What’s the discovery phase of a UX design project?

Creative Navy
Dec 19, 2019 · 4 min read

The discovery phase for Electrorent took 2 weeks. They sell and rent high-end electronics but their e-commerce user experience wasn’t helping them much. So they hired us to help them overcome some of the B2B e-commerce design challenges they faced. Before doing any meaningful design, we did our homework really well.

Sketch on dark background illustrating the lack of structure at the onset of a UX discovery project.
Sketch on dark background illustrating the lack of structure at the onset of a UX discovery project.

Week 1 — website analysis and stakeholder interviews

The first week was all about the low hanging fruit and organizing the first layer of knowledge.

On Monday we performed an audit of their existing website to identify what’s wrong with it. We started the review a database of complaints and support tickets they had received from customers. The result: afirst iteration of a list of paint points plus a long list of questions.

User pain points listed as part of a UX discovery process with a whiteboard to the right side.
User pain points listed as part of a UX discovery process with a whiteboard to the right side.
Pain point identified after an analysis of support tickets.

On Tuesday we had 4 interviews with business stakeholders. Two sales reps gave us insight into what they need from the e-commerce website to improve sales and two regional marketing managers shared their vision of who the customers are and what they think.

Wednesday we continued with stakeholder interviews. We spoke to 2 more sales reps, the development team and 2 customer support representatives. By now we were starting to see patterns.

Screenshot from Zoom call with a stakeholder as part of a UX discovery interview.
Screenshot from Zoom call with a stakeholder as part of a UX discovery interview.
Zoom call with marketing stakeholder.

Thursday we began user research sessions with 2 customers. This was a great occasion to improve our research protocol and get a sense of how the user perspective is different from what sales reps think. Thorough preparation of user interviews makes the user research insights more useful. In parallel we started the design benchmarking exercise, by identifying a list of competitors and shortlisting the ones for the in-depth analysis.

Friday we were able to concentrate primarily on benchmarking. We did the first review of the website's stats which triggered a few more research questions for user interviews.

Week 2 — user research and wrap up

At the start of week 2 we had:

  • A clear picture of the business needs;
  • A set of limitations from the developers;
  • A good overview of what people complain about;
  • Insight into what competitors do;
  • A refined user research protocol with all the right questions;
Competitor benchmarking screenshots comparing solutions to a UX design challenge.
Competitor benchmarking screenshots comparing solutions to a UX design challenge.
Competitor benchmarking of B2B e-commerce solution.

Monday to Wednesday we focused on user interviews. Monday around noon we got the first recorded browser sessions from the client, so in between the user interviews, we analyzed those the recordings. The recordings didn’t give us the “why”, but they uncovered a lot of edge cases that the business was not aware about. In the user interviews, we were able to get a perspective on the “why”. In three days we reviewed 50 recordings and interviewed 18 users from 8 countries.

Thursday we performed data analysis, putting structure to the responses we gathered. Answers to the individual research question started to reveal themselves. For example, we learned things such as:

  • The workflow users go through until they purchase;
  • The types of information they care about at every step of the journey;
  • Why certain things on the website don’t work for them;
  • What else they need from the website to support their decision making;
Two women looking at a laptop with a B2B e-commerce website discussing user impressions as part of a user research interview.
Two women looking at a laptop with a B2B e-commerce website discussing user impressions as part of a user research interview.
User interview that’s part of the UX discovery phase.

Friday we had another look at competitors to see how they handled certain challenges and then we created a long checklist to use during the design process.

The discovery phase improves the quality of the user experience

These two weeks did not just give us a data-driven perspective on user needs. It also created a rich repository of examples of what customers really do, how they think and what makes sense in their world. And, it challenged a lot of assumptions that the business stakeholders took for granted.

For example, management underestimated the user’s need to discover new products and use the website as a way to keep up to date with developments. This would have been a huge missed opportunity for the business, both of building the brand and driving sales by pushing higher-margin products.

The value of the discovery phase is that it provides both a coherent overall picture and a level of nuance that makes all the difference in the design process. In e-commerce the result is a better conversion rate and thus sales.

Creative Navy

Written by

Working to bring serenity to hyperspace by designing better #UX and #UI. 👩🏻‍🚀⚓️ interface-design.co.uk

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