Every top-level design agency understands the importance of research in the design process. However, there are still a lot of clients/companies that don’t understand the real value of research and the whole discovery phase. They usually “know everything” and want to jump straight to design work. Speaking from our own experience, no successful digital product was created only in the design tool.
For every design team, it’s important to have enough information from their client/company they will be designing the experience for. Design discovery is a key process that precedes the creative design work. It allows us to create the experience which will combine both the client’s requirements and the user’s needs. The whole phase allows us to identify the real user of the product, along with the pain points he’s experiencing.
In this article, I’ll provide you with an overview of how the Discovery phase looks like at PLATFORM. I would like to show you that simply opening up a Sketch, Figma or Photoshop is not the start of a successful digital product. Here is how the Discovery phase at PLATFORM looks like (Note that the steps are not universal, because there are no two projects alike. Every discovery phase is different and for every project is different and steps are tweaked):
1st phase: Focusing on the Business
Before we even start thinking about the users of the final product, we will first focus on the business. Using the Lean Canvas method, we help identify the core business offering, competitive advantages and customers. We take those insights and help to form a concrete view of your business’s plan. Together with the client, we identify and create a prioritized list of features and functionality that will not only meet the needs of the client’s customers but set the whole product apart from the competition. At the last stage of the 1st phase, we will explain the AARRR product funnel and together with the client, we try to implement these features into the product or service. The whole first stage takes about the whole week and requires a lot of cooperation from the client’s side.
- Actionable business plan — Lean Canvas
- Product road map — Features and functionality list
- List of Product funnel ideas
2nd Phase: Identifying Users and Flows
In the second phase, more extensive research will come into place and we shift from an understanding of the client’s business to the understanding of customers. We group customers into user Archetypes and identify their needs and considerations with the product. It will form a guiding light for product decisions. Before we jump into the architecture and flows, we will conduct a best-in-class audit. It’s an evaluation of features, functionality and experience of a select number of sites, services and products that are solving similar challenges in unique and successful ways. We then take the business goals and newly established user archetypes and create a fresh product architecture map. The creation of architecture is then followed by identifying the key user flows through the product and we will map them to understand how a user will accomplish tasks within the product. The last step of the second stage is crafting an experience framework, which is based on the architecture, flows and core features and functionality. It helps us to identify how user will move between sections of the product and interact with the content.
- List of Archetypes
- Best-in-class audit
- Initial Architecture
- Key Product Flows
- Experience Framework
3rd Phase: Designing the Experience
We begin to explore the new experience through design by establishing a unique design language, flexible framework and interaction animations that will accommodate the product’s needs, differentiate clients from their competitors and establish the overall experience of your product.
We start the designing phase by creating the high-fidelity wireframes of all screens of the product that incorporates features and functionality, conversion-focused content and interactions. To validate our ideas and interactions, we’ll build a clickable UX-focused prototype with key screens and flows. This prototype is used for getting early feedback from the users and stakeholders, but we also play around with it in the office. We then take the brand and define its digital design language for the product in moodboard. It includes colors, typography, visual style, animation style and other key factors that will bring the brand’s personality to the product. And now, the actual design phase starts by creating a design framework, where we apply the design from moodboard to wireframes and begin to visualize an overall look and feel of the product. In the last stage of the third phase, we explore motion and interactions within the product based on wireframes, UX framework and design language. These explorations are later realized in the final development of the product.
- High-fidelity Wireframes
- Design Moodboard
- Design Framework
- Motion and Interactions
The very end of the third phase is usually followed by a series of testing, which will give us accurate data, that will be later implemented in the product. After the Design discovery, we will usually finish the design of the whole product or create an MVP.
As you can see, the design does not start with opening the Sketch, Figma, or Photoshop. Prior to that, you need answers and research, because if you start “drawing” something out of the thin air, the chances that the final product will be successful are really small. And during this process don’t be a yes man, the client needs to hear no from time to time. Don’t forget that you are the expert here.