One of the biggest mistakes while creating a new software product is neglecting discovery research. This fundamental part of product development can help you understand the market and create a product best-suited to customers' needs. This investigation process gives a deep understanding of what customers want, expect and worry about, therefore it will benefit users, the development team and the growing business. It makes the process of software development so much smoother.
Discovery research, also called exploratory or generative research, is an investigation process designed to help understand users' needs. It examines the market, potential customers and possible issues the product might face. Discovery research involves identifying customers' needs, behaviors and motivations to find the best way to communicate with them. This process also includes analyzing the market and developing a plan to create the perfect product. Additionally it helps avoid risk and prepare strategies that will help overcome challenges along the way.
Skipping or ignoring the importance of discovery research can have major consequences. This exploratory phase is here to make sure that the product responds flawlessly to user needs, being based on more than just the designer’s assumptions. Having a deep understanding of the ever-changing market, the potential target audience, and their expectations and fears will help create the best product possible.
It is also essential to keep in mind that the discovery research phase is not only needed in the preliminary stages of product development but also throughout the product’s life cycle. With markets and trends constantly changing, discovery research cannot be a one-time thing. It is crucial to repeat this process and make it a core part of the business strategy throughout the whole time the product exists.
The Double Diamond model represents an entire design process that is based on exploring the challenges related to products and acting on them to create the desired outcome. Discovery research is the first phase of the Double Diamond model, focused on understanding the issues and getting information from the people affected by them.
The common issue entrepreneurs have is relying only on their business vision and not on the facts. The Double Diamond model helps with getting a clear understanding of customers' needs.
The Double Diamond model has four stages: discover, define, develop and deliver. Nevertheless the process is not linear, on the contrary it encourages people to go back and forth between those stages to find the perfect solution to the problem.
- Discover - this stage revolves around understanding the issues. It is about taking action and spending time with people that are affected by those issues to fully comprehend what it is about.
- Define - the second stage is about gathering information from the discover phase, analyzing it and defining the challenge in a new way.
- Develop - this stage is about finding solutions to the problem, looking outside to find different points of view to find answers.
- Deliver - the last stage is focused on testing the solutions we have developed, analyzing which works and which don’t and improving the whole process.
Let's dive into the practical side of performing successful discovery research as a first stage of the Double Diamond model. There are a few critical steps to take to make the whole process simpler and more efficient. Also keep in mind that conducting discovery research is not a one-time action but it is essential throughout the whole life cycle of the software product. If you want to improve your product you need to conduct discovery research continually.
The three steps to perform successful discovery research:
- Step 1. Define the problem.
This step is to help you clearly understand what problem you need to solve or what your product brings to the market, how it can help people and bring value to their lives. Sounds easy, although properly defining the problem is absolutely crucial and it is worth spending time on.
- Step 2. Research.
Here you need to use independent research to gather knowledge about the market and the product’s potential customers. Collect as much information as you can on potential clients: what they need, what is the gap in the market your product can fill, what are the main issues when using similar products, and so on. Dive deep into the market to gather information about existing competitors - read reviews and understand where you are going.
- Step 3. Analyze.
The last step is about analyzing all the information you have gathered. The amount of data can feel a bit overwhelming so it is good to categorize it, choosing what to prioritize and analyze. Revise any assumptions you had and compare them with the new findings. Just doing the research, without thoroughly analyzing its outcome is much less useful because you can skip some important details. It is crucial to see it all together in a ‘big picture way’ to come up with an accurate solution.
Conducting discovery research can put you ahead of the game as it helps create the exact product customers desire. Here are some of the main advantages of performing discovery research.
The main benefit of performing discovery research is that it helps understand the market on a deeper level. Thorough analysis of the market will help create a product that is best-suited to customers’ needs.
Discovery phase is also extremely helpful later on because market trends and technologies change and discovery research helps you keep your market knowledge up to date. It can also help you adjust to new market situations, to keep on improving the product to fit the latest desires and expectations.
The process of conducting discovery research helps to assess possible problems, avoid them, or minimize the risks of them happening. This is thanks to the deeper knowledge of the market and potential customers.
There are always risks while creating a product, that is why it is critical to analyze the situation and find out what they are. Then you can create plans and strategies to avoid them or react quickly if any of those possibilities occur.
Another benefit of discovery research is the fact that it is created to solve customers' problems. One of discovery research’s goals is having a deep understanding of what frustrates people and can cause them issues. A clearly-defined purpose for the product is essential to its successful development. Thanks to thorough analysis, discovery research creates a precise vision of what we want to achieve and, later on, helps satisfy customers.
Saving time and money is something that every business wants to do. Where there are areas of product development where it is important to spend money on, it is good to be cost efficient and not waste money. Time is also crucial and discovery research helps with figuring out problems early on and preventing them, which will save you both time and money. It is always better to do things right the first time and conducting discovery research definitely helps with that.
Discovery research is a fundamental part of creating and improving a software product. Understanding the market and potential client needs is essential, and detailed research will provide just that. That is why it is so important not to neglect this part of the product development process. With just the few simple steps mentioned above you can prepare a strong foundation for an outstanding product that will answer your customers’ needs.