Why an awesome discovery phase will make your project skyrocket

Simeon Stanford

Posted by Simeon Stanford on 04 Aug 2016 reading time

  • So, after much internal wrangling, you’ve got the go-ahead to work on your new website and related series of marketing activities.

    This was by no means an easy win. Having spent many hours conducting research, generating ideas and convincing management as to what’s required, you’re now tasked with going out and finding a digital agency that can deliver.

    You develop a brief and share it with so many companies. Yet, the response is either made up of more questions than you care to answer, or a lack of response entirely. This increasingly common scenario is due to 2 things:

    • Agencies avoiding speculative work (and rightly so)
    • A lack of a discovery phase, which should shape every project

    Let’s take a look at why a discovery phase will change the way you work with agencies, and most importantly, get you to deliver more in time and on budget.

  • 1. Validate your brief and improve on ideas
    1. Validate your brief and improve on ideas

    With a validated brief, you’ll be able to tell which ideas will work (and those which won’t).

    Internally, you may have already built a power list of features, components and goals that you’d like your website to deliver on.

    By having a discovery phase, you’ll be able to rely on the input of tech, creative and strategic specialists who have a fair idea of the time and cost implication of delivering on features in part or in whole.

  • The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
    Marcel Proust
  • 2. Prevent shiny object syndrome and brainstroming alone
    2. Prevent shiny object syndrome and brainstroming alone

    We’re all guilty of it. We see a website we love, and our minds become fixated with replicating a feature or design to the letter. The logic sounds solid – if I like it, so will everyone else.

    The true issue, however, is if this feature is right for your business and your audience? What works well in the sporting industry may not translate for industrial goods (or any other mix).

    You should never advance with a project based on you brainstorming alone or based on shiny object syndrome. A client-agency workshop as a discovery phase will help to ground the ideas that are in the sky or at least find the means of delivering on these features in a way that adds value.

  • 3. Save time and money with proper planning
    3. Save time and money with proper planning

    When you work out a list of priorities for the short, mid and long term, you’ll better be able to budget both time and finance to get you to the end result you desire.

    It also helps agencies to outline milestones for delivery so that there is a layer of accountability at each stage.

    Trying to decide what features to work on first can be a difficult task. You may want to further categorise requested features based on:

    Business value

    • Does this feature make you more efficient?
    • Does it help to boost awareness of your brand?
    • Does it increase overall impact (e.g. higher number of leads generated or product sold)


    • Is the feature something that can be implemented easily by your agency? Does it require a lot of custom code/design?
    • How desirable is this feature for you as a business?
  • 4. Get the best from the client-agency relationship
    4. Get the best from the client-agency relationship

    There is nothing more daunting for an agency or client than feeling disconnected from the project or each other.

    When you have a discovery phase, both the client and agency get to know each other on a beneath-the-surface level. You’ll get a feel for the approach to delivery, the working atmosphere, where people are drawing inspiration from and more.

    The best results truly come from a collaborative effort with buy-in from all. It’s when everyone is invested in the idea that you usually get a stellar outcome. Also, an agency involved from the outset will be best positioned to help with ongoing marketing and support needs.

  • What is involved in a discovery phase?

    Whilst the discovery phase may vary from agency to agency, at a minimum you should leave with clear focus and vision on how your project will get from an idea to a finished product.

    You might expect your discovery phase to include some of the following types of activity:

    • Brand definition
      Brand definition

      Many users confuse what makes up their brand from what their identity is. Often, too much time is spent on choosing colours, shapes and typography (your visual identity), leaving you disconnected from your customers.

      Your brand is so much more! In fact, it is the symbol of your ideals, qualities, visual references and beyond.

    • User personas
      User personas

      Your community of customers are the lifeblood of your business, so it makes perfect sense to spend time getting to know them.

      It’s when you can clarify your user’s goals and ambitions, and how you can help them to meet those needs, that true customer engagement is possible.

    • Goal setting + feature prioritisation
      Goal setting + feature prioritisation

      Prioritising the features of not just your site, but also your ongoing business activity is essential when trying to get clear focus and purpose.

      We help you to organise your must haves into things that:

      • build awareness
      • improve efficiency
      • increase impact

      As a result, you’ll know exactly where you’re going over the short, mid and long term, and exactly how you’re getting there.

    • Competitive landscape
      Competitive landscape

      We help you to organise your competitors into:

      • direct competition
      • category competition
      • substitutes for your offering
      • indirect offerings
    • References and Preferences
      References and Preferences

      Help us to understand what designs should inspire us, as well as those that we should steer clear of. When we understand your likes and dislikes, we can provide targeted designs that meet the grade.

    • Collaborative brief
      Collaborative brief

      Our collaborative brief is the documented output of agency and client findings in the workshop. It is the blueprint for the design directions we create.

  • Start your discovery journey

    We hope that you’ve found this article useful and are ready to challenge yourself and your team with an approach that brings results time after time.

    Are you looking to get your web project off the ground? What better way to start than by planning a discovery phase workshop with an agency who knows how to deliver at each stage?

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Posted by Simeon Stanford
Simeon Stanford

Simeon heads up New Business + Accounts at Debunc. His sales experience across business intelligence, data and digital make him a force to be reckoned with. Away from managing accounts, he's a both a globetrotter and a gooner!

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