Design process

Discovery as the Most Important Phase of Every Project


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Just as the saying goes, “A good beginning is half the battle won.” True, if you take the discovery phase too lightly, you will pay a great price for it just like FoxMeyer did.

In 1993, FoxMeyer was the fourth largest drug distributor in the USA, with a $5 billion valuation. However, by 1996 it was already bankrupt and sold for a paltry $80 million. Why did such an ambitious company fail? Unfortunately, the poor discovery set the project up for failure adding it to the list of the worst project management examples.

The company had high hopes for its ERP system. However, during
the discovery phase, FoxMeyer neglected to seek customers and stakeholders support. The company didn’t consider expert advice, users, or the potential effect on the community. As a result, the ERP system was too hard for users to handle, and finally, users actively opposed it.

Let me share with you the Design Squiggle, created by Damien Newman, a CEO of the transformation consulting firm Central and a former design strategist at IDEO, that illustrates the value of the design process.

the illustration of the Design Squiggle, created by Damien Newman

In a simple way, the Squiggle conveys the messiness and uncertainty in
the creative project management process as well as proves that the discovery is essential.

Here at Eleken, we believe that discovery is critical for both businesses and users. True, it is the DNA of every project because it is the primary step before you even start thinking about colors, fonts, and layouts.

Eleken is a creative design agency located in Ukraine. We focus on creating full-service design projects for startups. We are passionate about implementing innovative approaches in design as well as providing our clients with high-quality customer support.

Eleken works hard to provide the best possible design solutions and user experience. Our values include integrity, professionalism, and dedication to perfection.

Our experience has demonstrated that if we identify all the requirements of the project correctly before the beginning of the design project development, it can reduce the project budget and help to meet the deadline.

Knowing how important the discovery project phase for the future success of the project is, how to effectively organize it? Achieving this goal takes several steps. So let’s cover five project management steps in the discovery process below.

5 Steps in the Discovery Process

The design process begins with a discovery phase. We set out to bring clarity to concepts, articulate the goals, constraints, and measures of success for the project. We work together with our customers to develop real understandings of what achievements we expect in terms of outputs and outcomes.

As a result, we create a detailed plan that reduces the risks of a new project. The discovery engagement includes the following steps:

The First Discovery Meeting

In the first meeting, we identify the company’s vision, which consists of the current state of the company and where the company wants to be.  
Business owners are the key people who should be involved in the entire process. We speak to the CEO, the managing director, and staff who can provide us with the understanding of what is needed.  

We’re trying to identify the following:

  • What does the client want? (desired state)
  • What exists today? (current state)
  • What we need to know and understand to get the design to the desired state (gap)

Company’s Brand Identity

The discovery meeting provides us with the company’s internal view of their brand and goals for the brand. Then, we work on the way how we can reflect a brand identity when designing a  product.

Identifying the Target Audience

We make detailed user research which helps us understand who are our users and how they may interact with the digital product/website or application that we’re going to develop.

We focus on the following:

  • Demographics: age, female/male, location, culture, etc.
  • Backstory problems: the issues that plague the company.
  • Their needs and wants: how to identify them.

Also, we make a competitor analysis. Analyzing competition, we get a fair idea of how to handle the various aspects of the same product and its users, understand the strengths and weaknesses of the existing solutions.

In the discovery process, we usually go through the following steps:

  • User interviews
  • Creating ideal personas
  • Surveys
  • User needs
  • Creating customer journeys

That said, customer journey mapping becomes a handy tool that helps us visualize users relationship with a product/brand over time and across different channels.

Customer Journey Mapping

A journey map is a route that your user takes through a product or service. This route can include any transactions, as well as different services like reading your content. Understanding your customer’s journey means putting yourself in the users’ shoes. It’s all too easy to think we’re creating the best solutions possible, but until we get into the head of our user, we won’t really know.

So what does customer journey mapping help us to solve? To answer this question, let’s look at the example below:

CJM example

Customer journey mapping represents a timeline of all touch points between a user and a product. Also, it contains information about all channels that users use to interact with a product. All in all, it helps us create a shared vision of the future digital product.

Mission Statement

After all the information gathered, we create a mission statement or brand statement that incorporates all of the steps above.

The mission statement should include the points below:

  • The things you want people to know about your business: your offer, the target audience.
  • Your point of difference (how you serve your target market differently and better than all other options).
  • Your business promise.
  • Your brand character or personality that will go through all brand expressions.

Then, we compile a discovery document so that anyone who involved (the client, designers, developers) can quickly gain an understanding of what we’re working on during project implementation.

The Value of Discovery

The discovery process goes a long way towards creating a website, an app, and visual brand identity that operates as an extension of a business and its brand. We implement this process in each design project we work on because without discovery, we’re flying blind. For us, it is the best way to define whether the project is moving in the right direction at the early stages.

Here at Eleken, we pay special attention to understand users better. We can help you create a cutting-edge product that will stand out on the market.

Dana Yatsenko


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