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Chapter 03. Phase 1: Define the Project > Understanding Discovery

Understanding Discovery

Discovery is an information-gathering process meant to dig deep into the details of what is important to a client's business, target audience, and industry. Scope and depth of research and inquiry will differ from project to project, but the results are the same: valuable data. The more information you gather, interpret, and comprehend, the more prepared you will be to execute a site on budget and on target.

Technical Summary

By the end of the Discovery phase, the technical legwork should be complete, and the technical liaison should be able to gauge both the scope and the complexity of the backend development needs. The Discovery process for technical development can be a project in itself, with a large document referred to as a Technical Specification. For more information, see Chapter 9.

Keep in mind that parts of the Discovery process (such as audience profiling and competitive analysis), specifically those that may require additional budget allocation, may not be completed before moving into other aspects of defining the project. However, the goal should be to get as much exploration completed before moving to the next phase of the project. Clear information about the goals and obstacles of the project will allow you to execute your solutions effectively.

Discovery Check-Off List

To help ensure that you have all the information you need to move forward, use this check-off list to make sure you touch on all aspects of the company, industry, and audience.

  1. Company/Client

    □ Distribute the Client Survey to all key decision-makers and align expectations for primary goals, target audience(s), desired tone, etc.

    □ Gather existing company information, marketing materials, studies, existing research, and printed materials and reports.

    □ Follow up with email or phone interviews and determine reasons for the change (current issues, possible solutions, and specific goals for redesign).

  2. Industry

    □ Research the client's industry on- and offline. Use traditional research methods (the library, online searches, the phone book) as well as paid research methods (Jupiter Research, Gartner, etc.) if the budget allows.

    □ Research industry-specific publications, newsgroups, subscribed materials, organizations, white papers, etc.

  3. Strategy/Marketing/Branding

    □ Gather information on current and planned marketing and advertising efforts (on- and offline advertising, placement, strategy).

    □ Understand marketing strategy and measurable goals, both short and long term. (An immediate goal might be to sign up new customers.)

    □ Understand branding strategy, desired perception, message/tone, and approach (current thinking and desired thinking).

  4. Current Site

    □ Conduct usability testing and analysis of the current site. Determine what is working and what is not working with the site (navigation, content, functionality).

    □ Gather existing quantitative data. Using logs and marketing data, what types of purchasing habits and traffic patterns exist?

    □ Gather qualitative data. Using customer feedback and customer service data, what do customers like and dislike about the current site? What areas are successful and why?

    □ Gather technical/functionality specifications. Have a general understanding of how the current site functions and the specific technologies involved.

    □ Conduct a content audit. What is relevant and not relevant on the site? How effective is the current content to meeting the overall site goals?

  5. Competition

    □ Identify primary and secondary competition, both on- and offline (from client and team research).

    □ Conduct a formal or informal competitive features analysis (see Chapter 9).

    □ Identify main features and differentiators for each site and/or company.

  6. Audience

    □ Define the primary target audience(s) (use the client and Client Survey).

    □ Gather demographic information about the target audience(s) (occupation, gender, income, online and offline habits, connection speeds, browser and platform specifications).

    □ Create audience profiles and user tasks (showing lifestyle, work and home environment, income range, occupation, internet usage, and typical tasks performed on the client site).

    □ Create user scenarios (specific situations for the target user to complete or engage in an online task or transaction).

  7. Products/Services

    □ Identify and familiarize yourself with what products or services the company offers.

    □ Understand buying habits — factors that enable the potential customer to become a paying or registered customer.

    □ Determine effectiveness of customer service. Is it helpful or not?

  8. Technical Needs

    □ Define the extent of the functionality required for the site. Can it be done with forms, light scripting, and/or passwords, or will a backend layer need to be incorporated? If so, what is the extent of those technical requirements? (For more on backend integration, see Chapter 9.)

  9. Other

    □ Use any additional areas specific to your client or industry that may give additional insight and information to your research.

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