As clients come to us to start a website project one of the first things we suggest is that they have a discovery phase. Sometimes they want to skip this phase because they just want to get their project started or they are looking at trying to save costs by cutting out this important step. We are going to go over why you should not skip this step and why you should make this a part of your web project.
What is a Discovery Phase
The discovery phase of a project is a step you do before the project even gets off the ground. During the discovery phase this is when we will work with you and do research, analysis, exploration and planning. The research may be looking at the keywords you may have been using for your content, look at any reports you have received or run for purposes of SEO and we will start the delve into looking at your competition. Additionally, review keywords that you may rank better or you may not know you rank well for with your content, and review your content for it’s strength for ranking and competition. Once we have reviewed the research we will start to analysis the best way to incorporate that information and execute it as a part of your web project. We will most likely want to have a meeting where we discuss the research and what we found so we can explore ways to improve your design and/ or content to make sure that you are at level or provide a better experience with your competition and to explore what you vs your competition may be doing. Lastly we will make a plan on how to best incorporate that research to ensure that the design, and content you want for your website will meet all your needs.
What the Discovery Phase Does
The discovery phase of your project gives you the project scope, helps you define your business goals, can uncover constraints or unseen obstacles, and can give a define list of goals to make the project successful. If you plan on having a budget knowing your project scope is one of the most important things you can have to make sure your project doesn’t end up over budget and incomplete. A scope can be a single list of bulleted items or it can be broken into multiple phases with milestones to help give you an idea of what your gonna get out of your project. Because you took time to do the Discovery Phase you will begin to see the roadmap for completing your business goals, it will help you see future business goals and can even pivot a goal you have, that may have been in a direction your product or service doesn’t go. Additionally the Discovery Phase will help you identify if the software products you want to use are the correct ones, if there may be other products or some customized items you may need. That way, you’re not spending money for a product to find out it doesn’t have all the capabilities you need and you have to spends $1000s of dollars on something you can’t even use. Or you may discover that your project is missing a whole piece of the business plan is missing that is a requirement to make your end goals successful. Lastly, the Discovery Phase can outline your goals and give requirements to your project manager, developer and designer that will help measure the projects success.
What you can Discover
What you will discover by doing the discovery phase is that it will give your web development teams information for the structure, wireframes, site map and project requirements. Your information structure is what your developer will use to develop the actual structure of your website, this can be decision as what are the best WordPress components, do you need e-commerce, does there need to be a custom portal, memberships, etc. This actually will give you and the developer a measure for success on the project because it will give you an idea whether you are using the correct web developer and it will help them gauge what they will need to complete their part of the project. The reason to build wireframes is because it will be the visual of your structure to help you see the flow of your website and get an idea on user experience. The site map helps give both your developer and your designer the actual flow so they understand your business and how that flow will work from beginning to end. Last the discovery phase gives project requirements. By having project requirements it helps your web development team know what they need to accomplish once your project goes into design and code. It gives them a clear check list of items that they need to complete. By having the requirements it will help you gauge the success of the project.
Why you need a Discovery Phase
The biggest thing you will learn is why you need the discovery phase. The discovery phase gives you a platform, defines the technical requirements, sets a budget, helps define who your users are, gives you a site audit, and can give you a new perspective on your project.
Sometimes you go out looking for a developer with a platform, addons and list of software you want to use. You may have done your homework and feeling empowered for the great job done, find a developer who might even be an expert that fits your platform to find out it is not what you need, you’ve spent money for the development and the project has to be scrapped because it’s not what you actually needed. We have had the unfortunate position of sometimes having to tell someone that the options they picked have to be scrapped or they will have to spend an exorbitant amount of money more than the original budget to make what they have work to get the result they wanted. All that heartache and defeat could have been avoided with a Discovery Phase.
With the Discovery Phase you will define those technical requirements that make sure who you chose to do your web project can meet those requirement and all your platform choices, as well as software additions will actual work for your project. When we do the discovery phase we also research the software choices you may present and give you the pros and cons as well as research alternatives to make sure you are getting a clear picture of the technical requirement and how they work with the software and platform.
Something we see often is either have a defined budget or they have no budget, and either group will have a long list of items they want as absolute requirements. What the discovery phase does is it gives you a clear idea if everything you want will fit into the cost you want to spend or it helps you go and plan a budget to set. When you end up in the group that maybe not everything will fit into the budget you set we usually suggest reworking the requirement that will fit into that budget and make a phase one, phase two plan. With that phase one is what has to be in place to work, and phase two is the wish list and things you find you don’t need for launch but you can implement over time. Because the web is now the marketing plan of most small business, you never want to just set up a website and forget it, now it requires iterations to comply with the ever changing requirements and trends on the web. Most people will find they need a budget for just the initial project but an ongoing budget will be needed for upkeep and changes; and that can either be done in-house or you will need to hire a company to do that maintenance for you.
The discovery phase may have you discover a clientele you didn’t even know you were catering to. When we start the discovery phase and design phase with a client one of the questions we always ask is who is your client. We ask that you describe who you think comes to your website and then we ask if you have analytics or any reports that back up that information. Then we go out and research competition and search behaviors of people that are finding your website to help define further and inform you of the clients who are looking for your product or service. This will help ensure that the product you get is just not beautiful, but also caters to the people who are not just landing on your page but are interested in purchasing your service or product.
The discovery phase is geared towards companies that have project committees. When a larger company wants to do a web project they may ask various executives, and departments for input on what they deem the design, and requirements of the website needs to be. While the input is great it has a couple of faults, first it puts a lot of different opinions and views into the project and second, they may not see eye to eye on what the requirements are for the project. This can delay a project being completed, can send your design and development team in circles and quickly push a project out of budget. Having the discovery phase allows the web firm doing your project to sift through what each department requires and look at the analytics and research and come up with an actionable list that will be a compromise of all the different opinions and do it within a budget. Therefore making the project committee come to a project consensus, which means a successful project.
One of the biggest benefits of the discovery phase is it includes a site audit. A site audit will help give your company a real health check on the current state of your website and make sure that anything that needs to be repaired or change doesn’t make it to the new website. If you are just adding on new features to your existing website this health check will let you know if there is anything that needs to be fixed before you proceed. We have had a few instances where we perform the audit and find poorly written code and questionable bloat that may make adding new features or adding on the website more costly than originally anticipated. It becomes a good exercise to remind people to not find the cheapest bid but find the most competent developer so that as your needs grow your website can grow with them and you won’t be constantly starting from scratch.
Lastly the best thing about having the discovery phase of your web project is it can bring in some third party fresh perspective. Your job is not to stay up on the latest trends for software or design for the web. Sometimes letting the company you want to hire for your project will give you a fresh set of eyes and can bring things to the table that you may not have thought about. We don’t know have to know your product intimately, we have to know what tools for the web have a tried and true formula to bring your product success on the web.
When you use JS Web Solutions we include the Discovery Phase as a part of our scoping process. We are diligent in reviewing a project and making sure we bring you the best options that will fit your budget so that your project can come in on time and with actionable expectations. Getting started with us to start your next project to start the scoping process is as easy as sending us chat message or sending us an email on our contact form!