What Happens (Exactly) In A Product Discovery Phase?


Finding the balance

In our philosophy, a well-crafted product starts with striking the right balance of business objectives, technology needs and approach, and value to the end-user. Finding that balance is the key to a successful, useful digital product, which is why agencies like Dom & Tom rely on a Discovery Phase as the first step in the journey.

Discovery is also a very necessary tool for questioning preconceptions about what a product should be, and who it’s for. It’s easy (sometimes way too easy) for anecdotal evidence and internal logic to dictate major decisions during the building process.

A thoughtful, comprehensive discovery phase can offer fresh perspectives on the needs of an intended audience, and the goals of the app-builder.

For us, the length of time varies, but typically the Discovery Phase falls in the 2-4 week range at the beginning of an engagement. It encompasses stakeholder and user interviews, competitive analysis, prototype iteration, planning and roadmapping, and a host of other exercises to get everybody on the same page. Let’s break it down.

Stage 1: Level-setting

Stakeholder Working Sessions

During half or full-day working sessions with you and other stakeholders, we generate key deliverables. These stakeholder sessions align business goals and users. We define a feature set and create a product brief to assist prototyping.

Competitive/Peer Analysis

An assessment of the current landscape is essential in order to identify both analogs and beacons. Who’s doing something well? Where is there a gap in the market? How does your competition define itself, and what lessons can be learned from that? The analysis is used to identify the baseline set of expectations for the target demographic.

Project Plan

This is the perfect time to lay out a detailed plan of project timetables, dependencies, and risks.

Stage 2: User Interview Preparation

Discovery Interview Screener

Truly understanding the user of your product takes focus and a deliberate methodology. We generate a document used to screen potential candidates for interviews, which helps us find the right approach for interviewing users.

Discovery Interview Guide

This guide is a list of questions we aim to have answered, as long as it doesn’t hinder the natural flow of conversation, which typically yields more valuable insights. Moreover, a guide aligns important questions and topics prior to the interviews.

These additions help to improve the flow of the text and provide a clearer connection between the ideas presented.

Low Fidelity Prototypes

Rapid prototyping may occur to articulate key flows for user reactions (we use tools like Invision). Subsequently, prototyping in low fidelity allows users to focus on the flow and functionality of the screens, rather than aesthetics.

Interviewee Recruiting

We discuss the preferred method of recruitment of the target demographic. Generally, recruiting may be conducted through your user network or through a tool such as Respondent.

Stage 3: Conduct User Interviews

Discovery Interviews

Interviews are a primary form of qualitative testing and are an invaluable resource when forming a design strategy. Moreover, they’re typically 30-45 minute sessions. While we prefer to conduct interviews in person, we have extensive experience conducting them remotely to reach a more diverse pool.

Here’s an example of how to set up a perfect, five-act User Interview from Jake Knapp, the creator of Design Sprint:

Prototype Iteration

Throughout the course of conducting interviews, we may iterate on prototypes in response to user feedback. Users’ distractions that are unrelated to the study goals can reduce the effectiveness of prototypes.

Stage 4: Formalizing Product Features

Discovery Brand Exploration / Style Tiles

Branding exploration is articulated in the form of Style Tiles, which allow the visual design team to align with stakeholder expectations and make adjustments prior to designing.

User Interview Findings & Recommendations

Findings are synthesized in the form of a concise product-experience strategy. Synthesizing the findings into a cohesive narrative helps drive conversation and align team members.

Application Diagram

This combination of a sitemap and user flows offers a high-level overview of the application, providing the foundation for further design sprints to build off of.

Features & Functionality Matrix

We typically articulate an alignment of business objectives and user expectations as a feature set. We port this living document to our project management system for sprint planning and backlog grooming.

Product Roadmap

This initial recommendation of feature releases for internal testing is the result of stakeholder discussions and user feedback. The visualization allows stakeholders to set internal expectations and monitor the progress of the team.

Technical Architecture

Identify what is needed and how to accomplish Version 1 of the application. Dom & Tom architects for scale, and is always thinking about future versions and updates when building Version 1. It also includes:

  • Collaboration to understand development risks & dependencies
  • Server-infrastructure planning and setup (DevOps)
  • Creation of Architecture Diagram

Questions about Discovery?

Discovery covers a lot of ground. Take a look at the work we did with the Alzheimer’s Association to develop an iOS and Android mobile app, it’s a great example of how discovery can shape a product.

Let’s get your product idea off the ground. Contact us today.

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