UX Discovery: Deliverables, Process, and Importance

Article by:
Anna Polovnikova
10 min
Design is an integral element of the product discovery phase. What should you know about UX discovery? And what does the scope imply? Keep reading to learn the details.

Ever thought about how a little bit of planning goes a long way? Especially when we are talking about software or app development, where winging it can lead to a whole mess of surprises. And not the good kind. In fact, not having a solid plan can make things go sideways (so-called, scope creep) in around 78% of all IT and software projects. Crazy, right?

Let's talk about blueprints. What pops into your head? A roll of blue paper with some fancy sketches? Well, sort of, but there's a lot more to it. And nope, you don't actually have to draw it out on blue paper (unless you really want to). Today, we're going to unravel a process that's like second nature to our team but might seem like a complex beast to the brave souls venturing into the startup life, the UX discovery phase. 

What Is UX Discovery?

Jumping straight into app design without a strategic outline is akin to embarking on a road trip sans map. Sure, you might stumble upon some scenic spots, but imagine the wonders you'd come across with a well-planned route. It's a crucial starting point where you dissect your business goals, the envisioned digital product, and its future users. This phase sets the tone and ensures that every line of code contributes to a well-thought-out product.

It involves a blend of research, preliminary sketches, and data collection, not to solve everything at once but to chart a clear course. This exploration guarantees your project not only shines in innovation but also stands strong in usability and relevance. A well-executed UX design discovery phase turns fleeting ideas into digital experiences that users cherish.

Product Development Timeline (From Discovery to Deployment)

Why Is Discovery UX Research Important in Product Development?

Kicking off with a deep dive into early-stage analysis paves the way for making pivotal design choices that resonate with real user necessities instead of just banking on what the designer thinks might click. This approach crafts products that feel custom-made and steer clear of one-size-fits-all solutions.

By pinpointing the project's true north early on, this phase also acts as a bulwark against scope creep to enable sharper project estimates and dodge timeline extensions and business or startup budget bloats.

Setting crystal-clear objectives upfront keeps the project on its intended path, warding off pricey product or startup pivots down the line. Plus, by getting everyone on the same page from the start, it nurtures a unified vision and understanding, which, in turn, lubricates the wheels of progress.

And no, the product discovery phase and the UX discovery phase are not the same things. How do product and UX/UI research intertwine?

  • Product research scouts out the terrain, assessing market needs and competitor strategies.
  • UX/UI research, on the other hand, zooms in on user desires, habits, and pain points.

But for sure, these processes are complementary. Merging product and UX/UI research, the process zeroes in on carving a niche in the competitive market landscape while keeping user satisfaction in the crosshairs.

This dual-lens focus molds the product's blueprint and shapes the product development roadmap, ensuring it not only achieves business milestones but also wins the hearts of its users, elevating the end product from good to indispensable.

Who Is Involved in Discovery UX Research?

In the UX discovery phase, having a tight-knit team is key to nailing it. Here's the squad you need:

  1. UX Researcher/Designer: the detective of the group, diving into user research to map out needs and behaviors.
  2. Team Leader: the glue keeping everyone together, making sure the lines of communication are open and everyone's rowing in the same direction. Think product manager, project lead, or UX strategist.
  3. Sponsor/Owner: the big cheese who owns the project, armed with all the insider info and clout needed to smooth over any internal roadblocks.
  4. Technical Expert (Developer/Technical Architect): the tech whiz who translates geek speak into plain English, helping the team understand what's technically doable even when the proposed UX/UI design solutions seem awesome.
  5. Specialized Team Members: the specialists, ranging from business analysts crunching numbers to visual UX designers who make everything look sharp.

Before diving in, it's vital to get everyone's roles and missions in the company, project, or startup team structure crystal clear to sidestep any hiccups along the way.

Major UX Design Goals During the Discovery Phase 

The discovery research UX design process aims to hit several key targets.

  • Deep dive into user insights: understand users' needs, frustrations, and behaviors to successfully go through proof of concept and craft solutions that truly resonate and make the solution intuitive and logical.
  • Data-driven design choices: shape the product journey with solid data, steering clear of guesswork for smarter design decisions.
  • Efficiency boost: spot potential hurdles early, ensuring resource allocation is both smart and economical, dodging future financial pitfalls on costly re-designs and do-overs.
  • Unified team vision: cultivate a collective understanding of user needs, smoothing the path to consensus on design direction.
  • Expectation management: offer a grounded view of the project's scope, ensuring all parties are on the same page from the start.
  • Preemptive problem-solving: engage experts to identify and navigate around potential snags, confirming project viability.
  • Workflow refinement: apply research insights to hone workflow and brace for foreseeable challenges, aiming for seamless design creation and execution.
  • Accurate projections: ground estimates in a comprehensive understanding of the project's needs and obstacles, adding safeguards for realism.
  • Cost containment: tackle issues upfront in the discovery phase UX to avoid expensive reworks down the line.
  • Boosted confidence: base decisions on solid evidence, diminishing doubts and fortifying trust among the team and stakeholders.

In essence, discovery research UX is the cornerstone for understanding user needs that steers design decisions, synchronizes expectations, and foresees challenges, all while safeguarding time and budget and bolstering confidence in the project's success.

Main UX Discovery Phase Outputs

The discovery session UX churns out a variety of deliverables tailored to the project's demands. Here's what it typically encompasses.

UX Discovery Deliverables, Activities, and Outputs
  • User flow maps and role descriptions: crucial for grasping how users navigate and function within the app.
  • Low-detail UX wireframes: sketch a basic layout of the interface, highlighting primary features to clarify the user journey.
  • Interactive prototypes: feature key flows for mobile and desktop, crafted with tools like Figma, to showcase interactive elements and functionality.
  • Final mockups: a high-level mockup may possibly also be included in the phase as a final embodiment of the solutions to be built.
  • Pitch deck design (optional): creating a pitch deck is never easy, but it's crafted for wooing investors and partners, encapsulating the product vision and concept.

Beyond that, the overall discovery phase that goes before product development crystallizes the product idea and extends into technical planning with deliverables such as:

  • a clear articulation of the product vision and objectives;
  • a roadmap for the initial Minimum Viable Product (MVP);
  • definitions of main features;
  • creating user stories;
  • an overview of the architectural framework and selected technology stack;
  • a comprehensive proposal detailing required resources, team makeup, and a kickoff timeline.

This stage often generates high-level solution ideas ripe for further exploration. Occasionally, it may even guide a decision against project continuation if, say, a genuine user need is absent. Other potential outputs include a refined product problem statement, service blueprint, user-journey maps, user-needs statements, personas, and initial concepts or wireframes for future phases.

Want to ensure that your project discovery isn't a waste of time?

In just 2 weeks, Upsilon can deliver detailed feature descriptions, user stories, wireframes, UI/UX designs, a defined tech stack, and more so that your development kicks off from the right note!

Let's Talk

Want to ensure that your project discovery isn't a waste of time?

In just 2 weeks, Upsilon can deliver detailed feature descriptions, user stories, wireframes, UI/UX designs, a defined tech stack, and more so that your development kicks off from the right note!

Let's Talk

UX Discovery Methods of Research

During the UX discovery phase activities, a blend of qualitative and quantitative research methods is utilized to sculpt a full-bodied understanding of user needs. 

Qualitative Research

This side of the spectrum dives into the human element, leveraging open-ended inquiries via a UX research interview, focus groups, and surveys. The goal is to tap into the attitudes, opinions, and emotions of users, offering a rich tapestry of insights (from color palettes to use to how to form the user journey and beyond). While it shines in depth and detail, providing a nuanced comprehension of user experiences, it's important to note that qualitative research might not always offer the broad representativeness or statistical reliability found in quantitative methods.

Quantitative Research

In contrast, quantitative research brings the numbers into play. It focuses on measurable data through closed-ended questions, product performance metrics, data analytics, and market analysis, aiming to quantify user preferences and behaviors. This approach offers a bird's-eye view of user needs, delivering straightforward, data-driven insights that, though perhaps less detailed in the narrative, provide critical benchmarks and trends regarding design.

Integrating Research with Discovery Activities

Here's what else you could add to your discovery UX phase:

Exploratory Research

Activities like user interviews, diary studies, and field studies peel back the layers of user behavior and preferences, spotlighting both challenges and opportunities. They can hint at the design decisions that'll best resonate with the target audience.

Stakeholder Interviews

Conversations with stakeholders shed light on internal processes and past user interactions, offering a broader context to the design challenge and potential solutions. This can also put frames on the design scale, such as by revealing budget constraints or primary business goals.

Workshops

A series of collaborative workshops, including kickoff sessions for aligning objectives, assumption mapping to challenge existing beliefs, and service blueprinting to pinpoint service gaps, play a pivotal role. These workshops serve not just to align the team but also to distill user research into actionable insights and strategies.

By weaving together qualitative and quantitative threads and engaging in a structured suite of a UX discovery session, the design team crafts a comprehensive canvas of user needs. This approach ensures that the subsequent design phases are grounded in reality, guided by a blend of user-driven insights and data analytics. It paves the way for solutions that are both impactful and meaningful.

Top UX Discovery Questions You Must Ask

In the design discovery process, unraveling specific questions is key to laying a strong foundation for the project's trajectory. Here are some product discovery and UX research interview questions to ask users and teammates to ensure a roadmap for success:

  1. Who is the user? — You can craft detailed User Personas by delving into users' demographics, behaviors, and preferences.

  2. What are the project's goals, and how will we measure success? — This will help you outline the project's objectives and pinpoint metrics for success (like user engagement or conversion rates).

  3. What are the deliverables? — The answer to this one will allow you to specify expected outputs, including reports, presentations, or prototypes.

  4. Do we anticipate any changes in goals? — This is important as you have to stay adaptive to shifts in objectives or project scope based on new insights or developments.

  5. Are there constraints we need to work within? — It'll let you identify any budgetary, technical, or creative limits affecting the project and its design.

  6. Who are the stakeholders involved? — Pinpoint key decision-makers, their roles, and how they prefer to communicate.

  7. What are the main competitors, and how do they stand out? — To perform a competitive analysis, identify the market gaps and opportunities for differentiation in the solution's designs.

  8. What are the technical constraints and requirements? — You must grasp technical specifications, system requirements, and any compliance hurdles early on so as not to overcomplicate the designs.

  9. What are the key milestones and deadlines? — Mark important dates and commitments, structuring the project's timeline to help you keep the design efforts focused.

  10. How will we collect user feedback and conduct usability testing? — This will allow you to outline iterative design and MVP testing strategies for refining the product.

  11. What are the main risks or challenges? — You have to foresee potential issues both on the user's and team's sides when it comes to design to devise strategies for their mitigation.

  12. What are the long-term goals and vision for the product? — The answer to this question will let you establish a guiding vision for product design, development, and team alignment.

Engaging with these questions during the discovery phase clarifies the project's direction, aligns team expectations, and ensures a well-prepared ground for a successful UX design journey.

UX Discovery Process

Here's a breakdown of key activities involved in the feature discovery UX, along with a short description of each and their expected outcomes:

Activity What It Involves Expected Outcome
Stakeholder Interviews

Chatting with the big players (think executives, managers, potential users) to snag insights on the what's and why's of the business.

A crystal-clear picture of what the business aims to achieve, alongside stakeholder visions and project must-dos design-wise.

User Research

Diving into the world of your users through surveys, chats, and a bit of good old observation to grasp their desires, habits, and gripes.

A vivid sketch of user personas, pinpointed needs, mood boards, and those oh-so-telling behaviors that will steer the design ship.

Competitive Analysis

Peeking at what the other guys are up to, dissecting their products to spot design strengths, weaknesses, and user vibes.

A map of the market landscape, spotting opportunities to stand out and fill those product design gaps others have missed.

User Journey Mapping

Crafting a visual saga of the user's dance with the product, capturing all the highs and lows from start to finish.

An epic narrative of the user's product voyage via user flow diagrams and user journey mapping, spotlighting the bumps and moments that really matter for design.

Usability Evaluation

Putting existing products or early mock-ups under the microscope with real users to unearth design quirks and wins.

A treasure trove of feedback, offering a lens into the user-product tango and tips for smoothing out those rough edges.

Information Architecture (IA)

Piecing together the content puzzle to make sure users don't get lost in the digital labyrinth guided by design decisions.

A blueprint of where everything should be, making sure users find exactly what they're hunting for, no sweat.

Workshops and Ideation Sessions

Rallying the troops—stakeholders and project teams—to storm brains and hatch solutions inspired by what you've learned.

A cocktail of fresh, bold ideas ready to be sculpted into something tangible and testable.

Requirement Gathering

Listing down all the nuts and bolts (the functions, technical specs, and the feature priority matrix) that the project needs to come to life.

The project's bible, detailing every inch of what needs designing and building to meet both user wishes and business dreams.

Prototyping

Whipping up quick, dirty versions of the product or its features to see if you're on the right track.

A reality check for design concepts, providing a sturdy base for iterative design and refinement.

Analytics Review

Sifting through gathered feedback and existing data to decode user behavior, beloved features, and the dreaded drop-off zones.

A deep dive into user interactions, spotlighting what's hot and what's not to guide the journey and design optimization forward.

UX Discovery process, activities, and outcomes

Each of these activities with their clear UX discovery phase deliverables is aimed at reducing risks, ensuring that the product development is aligned with user needs and business goals, and setting a solid foundation for the design and development phases that follow.

Need a hand with product development?

Upsilon's team can be with you all the way from the discovery phase to developing an MVP and then scaling your product.

Contact Us

Need a hand with product development?

Upsilon's team can be with you all the way from the discovery phase to developing an MVP and then scaling your product.

Contact Us

Discover the Discoverable at the Discovery Phase

The UX discovery phase is a key discovery element helping projects take a step closer to a successful release. It ensures your investment pays off by aligning every detail of the user experience with real user needs and business goals.

Mastering this phase seems daunting for many. But you're always free to reach out to the pros who can assist with the entire discovery phase, helping turn your visions into viable products with user-centered designs. Upsilon's team will be glad to help you lay a solid foundation for your project and assist you with MVP development as well. So, feel free to reach out to us to discuss your ideas!

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