It is not hard to see why top UI/UX design companies stress that it is imperative to give more importance to User Experience [UX] at every stage of app development. And the latest research shows that every UX topography should contain an important element known as Discovery Phase.

So, what is Discovery Phase?

In essence, Discovery Phase is a process designed to ensure that you are crafting the right product (app) for the right end-users.

Since app owners and developers should have a 360 degree understanding of end-users’ needs, it is crucial for both to understand the significance of Discovery Phase.

It is common that while building a product, UX designers – no matter how experienced they are – sometimes inadvertently go off track and end up focusing more on the wrong aspects of the product. One of the main reasons for this could be that your core idea and the designer’s development process may not be aligned to the end goal. This is one of the common problems in app development, and one of the most effective ways to counter this challenge is through Discovery Phase.

The outcomes of fusing Discovery Phase within your process

* Better understanding and aligned thought about the app

* Clear understanding of ‘what to build’ and ‘for whom’

* Helps in identifying unknown challenges/risks

* Streamlining schedules and goals

* Efficient UI/UX topography through suggestions & recommendations

As there is no single cut-and-dry product discovery structure, the approach varies from business to business or product to product. However, there are a few steps that have proved to have provided best results.

There are 4 key areas of Discovery Phase

1. Defining the objective

2. Exploring

3. Applying Solutions

4. Prototyping

1. Defining the objective

Define the Goal: First, list your end goal(s). Why are you building this product? What is the long term goal of this product? What are the obstacles you may face? What could be the possible solution? And so on.

Mapping user journey: Mapping the user journey is – without a doubt – one of the important aspects of the discovery phase; and this process starts with: i. Creating hypothesis of different types of users ii. Validate these hypotheses through quantitative and qualitative research, Surveys, Organizing focus groups, and field research.

Though it varies from app to app, here is what a typical – or rather a simple – user journey mapping for a weather app might look like:

                                                    Image Source: appcues

Mapping Process Tip: List USERS on the left, the GOAL on the right, and every action in between.

List problems as opportunities: Once you map out the user journey, they can reveal problem areas. Don’t be alarmed. Here’s your chance to turn those problems into opportunities. For example: If it takes about an hour’s time to respond to a customer query.

How to reduce customer request process time?’ would be your opportunity.

2. Exploring

At the end of the first stage (Defining goal, mapping user journey & listing problems as opportunities) you will have a bunch of ‘opportunities’ in the form of problems. And you have the liberty to come out with ingenious solutions to resolve these pain points.

Explore ideas: Now is the the time to reach out to people or specialists or create your own ideas on how to turn the problems into pure opportunities.

Sketch out possible solutions: If there are multiple solutions to one problem, list them out. Then, visualize and sketch them out as to how would they appear on the product.

3. Applying Solutions

Now that you have solutions for your problems, it is important that you analyze each problem in detail before you move any further. For this, you need to first choose the viable solutions and then create storyboard.

Viable solutions: You may have multiple solutions for a single problem. Analyze and gauge them and decide on a solution that best fits the need. Note: Ensure that the solution does just vaguely address the problem, but answers them as the users might expect them to be.

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Storyboarding: Lay out a detailed storyboard to see how it looks on the app. Storyboarding also helps in crafting prototype, the next stage in the product discovery process.

4. Creating Prototype

Prototyping is a moulding phase in app development. It’s sort of a test drive where UI/UX designers get a chance to see how the app functions. It is the time where feedbacks are collected, weighed and relevant changes are made, before even the actual app development begins.

Check if the flow is right: Using the storyboard you’ve created, flesh out a working prototype to see if the user experience has the right flow, and it addresses all the user needs.

Validate: Once you are satisfied with the prototype, you validate the product by conducting a series of tests. Organize focus groups [it could be a close-knit internal team or a large group of people] and take feedback from them on aspects such as the best side of your app, issues they face, and the overall user experience. This validation not just leads to quick and effective iteration, but also helps in effective decision-making.

Final thoughts

While there are many app owners and UX designers who are yet to understand the full significance of this valuable approach, there are a large chunk of people on the other side of the spectrum who have leveraged the power of Discovery Phase and have delivered quality and productive apps. The time invested in Discovery Phase is time well-spent, and designers are realizing that the process of discovery phase is paying off pretty well.

Ideaplunge is one of the leading UI/UX design studios in Bangalore. Backed by a highly-experienced team of designers, we have crafted top-class UX designs for some of the renowned brands in Retail, Healthcare, Fashion and Lifestyle.

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