “Lean UX” by Jeff Gothelf provide frameworks for rapid prototyping and testing, while “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug is a classic primer on usability testing. 

With these invaluable resources at your fingertips, you’ll be well on your way to creating user-centered designs that truly resonate with your target audience.

Sprint” by Jake Knapp

“Lean UX” by Jeff Gothelf

References

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