Many people do not realise how important the discovery stage is when it comes to planning your website. In fact, this is what decides the look and feel of the whole project. Done right, it will ensure the effectiveness of the website.

But why is discovery such a vital part of the website planning process? Decisions made during this period will impact greatly upon the overall cost of your website and the profits that are to come your way once the build is complete.

Discovery affects the here and now as well as the future. It’s all about preparing well in order to prevent things going wrong later. It’s easy to think that the discovery phase is not that important and to dedicate insufficient time to it, but this way, you are leaving yourself wide open to disasters later on.

While a few business owners may think the discovery stage as dull, web designers have just the opposite view. This is because they understand that although the results may not be obvious in the beginning, it is the most important factor when it comes down to planning and defining your website.

During the discovery process you should find yourself solving a lot of problems and this will have a huge impact later on.

Let’s take a look at what you need to include within the discovery stage:

1. Take a careful look at your chosen web designer –

Somewhere out there is the perfect web designer for you. Step one of the discovery process involves checking out your vendor. If you are not sure, go with your gut feeling.

Look at previous work and even talk to clients they have worked with before.

When you say yes, you should feel happy about it and looking forward to working together. It’s a little like the dating game – find a good match and you are in for a fantastic experience!

2. Build in plenty of communication

You just can’t get enough of it. If dialogue is merely one-sided, frustrations will build. Remember that you are in this together. View yourself and your web designer as a team.

By communicating clearly and frequently you can avoid misunderstandings and delays. Once collaboration begins to build, the project management comes more easily.

3. Make room to appreciate the synergy

As the client, you should be providing your web designer with vital information and feedback. Your designer will be doing their bit, contributing in-depth knowledge and technical prowess.

Put the two together and you have synergy. Don’t see yourself as two separate elements but one. As you collaborate and get in-tune, the results produced are far more likely to be on target and in line with what you expect.

4. Share your expectations

When talking to your web designer, don’t assume anything. Share your expectations and make notes.

If you brainstorm together, decide which details are going to become part of the project.

Most importantly, everyone needs to be on the same page. By sharing information during the discovery stage, the project will be kept on track and the final results in line with what you are looking for.

By anticipating each other’s needs, bottlenecks later on during the production phase can be avoided.

5. Focus on your target audience

User-centred design is where you need to be. Your design needs to centre around the user experience( UX).

If you don’t take the time to define who your visitors are then you can’t make the right design decisions. Plan with the end user (your customer) in mind, allowing their needs to influence the way you go.

By tailoring solutions to suit them, your website can work powerfully. Look at who your audience are and how they behave. If you already have a site, how do they use it?

By getting inside the heads of your customers, you can vastly improve the user experience and this will show in the design and performance of your site.

6. What are your business goals?

Even small businesses have to take account of lead generation and sales conversions.

This is where your website needs to work hard.

In order to accommodate your goals, users flows have to be accommodated; these are channels that enable your viewing customers to accomplish certain tasks online.

Your website designer needs to ensure that they are simple and logical and easy for the user to follow.

7. Look at any existing problems
If you are starting from scratch with a new website, look at competitor sites and where they are going wrong.

If redesigning an old site, make sure that any current issues are resolved. You can’t move forward until any existing problems have been discussed and solutions put in place.

If you look at the conversion funnel, are there any blocks that cause buyers to hesitate? Dealing with these friction points is an important part of the discovery process. Look at why users may be leaving your site without making a buying decision.

8. Analyse the competition

By looking at what the competition is doing, you can pick up some good ideas and put in place ways of getting ahead of them.

Make a list of your top competitors and look at each site.

You should find yourself coming up with good content strategies as well as design ideas.

If they are making mistakes, learn from them. This is also a good moment to look at current trends.

No matter how good your web designer, it is always good practice to know what people will expect from your type of website in your industry sector.

9. Make good decisions early on

Whatever decisions you make during this time, make them impactful and smart.

Now is the time to plan ahead and make the sort of decisions that will enable your website to work smarter.

Remember that things don’t have to be complicated.

Some of the best design ideas are the simple ones.

Maintain focus and clarity and this will help take you forward to the end of the discovery phase.

10. Devise a scope and specification

How can your chosen vendor keep your web design on track if you don’t set a scope or work to a detailed specification? You also need to understand the scope of the work if you are to plan accurately.

Set a budget and timeline.

Ask your designer for a cost along with a completion date. Your web designer can’t give you an accurate answer until all variables have been discussed and agreed upon.

The best web designers will always apply due diligence within this step.

The sequence of work also needs to be agreed as well as the prioritization and alignment of all resources.

With these ten steps completed, you can now commit to a written plan.

The work that you have carried out during the discovery stage will have provided you with ample information to donate to the project in front of you.

Remember that by being proactive and following the schedule that you have created you will be saving both time and money. Never try to plan your website without taking into account the very real importance of the discovery phase.

Further questions about the website design process? Then be sure to head over to the website design FAQ page, where the most common qustions are answered.