The first phase of the three design-led development (DLD) phases is called discover. If you are curious about the whole DLD process, check out the introduction. In discover, you gain a holistic overview of your project and bring everybody to the same level of knowledge. Ideally, the team includes the product owner, user researcher, design thinking coach, UX designer, your customer, and users. Since all great things come in threes, the discover phase is also divided into three steps: scope, research, and synthesize.

Discover phase of design-led development

Getting ready for your DLD journey

Scoping, i.e. setting an overall frame, is key for project management and will help you to describe the project to others. First, you need to define the overall goal of your project. Who is your solution for? What business need is your project addressing? What is your unique value proposition?

Then, describe what is in scope of your project and what is out of scope. This doesn’t mean the scope can’t be adapted based on what you learn in the discover phase, but you’ll need a starting point. Also, define main roles and work streams. For example, how will work and communication flow between team members? Who keeps your stake holders and project lead up to date on your project’s progress? Even though there might be need for adjustments later on, a list of the project deliverables with their success criteria, milestones, and a rough timeline serve well as a basis. Then you are ready to move on.

No user research without user interviews and observations

The next step is called research. Here, you find out about your users’ real needs and opportunities to improve their life with your product. To do so, user research needs to be planned, prepared, and conducted. Talking to your customer and the users’ IT department is definitely helpful. However, visiting your users in their working environment is crucial for getting valid insights. To get representative data, carefully decide on the roles, number, and characteristics of participants. Apart from “regular” users, meeting extreme users can be quite informative: users who are new to the company, of different ages, or people who need to do this task for the first time.

Prepare a user interview guide for your site visit. Use the top-down approach: Ask background questions, then open-ended key questions to evoke stories, dig deeper with more detailed questions and wrap it all up in the end. Planning also includes arranging logistics, acquisition of customers and users; and assigning someone to conduct the interview. Also, make sure you have all legal aspects covered.

During the user interview, you need to have a note taker to capture the observations. They will help you to capture facts, not interpretations. Pay close attention to the user’s task steps. Also, focus on the user’s needs, requirements, work triggers, and pain points. Before closing, it’s a nice gesture if you offer to keep your participants in the loop about the results and inform them about the outcome.

Preserve your discovery

Afterwards, it is time for the third step called synthesize, during which you and your team ensure substantiated user research results. Document all details about your research activities, customer names, regions, and involved industries. How many users were involved in your research? Was it an interview or validation? Remote or on site? To get the bigger picture, synthesize research results from various users and from different companies, if available. The result is a widely applicable consolidated flow.

A persona outlining typical users’ characteristics, context, needs, goals, and pain points derived from your findings will prove its value. How does the daily task look like? What do they need to fulfill their job? Who do they need to talk to? When evaluating your design and development decisions, it will help you to stay focused on addressing the right needs and users.

Besides describing a typical representative for the role, you need a holistic view on the business perspective, starting from the industry, over to business process specifics to the addressed business roles. Also, map out planned and already existing apps related to the business roles. Briefly describe the use case context and content for the various devices you envision to be used, since those drive requirements regarding responsiveness, and device-specific integration features, such as camera or GPS. It will also be helpful to graphically represent a user’s interaction via relevant use cases.

You’ve gained a clear understanding of the researched business role, your persona and the jobs to be done? Congratulations! However, another review of your material by a team of user researchers helps you determine whether you are ready to move from the problem space on to the solution space.

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