What is the starting point of a website or app project? Is it when you receive all the requirements from your client? Or when all hands in a project reach an agreement on what can be done and what not? The first step is always critical and requires a lot of strategic planning with a steady flow of information, which, if not handled properly, could cause delays to the project.
At Niteco, we have been doing website and application development and providing UI/UX design services for a number of clients. Some projects involve upgrading and redesigning based on existing websites, while many require building everything from scratch. Some are as large-scale as doing multiple sites at the same time, some are high-pressure within a tight time frame, with the launch date just weeks away. However big the projects might be or whatever budget they have, every client that comes to us has one thing in common. They all have a lot of amazing ideas on how to do the sites. But often, their long wish list is overshadowed by a limited budget and time restraints. This is often the main cause for delays during the implementation process. Here’s where we come in, with our own Niteco-made workshops that try to bring order to chaos and ensure the projects can move forward with as little hindrance as possible. This is our Discovery Phase.
What is the Discovery Phase and why is it necessary?
Taking place at the start of a website/application development project, the Discovery Phase consists of several meetings or workshops. Each might last 2-3 hours and requires the participation of people from both sides: the client and Niteco. On the client side, the project needs input from a range of different stakeholders from several departments, such as IT, Marketing, etc. to make sure all angles are considered. From Niteco, those who have a hand in the project include project managers, business architects, solution architects, tech leads, UI/UX designers and, sometimes, marketing, depending on the project. A Discovery Phase can last up to 4 months depending on the scale of the project. There is no fixed number for how many workshops we conduct as long as we find out all the information needed to move on to the Implementation Phase.
The Discovery Phase is crucial for many reasons. Here’s why you need it before jumping right into the Implementation Phase:
- It helps align user needs around business objectives and technical capabilities.
This initial phase is often the most fun and creative stage because it is a rare occasion for many stakeholders to sit down in one meeting and let their ideas flow out, centered around their understanding of the user personas. Once we have collected their ideas, Niteco’s team will flesh out the technical input, always considering what finances and resources are available from the client side. This is particularly important in the process of feature prioritization: The client will need to decide on the MVP (minimum viable product) while understanding that some features, though they might have potential, will have to be excluded or moved to later phases.
- It encourages all stakeholders to thoroughly discuss and finalize as much essential information as possible.
We all appreciate how emails keep everyone involved in the loop, but we also know the pain of waiting for a confirmation email from dozens of recipients, especially when the launch date is just around the corner. Discovery workshops help us avoid this trouble by sitting everyone down in one meeting where the client fully addresses their needs and puts all resources they have on the table while the Niteco team carefully validates them from a technical point of view and shepherds the client’s ideas towards feasibility. This reduces the risk of misunderstandings and work being done based on wrong information, especially with large-scale projects, where data flows from all directions.
- It helps save good ideas for future implementation.
There will always be ideas that sound great, but aren’t viable at the moment. During Discovery workshops, the Niteco team employs a method called MoSCoW, a popular prioritization technique used to categorize all ideas into 4 initiatives: must-haves, should-haves, could-haves and will-not-haves at the time. This way, any features that cannot be implemented right now due to financial and time limitations will be noted for future discussion in later implementation stage.
Objectives of the Discovery Phase
As mentioned above, the Discovery Phase can last as long as four months and the number of workshops can sometimes reach as high as 15-20. That’s because we usually have a long agenda full of things we want to agree on by the end of the phase. The list varies based on the scale of a project, but here’s what we normally try to determine and showcase during the workshops:
- To understand the business model and technical requirements of the client
- To analyze existing systems and data from the client
- To provide a solution design
- To define the scope and resources for the coming Implementation Phase
- To provide UX optimization recommendations and UX designs
- To provide UI designs
Only when these bullet points are checked off can we move on to the Implementation Phase. This is a crucial process that lays a solid foundation for all the next steps we are going to take. With Discovery workshops, our clients are able to stay on track with their budget while we are armed with a clear understanding of what the client wants and what features are feasible for Phase 1.
If you want to know more about our development and design services, or if you have a website you need to restructure, contact Niteco today.