Mastering the Discovery Stage: Key Insights for Building and Launching Products

Habitat Creative Company
5 min readJan 9, 2024

This case study describes the product development process for Dots, a software solution aimed at automating the process of managing IT resources in a company.

The client, who we know from another project on which we collaborated for 4 years, reached out to us with a business idea, having no documentation or requirements. He saw potential in automating one of the processes of ordering IT resources in a company with the help of software. The old process involved 7–8 people whose area of action was very vague and therefore a lot of unclear business expenses. So automation was aimed to solve this situation.

The Importance of a Discovery Stage in Product Development

  • Before building a product, it is important to research the business needs, user needs, and the market. UX and UI designers should understand the main purpose and audience before developing the product’s logic.

Think of it like building a house. First, research the soil, decide on the number of rooms, design the building, and calculate the strength of various structures like foundations. Every decision in the building needs to be rooted in research or calculation. The same applies to digital products.

  • It is impossible to start designing a complex product right away because it spans multiple domains such as HR, logistics, management, and others. It is important to determine the primary focus and secondary functionality, avoiding over-complication and distraction.
  • The discovery deliverables help to understand the context of the project at any given moment of time — 1 week, 1 month, 1 year. By initiating the discovery stage and collecting the documentation we future-proofed the product vision and strategy for all the stakeholders — PO and the dev team that joins later.

Unraveling the Discovery Process

  • Why? During the discovery phase, there was a strong mix of UX and BA. We started by analyzing business objectives and business processes based on the initial briefing, identifying problems, and brainstorming potential solutions. We then compared and analyzed the functionality of available solutions, compiling a backlog of ideas that could be elaborated upon later.
  • Who? Next, we identified three main user personas: IT, HR, and Financial managers. For each persona, we wrote use cases that were translated into user stories. Use cases are real-life examples of product use, while user stories are universally formulated functions that can be understood by the product team, developers, and stakeholders.
  • What? The product vision, which is part of the BA Discovery, clarifies and states the core of the product, who it helps, and how it does so. During this process, we realized that the product should be divided into three main parts: Admin Dashboard, Employee Portal, and Marketplace. We then divided and allocated all the functionality backlog among these parts.
  • How? The last part of the Discovery stage was user flow design, which was necessary for development vendors to create an estimation. We prepared flows merged with the wireframes of the main screens.

The last part of the discovery focused on the design strategy. The team created a timeline laying out and prioritizing all the features of MVP as P1, P2, and P3. Finalizing the P1 backlog at this stage, we clearly knew the content strategy for the Landing page, which the client wanted up and running as soon as possible. We also came up with two UI design concepts to propose the vision of the platform’s style.

!!! However, this discovery does not aim to answer ALL questions, as that would result in months of analysis paralysis. Instead, we found the vectors of product design while leaving some questions unanswered. We allowed the gaps to be filled in gradually during the following design stages. The open questions laid out the hypothesis, which were validated during the agile design process.

The discovery stage was completed in one month’s time. The following deliverables were produced during this stage:

  • Competitor research
  • User personas
  • User stories
  • User flows merged with wireframes
  • Product Backlog (i.e. functional decomposition)
  • Roadmap
  • Design concepts
  • Branding
  • Landing Page design

Branding Synchronized with Discovery

In parallel with product discovery, we began working on branding and landing page designs.

The branding process started after we identified the users and functionality. It was triggered by a company event that the client planned to attend to present the product idea. The first version of the brand consisted of just a logo design and a color palette, which were quickly drafted as placeholders before a proper brand discovery could take place.

After the event, we conducted a proper brand discovery that included a brand story, archetypes, and stylescapes (style search). As usual, it took several iterations to find the style that corresponded to the product. Once the style was approved, it was applied to the landing page.

The chosen brand style was a combination of conservativeness (natural for a serious SaaS product) and innovation (despite its serious domain, it was pushing the envelope). Since the task of handling this business process was tenuous, we agreed with the client that the branding task was to bring some fun into the user experience. Connecting the dots can be easy and fun.

After the brand style direction was approved, our designers and the client’s team worked closely on the landing page. The client provided the copy while we worked on the content structure. As UX/UI web designers, it is our role to advise on the structure, order, and type of content on the page. For example, we help identify which content can be explained visually and which should be explained verbally.

Aligning Strategy with Design

As suggested by the Product Owner, we began the design process by focusing on the product component that was intended to drive client acquisition. This was a strategic decision that enabled us to allocate more time to the design of other components.

It is best when business planning is synchronized with design planning. By doing so, the company was able to launch the Beta version while the product team was still working on the remaining parts of the MVP.

Contributors

Nazar

Senior UX/UI designer and project lead. Led the UX part of the product discovery stage and is actively designing the product experience.

Alon

Senior UX/UI designer. Actively designing the product.

Dmytro

Middle UX/UI designer. Actively designing the website and the product.

Vasya

Graphic designer. Logo design.

Serge

Senior UX/UI designer. Participated in platform design.

Anna

Senior UX/UI designer. Participated in platform design.

Olha

Project manager.

Vasyl T.

Business analyst.

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Habitat Creative Company

Habitat is a full-service design agency from Ukraine, specializing in branding, web and product design. Our mission is to make human habitat - a better place.