Don't Rush In: How a Website Discovery Process Sets the Stage for Success

By Phase 3
November 09, 2023



Ensuring that your website resonates with your target audience and provides a "user-first" experience is paramount for the success of businesses in any industry. Your website is often the first point of contact between your company and new customers, and it plays a significant role in shaping their perception and experience. It's an investment that can yield substantial returns regarding customer engagement, conversion rates, and revenue. 


Building a User-First Website Through Immersive Discovery

Finding the right web developer is a critical decision that can significantly impact the success of your website build or update. Take the time to find a developer or agency that not only possesses the technical skills but also shares your commitment to creating a user-friendly and effective website through the immersive discovery of your company's goals, mission, product, and, most of all, your customers.

At Phase 3, our web development roadmap always starts with an immersive and comprehensive discovery phase that involves the client's most important stakeholders and outlines the most critical goals. This first step ensures that the end users are always top of mind.

This post will explain how Phase 3 uses the discovery phase to set every website project or enhancement (and the client) up for success. But first, let’s review Phase 3’s entire process from beginning to end.


Phase 3’s Web Development Process

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Here's a roadmap of our complete process, with Discovery phase at the beginning of the journey. That critical first step will inform and influence the rest of the process. With the insights we gain from Discovery, our web designers will get to work creating wireframes and site navigation that meet the client's goals and are responsive to the end user's needs. Then, our web developers start the actual site build by choosing and setting up a content management system, the front-end user interface, and the back-end admin dashboards. This is the stage where the client will have significant influence through quality assurance and UX testing. Content population is next. This stage may include creating new visual assets or content pieces and repurposing existing content. After the content is in place, there is another essential testing and quality assurance phase for both internal stakeholders and end users. Lastly, the site is launched. This process is comprehensive and built to avoid gaps in logic or need, making the result engaging, easy to use, and responsive. It all hinges on that first phase, the discovery process.


The Discovery Process/Immersion Session

Now that we’ve described the entire roadmap for the website design journey, let’s dive deeper into the first stop in the journey, the discovery process.

This average timeline for the discovery process is around four weeks and starts with a kickoff/immersion session. An immersion session is a working meeting that includes our client's internal stakeholders and our expert web development team. During the meeting, we will dive into the client's audiences, business, strategic, and technical goals. We will also set expectations and deadlines for the project.

Here are some of the specific topics covered during this first session:

  • Introduce the website project team and any additional stakeholders
  • Discuss overall project goals in depth
  • Review functional needs in depth
  • Establish a project communication plan
  • Discuss project completion handoff
  • Understand the audience's emotional and practical needs
  • Outline conversion goals and the path to conversion for each user
  • Confirm project schedule and timing of deliverables

Matt Worsham, Vice President of Creative & Digital, explained the immersion session this way:

"I would say every immersion session reveals something we wouldn't have known going into a site without it. The entire discovery process accomplishes two goals. It is a tool for mapping out the site, including its content needs and structure. It is also a tool for us to price a website accurately. Without the immersion session, setting the scope of a website is challenging. After a successful immersion session and the rest of the discovery process, we can assure our clients that the price we quote them will be their final cost."

Our team takes the insights and information they gain from the immersion session and moves into the rest of the discovery process, including a content audit and an outline of the client's business requirements.


The Discovery Process/Digital Content Audit

The team audits the client's existing website structure and assets, including content, images, video, links, and more, to ensure that we identify any gaps in strategy or new content needed. When redesigning an existing website, for example, we'll look for pages without meta descriptions, H1s, or important SEO keywords. We'll also look for broken links, missing calls to action, or other opportunities to engage with users. Through the audit, we will determine if the content is accurate, consistent, speaks in the brand voice, and is optimized for search. For some clients, this audit may include several web properties to consolidate them into one comprehensive website. Then, the team will move on to the client's business requirements.


The Discovery Process/Business Requirements

During this part of the discovery process, we will document the client's business requirements for the website. We do this by defining customer needs and expectations, a high-level overview of the mandatory functionality for the site, and the client objectives. The business requirements documentation will:

  • Solidify business objectives and goals for the website
  • Define target audiences and desired actions
  • Review the competitive landscape
  • Provide strategic and informed best practice recommendations

These items should lead to comprehensive website documentation as a business solution for the client.


The Discovery Process/Deliverables

With the insights and documentation gathered throughout the discovery process, the Phase 3 team creates a discovery results presentation. This presentation maps out the entire website, with a proposed site map and a detailed explanation of the goals and content needs for each section of each page on the site. The result is a complete roadmap for the finished website. It will include:

  • Business Requirements Overview
  • Functional Requirement Recommendations
  • Content Audit & Suggestions
  • Site Architecture Recommendations
  • User Flow Recommendations
  • Project Scope & Proposal: Timing, Budget

After the presentation and the client’s approval, the Phase 3 team gets started on the rest of the roadmap with design. Can you see how critical this first phase is to the process? Let Matt tell you what he thinks.


Why is the Discovery Phase So Important?

“The discovery process allows us to craft a particular scope and determine the content needs for the entire site. Without the discovery process, we would be approaching design in the dark and learning along the way. The discovery process allows us to learn everything upfront and provide a detailed plan. When we ask the right questions, involve every important member of the team, and get to know a client's business and web needs, we develop a shared understanding of what the outcome should be," Matt explains.

In other words, the client ends up with the website their customers want, with buy-in from every internal stakeholder and a positive return on investment. Think of discovery as an investment that can increase customer engagement, brand awareness, and overall business performance.

Your website is, after all, your company’s digital front door. The Phase 3 team will make it a place where customers feel welcomed, find and purchase what they are looking for, and come away loving your brand. All because you took the time to engage in the process of discovery. Reach out today to discover more.