The other day a co-worker asked a seemingly simple question: What do we typically include in a SmallBox ‘Discovery’ project? Honestly, I cringed at my own response (as I hate when someone answers a question with a question). That depends… what do you need to discover?
The thing is, we don’t think of our Discovery process as cookie-cutter. Much like an explorer that sets sail on uncharted waters, we simply don’t know what we don’t know. BUT, we do know what we want or need to know. We’ve developed and cultivated a wide range of Discovery exercises and techniques from which to draw. Depending upon a particular client’s needs and goals, we’ll select the appropriate methods to employ, based on what information we want to uncover.
Obviously there are a few steps we always go through for all Discovery projects — goal setting, key stakeholder interviews, etc. But beyond that, each Discovery project is often unique. So what are some of these methods? While I can’t detail ALL of our methods in one blog post—but here are a few that we’ve used recently:
Audience Experience Map
We always seek to better understand the end-user audience, regardless of the project, and we employ a wide variety of methods to uncover these insights, including: surveys, interviews, and persona building. But for some clients, the path a user takes from beginning to end can be long, complicated and take many steps. For these, we need to delve deeper with an experience mapping exercise. During this collaborative session, we ask questions like: What are the users thinking/feeling at any given point? What step must they take next in order to stay on the path to conversion?
With the client, we identify each target audience and their steps along the conversion path, with special focus on what the user might ‘think’, ‘feel’, or ’do’. We also note any breakdowns or obstacles that get in the way of delivering the desired user experience.
In this example with the Butler Institute for Study Abroad, we mapped the path a student takes as they research and sign up to study abroad. We used sticky notes for the various steps and emotions, which made it easy to rearrange steps as necessary.
Let’s say a client is asking for a design that’s ‘youthful’ and ‘edgy’ but NOT ‘trendy’ — what does that mean? What does that look like? To succeed, we need to uncover what those words mean to the client and develop a common understanding around highly-subjective design terminology.
Enter visual brainstorming. We gather the client, our team, and a huge stack of magazines for an intensive co-working session. We outline the terms we want clarity around, and for each term, each person selects a variety of visual/stylistic examples that best represent the term to them. Once everyone has had time to make a few selections, each person presents their selections and shares why it represents the term to them. Once everyone presents their choices, the group must debate/defend the selections for each term until the examples are whittled down to a few examples that all can agree upon — giving us a common understanding and visual language to work with.
Above, the NBA and SmallBox teams debate their visual brainstorming selections as part of an intensive two-day Discovery Sprint session focused on re-branding National Benevolent Association.
Sometimes what we need to discover is who else is vying for our audiences. Who are the client’s competitors? How can they best differentiate themselves? With these clients, we’ll identify the top competitors and assess their digital presence. We observe their sites and social media activity looking for common practices, differentiators, audience engagement, thought-leadership, marketing practices, social media engagement, content depth and quality and more.
These are just a sample of some of the methods we employ. Kicking off projects with Discovery allows our team to take a deep dive, uncovering the unknowns around a project and equipping our team with the insights to guide the project forward.