Jake Intel

Brian Coulombe

Five Tips for a Successful Website Discovery Phase

The website discovery phase is the most important element of the website design process. To help you better understand and successfully implement, we’ve put together a four-part series that takes a Deep Dive on Discovery. Part One (The Discovery Phase of the Website Design Process) tells you about this phase and what is involved, and Part Two (How to Conduct an Audience Analysis) provides our A-U-D-I-E-N-C-E Analysis framework to identify and understand your users, their needs, and more.

Let’s jump into Part Three: Five Tips for a Successful Website Discovery Phase.


1. Consider Discovery as Its Own Project

Since Discovery lays the foundation for every website project, it often serves as the kick-off for the design and development process. However, it can be beneficial to create a separate Discovery engagement even before you dive in with both feet.

By carving out Discovery as its own project, clients can singularly focus on defining business goals, target audiences, and expectations around the process rather than thinking ahead about look-and-feel or bells-and-whistles. A distinct Discovery engagement also allows the client and vendor to find a good rhythm as a team and test project management/collaboration tools to ensure a successful outcome.

2. Design a Website Discovery Phase Appropriate for Your Project

Discovery need not be time consuming and expensive unless your project is complex with many moving parts. A well run discovery meeting should be commensurate with the scope of the project.

If your project requires a quick turnaround or has a relatively small budget — say, a microsite or a small campaign landing page — you may only need a one-hour meeting with the key project lead(s) to collect the key information you need. Conversely, a large site with hundreds of pages, robust functionality, and/or third-party integrations may require week or more of meetings, stakeholder interviews, and specifications documents. Either way, you should design a discovery process that is thorough enough to gather the critical intelligence you need without making it overly complicated to execute. 

3. Recruit Decision-Makers Early in the Process 

Nothing will derail a project faster than failing to have key decision-makers contribute early on in the discovery process. While you don’t want to fall victim to “too many cooks in the kitchen”, it’s critical that all influencers be consulted before developing a comprehensive project plan. 

By insisting that everyone with decision-making authority come to the table during the initial discovery sessions, you’ll avoid having to backtrack when you receive input later in the process. Feedback that comes in too late will not only cause time delays and frustration, but it will often blow the budget — not an outcome anyone wants! 

4. Consider All Stakeholders  

It’s critical that you gather key information from all relevant stakeholders before developing a comprehensive project plan. That includes, not only the usual suspects — clients (or members) and prospective clients — but also employees, members of the media, and more. 

By identifying all user groups and fully understanding their needs and expectations for the website, you’ll be able better devise a site that serves all users. 

5. Include In-Person Time With Users 

When possible, invite users to be part of the Discovery meeting. You can also make use of Google Analytics data to give you an understanding of the user, but you should not solely rely on that as it does not enable you to directly connect with users and their needs.

Next Steps 

We encourage you to follow these tips when approaching your web design project, whether a new site or a redesign. And if you are working with us at the Jake Group, you can trust these best practices will be in place to make your project a success.

Stay tuned for Part Four in our Discovery Deep Dive. We’ll be focusing on the end-user and what it means to build with that audience as the priority. 


Interested in learning more? Drop us a line and get us involved from the start!