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6 Reasons for a Strategic Design Discovery

April 16, 2018

Design Discovery is the most important first step in a website redesign project as it will give the project a much greater opportunity for success. This first phase is essentially a series of questions whose answers will provide insight that facilitate the needs and goals of the primary stakeholders as well as the visitors of the website. This is the time to uncover the many variables that may be at play so we can work together to find the most appropriate solutions for the best redesign possible.

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#1:  Improve your value proposition with a targeted experience

Working towards gaining an understanding of who your website visitors are with User Personas involves the research and review of the types of people who frequent your website, as well as people you want to attract in the future. Did you know that 90% of companies with user personas have a much higher clarity of who their buyers are? In the effort to target your visitors, the data gained from user personas informs the content strategy, how the website will be structured, and how it will look so the end result will be higher quality leads and better conversion rates.

Factors typically included in each user persona are: 

Demographic Information:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Profession
  • Salary
  • Relationship status

General Information:

  • Influencers
  • Primary marketing channels
  • Trusted sources for information

User Journey:

  • Goals
  • Values
  • Common objections
  • Buying triggers
  • Device usage

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#2:  Outplay the competition 

The average lifespan of a web design is 2.6 years. If you’ve come to the conclusion it’s time for a redesign, chances are your competitors have too. So, what do they have that you don’t? Along with giving you more insight into new industry trends, analyzing the online presence of the companies you compete with can also give you an edge. A Competitive Analysis provides not only the positive and negatives of the design of your top competitors’ sites, but also more details about:

  • Analytics and tracking tools they’re using
  • Advertising tools 
  • Current SEO rankings
  • Navigation audit
  • Accessibility Compliance
  • UX summary 
  • Conversation paths 

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#3:  Mind the gaps 

A Content Audit & Gap Analysis is performed to understand the current content strategy, content types, information architecture, and on-page SEO for each section of your website. Google analytics can be used to find out where the most frequently visited content is along with the content that is very rarely accessed. The details provided in the User Personas are also referenced to ensure the content will successfully target your visitors.  

Auditing the content also helps to uncover gaps in user flows and conversion paths. This information is used to improve content flow and to optimize the quantity of content provided at each level. With the development of reusable components, each required field that will be built should be designed to hold the appropriate amount of content so that ‘form follows function.’

Commonly asked questions asked in a Content Audit include:

  • Where are the pages with the highest and lowest page views? What are the bounce rates? 
    • Why is this happening?
  • What format is this content?
    • Ex: HTML, PDF, etc.
  • How is this content created/maintained?
    • Ex: This is created by our in-house editing staff. 
  • Is there anything missing in this content? 
    • Missing content is frequently discovered when determining if it’s meeting the persona needs.
    • Ex: The visitor expects to see XYZ on this page but it’s missing because we don’t have a place for it.
  • What are your requests for content workflow improvements in the new site?
    • Ex: We manually curate this content but we want it to feed in automatically.
    • Ex: The image requirement for this content type slows down our internal process because we don’t have many good images. We want a design option that doesn’t require an image.

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#4:  Clean house 

Another great benefit of the Content Audit is the opportunity to improve the User Experience by answering this question: “Is this content still relevant?” 

Google analytics will reveal the lowest trafficked pages on your website to determine which content should be evaluated for relevant discussion. Discovering unused content and deciding to remove it before migration can also save the project countless hours of migration work along with maintenance time once that content moves over. It naturally encourages a more streamlined user experience by reducing the amount of clutter in your site’s information architecture. 

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#5:  Evaluate your digital brand 

Though constantly evolving, the primary goal of your brand identity is to help you win customers and keep them. Part of a strategic design discovery is to conduct a Brand Analysis to review the various elements in your brand to ensure they’re still working together as a whole to maintain recognition and trust. What is the message you’re trying to convey?

Maybe since your last website design your color palette or typography has been updated. Or maybe you’ve expanded the use of photography or have an increased social media presence. All of these elements will be evaluated in order to determine if any changes or adjustments should be made to keep the branded digital messaging consistent and address any areas for improvement. 

  • Are the color combinations accessible?
  • Are the icons crisp and defined?
  • Are the graphic details appropriate?
  • Are the current font sizes legible across all devices?
  • Are there any new UI patterns or digital assets in use on other digital products? 


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#6:  Inspirational results  

Part of Design Discovery is also getting to know the wants, needs, and desires of the primary stakeholders, so spending the time to uncover what inspires you is valuable time spent. Part of the process typically includes a discussion around sites and brands that you find inspirational. This process will help the Design Team to better understand the primary stakeholders’ vision for the project. Including a list of your inspiration sites, be sure to share:

  • What is your preferred User Experience for:
    • Navigation Style
    • Page structures
    • Color palettes
    • Scrolling effects
    • Animation 
  • How do you want to feel when you visit the new website? 
    • Ex: I want to feel proud because it’s so visually engaging.
  • What’s design principles are important to you? 
    • Ex: Design for the user and instill confidence (Intuit)
    • Ex: Do more with less (Microsoft)

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Your next website redesign project will reap many rewards by starting with a thorough strategic design discovery process. It will help everyone involved to understand the design challenge at its core and pave the way for a successful user journey. The benefits of the discovery process include targeted user personas, streamlined content that has an edge over the competition, an updated digital brand, and more. The information obtained will not only help to prevent overspending later in the design and development stage but also (and most importantly) inform the design of the entire user experience. 

Additional Resources
Think First, Then Design | Blog
Why Your Website Project Needs a UX Designer | Blog
5 Tools for Establishing an Accessible Web Color Palette | Blog