UX Design Process – Discovery & Planning

Discovery and planning

This is the first stage of the UX process where we first touch on/discuss the idea behind our product. It’s always a good approach to involve the client here immediately and introduce them to our UX team. Then, together, we can start defining the product scope.

Discovery Phase

We will start by listening to the client’s idea, putting their idea on paper, and trying to understand their idea acutely. In order to understand their idea acutely, we will need to get answers to questions, such as what they want to achieve with this product, their goal, and their targeted audience. This will help the UX team and the client to start giving shape to the product together.

The goal of this stage is that our team should have a clear idea about the product that they will design and develop.

The discovery phase can take up to a few weeks for our team to clearly understand the client idea, their business, their product idea, the problem that they want to solve, and what is important to their users. The UX team’s goal here is to be perfectly aligned with the client and have an absolutely clear idea of what the client wants to achieve with this product or service.

During the discovery phase, we, as a UX team, get involved in the client’s world. We meet with our client, have conversations with them, and try to understand why and how they came up with this idea. Then, we will try to learn whether they have any specific competitor or other competitors with similar ideas and listen to their stories about why they are involved in this category of business; we do research to better understand our client and their needs. However, more importantly, we need to clearly understand their company’s vision and their vision for the product that they want to build.

Understanding the market is also a key part of the discovery phase. One effective way of getting an overview of where your market stands is through surveys. By getting the survey results, we can understand other parts of the market, such as how big our target market is, identify market segments, and define the demographic details of the market and other different market segments. Another good part of having surveys is that we can learn more about our users and their behavior before initiating the designing of the product.

After we finish the process of getting clear goals from the client for their product, we start creating a document with requirements and specifications for starting the product design and development. Now, by having a document in our hand,  that lists the clear requirements and specifications for the product, we will have a better idea of timelines, team sizes, budget, basic product sketches, and wireframes. This will go under the planning stage, which, as a UX team, we will be involved in creating in this first stage of the UX process.

The planning phase

The planning phase is about understanding what you have been asked to do and documenting all the requirements from the discovery phase. Using the results and data that you got in the discovery phase, you can start creating clear documentation for the project, including answers to questions such as:

  • What is the required budget for this project?
  • What will be your team size?
  • What is the timeline of the project and the deadline for each stage of the launch?
  • What are the other related resources that need to be involved in the development of this project?

Having documented all that data, now it is even easier for us to provide a final estimation, budget, and expectation to our client.

Here, we can have the following two cases:

  • The first case involves defining all the requirements for project development on the UX side, such as timing, budget, resources, and team sizes. Provide all these documents to the client and explain clearly to them what you, as a UX team, will achieve with this and also what you will provide to them. You need to be confident that the tools and techniques you choose will be the right ones to give you the insight you need within the constraints of the project. So, in this first scenario, you are providing the required time, budget, and resources to the client and asking them to provide what is needed to agree on that road map.
  • The second case is where you have a limited time and budget provided by the client. However, you have to understand that it is your job, as a UX professional, to deliver the best user experience within the available time and budget. Also, you have to explain to the client that for a better product and better user experience, your suggestion is to go with the preceding approach. The good part of the UX project is that there is always a way you can add value to the project, regardless of the budget. All clients like to start with a small budget and tight timing, but if you’re able to justify why you need a better timeline and budget, it is more likely that you can get it from the client.

The tools and techniques you select are usually determined on the basis of timeline, budget, and the challenges that the project has. It is obvious that a different approach is required to design and develop a microsite from scratch compared to making a large-scale usability implementation on an existing huge web application or a product.

Often, you have to deal with clients and businesses that are unfamiliar with the importance of UX design for their product, and it often can be difficult to get the budget you want to involve users from the first stage of the process. However, it’s really important for you, as a UX designer, to teach your client what a good user experience is and why it is always important to involve users from the beginning of product development.

As mentioned in the first chapter of this book, you can point out the following elements to the clients about why involving the user from the beginning is a good idea:

  • It will cost less because you can note mistakes from beginning, and it will be easier to fix them right away
  • We will get more time by finding what works and what doesn’t at the beginning, instead of finding something in the last stage of the product development
  • We will see the problems your users have during the first phase of trying to use your product
  • We will realize whether the idea is worth creating with our initial approach or whether we need to customize the idea and adopt a different direction to solve that specific problem

In other words, we can say that it is better to test a product at the beginning phase with one user rather than at the end of it with hundreds of users.

The project usually begins with a lot of research into its users and, especially, competitors. This can give us unique insights into what the competitors are doing right or wrong, how they are doing it, and also why specific users are using their products.

Project proposals

Having all the pieces of data in place now will make it a bit easier for us to create a proposal and provide it to the client. It is always challenging to manage projects and client expectations at the same time, but we need to have an appropriate agreement in place, otherwise we will find ourselves in really tough situations later on.

After we have an agreement with the client for the project, it will be easy for both sides to have a bigger picture of how much time this project will consume, the money that will be spent, team sizes, resources, and deadlines. Keep in mind that you should always write proposals before starting a new project.

The sooner we have an approved, and signed, proposal, the sooner we can begin the work, and, more importantly, we begin to get paid for the work now.

The following are the key components that a proposal should have:

  • A title page
  • A revision history
  • The project overview
  • The project approach
  • The scope of work
  • Assumptions
  • Deliverables
  • Additional costs and fees
  • Ownership and rights
  • The project pricing
  • The payment schedule
  • An acknowledgment and sign-off

It is really important to understand that the client is hiring you or your company because they believe that you are an expert in that specific field; however, ensure that you are always clear about the proposal content that you write, such as the estimation, budget, final result, and your client’s expectation. Otherwise, if you miss the main parts of their product idea or don’t provide the result that was expected, the client will come back to haunt you.

Project objectives and methodologies

Project objectives and methodologies are a key part when you want to kick off the project. It is important for the project itself and for our team, because as a team we want to know the clear goals of this project, its importance, the approach that we will use, and much more. Usually, this part has to be defined by our UX leader, or, in most cases, by a project leader, but it is really important for us to understand this too.

Usually, when we start a project, we must schedule a meeting with the full team, where we give a general overview of the project to the entire team, and by the end of the meeting, we answer the following questions:

  • What is the importance of this project to our company?
  • How will stakeholders determine the project’s success?
  • What approach or methodology we will use during the development of this project?
  • What is the project timeline, which resources will we be using, and who will be involved in this?
  • Do we have any pending information that we need from the client or stakeholder or any other requirement that is necessary before kicking-off the project?
  • And always be ready to add new requirements that might appear during the development process that we were not able to recognize in the first discovery phase.

So, your goal for this meeting or session is to have clear objectives for the project.

If you find that the objectives are unclear and some parts will prevent us from starting the project, then we can help the project team understand the business-related context of the project by holding a workshop with them.

Then, during the workshop, we can let them know about the missing part for the project to start, the company’s weakness and its strength, and more importantly, your approach, as a UX team, to the project.

Understanding the approach or methodology of a project is a really important part. The project methodology can depend on many things, for example, the structure and location of the project team, the technologies that will be used in the project, and the teams that will be involved in it. Defining this is a project-management responsibility, but it is really important for us–as a part of the UX team–to fully understand the methodologies that we will use for our product; for example, it might be the Waterfall approach, the Agile approach, or some other project-management approach. The main thing is for us to understand the approach so that we will have a clear idea of how to start the UX process and align with other team members, project-management teams, and the client themselves.

The team should be from different areas because everyone will contribute unique ideas.

Their differing viewpoints and opinions will spark the team’s creativity. Don’t be afraid to switch members between projects.

Now that we’re clear on the discovery and planning phase, we can move on to the second phase of the UX process, which is strategy.

Next Process – Strategy