How many times have you finished developing a website and had a client say, "This isn't working, x should be doing y." You panic because you know x was never meant to do y. Regardless, a misunderstanding has occurred and it’s your job to fix it. False assumptions on both sides can require valuable resources to be pulled back into a project, causing one or both parties to allocate additional time and money. It's a story we all know too well.
The question then becomes: How can you, the agency, avoid this costly mistake? Without fail, it seems, there is going to be some disconnect between client and agency about a website’s functionality. But this is okay because at Lewis we roll with the punches. That said, I believe there is a way to minimize these unforeseen problems and the answer lies within the Discovery Phase.
Let's define the "Discovery Phase." Traditionally, it takes place prior to designing and developing a new website when we meet with the client for initial discussions. We ask specific questions to better understand the client's need and scope of the project. In this way, conducting a Discovery Phase helps gain a clear understanding of the project you are about to begin. Even if you already utilize this process with your clients, there are several ways to maximize the effectiveness of each discovery session. Here's how:
1. Have a pre-discovery meet up with your team… never go in blind!
- Explore sites within the industry.
- Go over the client's current site (if there is one) with a fine-tooth comb.
- Map out potential users and how they will be using the site.
2. Have a standard list of discovery questions, which can be customized according to each client.
3. Send these questions in advance so the client is able to review and provide thorough answers.
4. Create a comprehensive list of actions the website requires in order to meet the client's bottom line. Then branch off into wish list items.
5. Clearly define short- and long-term goals, and begin to implement specific language such as "Phase One Offerings" or "Phase Two Offerings.
6. Get technical, fast. Make sure requirements are thoroughly outlined. If there are unknown variables, plan a clear path to get answers quickly.
By digging deeper and asking as many questions as you can from the start, you'll better understand all aspects and motivations of a new website and be well-equipped to present a solution that surpasses your client's needs. Done correctly, a well-planned discovery session will save you time and money.