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Your New Website & You: The Discovery Phase

Your New Website & You: The Discovery Phase

You have come to the realization that you definitely need a new, better version of your website. But WHY? What is the driving force behind this decision for you and your business? Figuring out the WHY is the first step in the Discovery process, as no one will ever know as much about your business needs & goals as you. 

Here a few reasons that might encompass your WHY:

  • Your website is on an older version of whichever platform it is using & that platform is no longer supported, and/or that platform’s End Of Life is looming (ex. Your site is on Drupal 7 and you need to upgrade to Drupal 8 or 9). Among other things, you feel your site’s security is at risk. 
    • Key questions to ask yourself for your business:
  • Your website is no longer meeting the goals of your business. You don’t necessarily know why it is no longer as effective as it once was, but you are aware you are leaving money on the table by not improving and/or upgrading your site. 
    • Non-Profit key question: 
      • Have your donations from your website stagnated or dropped?
    • For-Profit key question:
      • Has revenue or leads through your website stagnated or dropped?
    • For both types of organizations:
      • Is the time/cost for internal staff to administer to the current site taking away from other parts of the organization that would help it grow?
      • Are there business processes that staff are currently facilitating that could be facilitated through the website so those resources could be used better to help grow the organization and help/support clients?
  • Your business has grown extensively and your website cannot scale as fast as your growth. Your business goals are also changing and becoming more complex to manage online.
    • Some key questions you want to ask yourself here include:
      • Could development costs around enhancements and innovations being implemented on the site be reduced and significant savings be realized long-term by a short-term investment on a new website solution?
      • Could stability, speed and performance - all factors in improved UX and rankings on search engines - be significantly improved by an investment on a new website solution?

You will want to include as many members of your internal team along with your outsourced team in assisting with your WHY. This Discovery phase is where you will want to rely on your development team for their expert technical recommendations. Transparency with all of your team members is key for moving forward with a successful web project! 

What else is there to Discover?

Once your WHY has been determined, your Discovery journey continues with you and your development team diving deep into your requirements, features and goals - the purpose - of your project before it begins. It is important to note that this phase helps you define your timeline and budget. Are they realistic? Can your goals be achieved within the parameters that you have set? It may sound simple, but staying on-time and on-budget is no easy task, and nearly impossible without an in-depth look into your websites’ inner workings and its new objectives.

Some examples of what you and your development partners could plan and scope out for your project include:

  • A full site audit to determine what is working & what is not (you don’t want to migrate broken links, unused content, etc..)
  • Nailing down required functionality & features for your new site (this will involve frequent meetings and clear communication with all team members)
  • Site Mapping (lists of pages required for your site)
  • Target Audience Research (personas, needs, & preferences for your sites visitors)
  • Card Sort ( defining your Information Architecture, workflows, menu structures & navigation paths)
  • Wireframing (visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website)
  • Meetings about design / theming / branding (the look & feel of your new site is very important, and often this stage can easily go off the rails without advance planning which will directly affect your timeline and budget)
  • Detailed Scope breakdown (including benchmark metrics/analytics that relate to the goals & targets that need to be hit at the outcome of the project)
  • Full Project Charter
    • Reasons for the project
    • Objectives and constraints of the project
    • Who the main stakeholders are
    • Risks identified
    • Benefits of the project
    • General overview of the budget

Team clarity is absolutely paramount in the Discovery phase. Its sole purpose is to get everyone involved in the project on the same page. Your internal team and your development team will have a clearer understanding of your user’s needs and how they will interact with your site. Also, by predefining your objectives, you are at less risk of overlooking important features or functionality that you may require. 

It is not uncommon to reach the end of the Discovery phase to realize that what is needed is NOT the same as what was originally planned for. Furthermore, it is often discovered (pun intended) that your wish list does not match your budget and/or timeline. That in itself could lead to disappointment and stress for you and your stakeholders during your new site build, and possibly even halt development progress. 

Web projects can take a long time, especially if your site is complex. Mapping your journey through the many processes or necessary steps is the best route for all of your team members' success.

Bottom Line

Executing a well run Discovery phase will help you avoid wasting valuable time and money in the long run. It will help you keep your superiors and/or stakeholders informed which will help keep them from getting frustrated with the remaining phases of production. Yes, there is a lot of front end loaded work to be done, but given the investment into your online presence, you should want to plan your spend in the best way possible and keep everyone involved happy and informed.

Typically, when engaging a web development partner for Enterprise level development projects, the initial phases of discovery, planning and strategy could last months. The value is immeasurable for laying this groundwork, as it will help ensure all stakeholders involved in the project have clarity of the future steps and timeline.

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