August 28th, 2023
A redesign project can sometimes start quickly without a lot of information or planning, whether it is a leader in the organization saying, “I don’t like how the website looks”, or finishing a brand overhaul that your website is not yet reflecting. When the timeline is compressed and budgets are tight, we often see that the discovery phase is cut down to only requirements collecting.
Without a discovery phase that targets the business goals of the organization, it is likely that the scope of the project will be unclear to many. In fact, some of the top reasons why redesigns fail are related to poor planning and vision typically set during a discovery. Some of the top reasons are:
- Unclear objectives and focus
- Scope changes and misunderstood technical complexity
- Teams are not aligned and lack the necessary skills to manage
With a tight timeline and stakeholders anxiously awaiting a new experience, a decision will sometimes be made to keep the same organization, navigation, homepage prioritization, links and base content for a quick refresh of the look and feel with new branding, color and images - or as I like to call it - putting lipstick on a pig. This can often lead to goals not being met, stakeholders feeling that their voice had not been heard during the process, and another redesign project on the horizon.
When the discovery phase is prioritized in the process, a redesign can improve how audiences experience the website and the brand overall. This can lead to better stakeholder engagement, budgeting conversations, and provides you with an opportunity to plan for the future.
What is Redesign Discovery?
This is the first step of a redesign. Arguably one of the most important steps. This step enables you to define your website vision, gather research and insights about the user experience and how you want users to interact with your brand, and for planning your roadmap to build and launch your website. This phase helps to set the tone for the entire project and gain stakeholder trust and engagement throughout the entire redesign process.
Three Reasons Not To Cut Discovery:
When you redesign your website, even with just a few targeted enhancements, you are changing the way users are interacting with your content and how they are interacting with your brand. The discovery process helps you take the risk out of this process and avoid pitfalls when redesigning. Whether you are starting a project in-house or working with an agency, a redesign discovery will not only help you plan, but set you up for success in:
- Securing Your Investment
- Engaging Stakeholders
- Future-proofing Your Roadmap
Securing Your Investment
A discovery phase is focused around planning and setting your scope. Detailing out this process will reduce the risk of missed deadlines and exceeding budgets. It allows you to understand the full scope of the redesign and what it will take to show success.
Ideally, a discovery should take place before setting a hard budget for the project, but oftentimes a budget is set before the project starts with very little wiggle room. A discovery will allow you to understand what can be accomplished in that budget, and where you may need additional budget to accomplish your goals. This is so important for leadership and stakeholder conversations so that you are able to help them understand what they can expect during the redesign process and where certain items may go above and beyond the planned scope and budget of the project. This helps to keep stakeholder expectations realistic, and prepares them to advocate when more investment may be needed.
Many redesign projects also include third-party integrations or custom features that can lead to hidden costs. You can uncover these costs and the scope of the feature during a discovery phase to be sure that these are accounted for. This can really help leaders understand the customizations that may be needed, the long-term strategy for the website, and help get the focus on more than just how the homepage looks.
When communicating changes during a redesign, there are always stakeholders that feel a bit uncomfortable or feel challenged by new technologies, because you are introducing new processes that impact the way they are comfortable working. Stakeholders need to feel like they can trust you to meet their needs and that you are providing a positive brand experience to their audiences.
Discovery can help build stakeholder confidence in the solution you are proposing. Research into their greatest needs helps build trust and provide them with information about their needs and goals. In this phase, stakeholders can be involved by providing their feedback, and how they would like to see the platform improved to meet their needs as well as their primary audience’s needs.
While it is impossible to meet all stakeholder wants and needs with a redesign, a discovery can give you the information to make decisions around what can be prioritized, what may be set for a second phase of the project with additional budget, and what may need to have a different solution altogether. A discovery phase allows stakeholders to be heard, and helps project leads be able to set expectations and obtain the appropriate research against any needs and wants that could impact the scope of the project.
Future-proofing The Platform Roadmap
The discovery phase helps to lay the groundwork to future-proof your technical architecture for an easier, faster and more flexible development experience. This phase can focus on auditing the current state of the site, understand business processes, and check for user and compliance issues. Having a full inventory of features, issues, and content needs helps you understand where there may be opportunities to keep your system flexible, agile, and determine where budget should be invested in the future. A well built platform can help get your content out to the right audience at the right time in their journey and the discovery phase will target those needs and help to build a platform focused on optimizations that will sustain your brand vision.
When stakeholders are eager for a new website, it is hard to think about the future roadmap and where the site can go, but building this into the discovery process helps you limit the initial scope and have a roadmap for moving forward. It helps you anticipate trends and automate processes that can help save time and budget in the future and allows your organization to invest more in optimizations towards their primary goals without rebuilding the entire platform.
Every project is unique, and some projects may need more discovery time than others. Oftentimes, I am able to pull research that can be repurposed, speak to experts that have studied the website audience, or have access to a very well-documented platform spec that has the necessary features for building out requirements. These can all help reduce the time and effort that goes into a discovery phase while still determining the scope and budget for a project.
When looking at a discovery and where you may be able to save time, it’s important to be careful to not cut areas that can lead to abrupt changes in the middle of the project, or can impact the way that you talk about the return on investment expected from completing the project. If you don’t know where to start with a discovery, here are some recommended starting points that can help you start to think about your strategy and the areas you will see the most impact to your site structure and audience:
- Identify and interview stakeholders about the website needs/goals/concerns/successes
- Find trends and build business goals based on feedback
- Collect qualitative/quantitative data that backs up opinions & concerns about the site
- Measure current performance of the site against KPIs
- Identify user behavior problems to solve with new user experiences
- Build a measurement plan and begin benchmarking against new goals
Audience & Personas
- Conduct user interviews and moderated user tests
- Understand how users navigate the website, test labels and where content lives
- Journey mapping and content mapping
- Conduct technical audits on the current site setup
- Identify third-party integrations, workflows, features and hosting improvements
- Migration & redirect mapping
A well-documented discovery phase can go a long way in a redesign and can help you to be sure that you have outcomes, benchmarks, goals and most importantly your scope documented. In the long-run it will help you build trust with your stakeholders, leaders and lead to a successful project outcome. Approaching a redesign project? Contact us to learn more about how we can help your organization from discovery to launch.