What Is a Product Discovery and Why Do You Need One

What Is a Product Discovery and Why Do You Need One

When we start a project at Build Online, we start with something called a Product discovery.  We insist that we kick off any new project with an all day, in person meeting (we usually fly to where our clients are located) and then we spend the next three weeks prototyping and planning together.

We often get the same types of questions from our clients:

- What is a discovery?

- Why do I need it?

- Is it actually worth the money?

In this video I want to explain all of that and answer these questions.

So first, what is a product discovery?

A product discovery is an intensive period of planning and prototyping that kicks off a project.  The way we do it, there are two phases:

First, we start with an all day meeting at our client's location.  Me (or another dev from my team) and one of our project managers will fly to where you are and plan a whole day meeting.

During that meeting, we work through four collaborative exercises that we've found really help both us and our clients get crystal clear about what your app needs to be:

- We define a sprint goal.

- We lay out sprint questions.

- We create user personas.

- We create a user flow map.

We didn't make these exercises up, we discovered them in a book called Sprint by Jake Knapp. They were created at Google and they've been used by thousands of companies to kick off software projects.

After the meeting, we go back to our offices and start the second phase of the discovery. We we take what we've learned and use it to write a project overview document, write user stories, and then our UX designer can turn those use stories into wireframes.

We also have our UI designers create a visual direction for the project.

When all this is done (and it usually takes a couple weeks) we can have several of our team members give an estimate for the project and we can usually give our clients a general idea of how much the project will cost.

So really what we are doing in this product discovery is we are making a blueprint for your app.  We are doing the planning that will enable us to get the project done.

This brings me to the second question we get asked all the time:

2. Is a product discovery really necessary?

I think you know the answer already - it's yes.

One of my favorite development quotes is

"Two weeks of development will save you an hour of planning."

The most expensive thing for your project is question marks. Trust me - you do not want to hire a bunch of developers and give them nebulous tasks.  They will burn money like the crazy guy in the last episode of Hamish Macbeth.  (Pardon the obscure British tv reference.)

Just like you wouldn't hire contractors to build a major project without a blueprint.  You can't really do a dev project without a blueprint and the product discovery is the way to get that blueprint.

There have been just a few projects we've done without discovery process.  (They were either early projects or internal projects we thought we could skip) and we always regretted it.

So yes, product discovery is necessary.

The last question we get all the time is:

3. Is a product discovery worth the money?

I mean, they aren't free.  It costs money for us to fly out.  It costs money for us to plan and prototype.  There are opportunity costs in you spending the day with us.  It will likely cost several thousand dollars just to get through the discovery phase before we are even ready to start with design.  I understand why people balk at that.

But I want to assure you - it's absolutely worth the money.  We have gone trough this process over a dozen times and every single client - every single one - has said it was valuable and worthwhile and they were glad we did it.

I recently was looking into hiring an architect for our church. Guess what?  They wanted to fly in and spend several days meeting, then take three weeks to prepare a blueprint - and they were going to charge us $30,000.

Your app needs a blueprint too - and it's absolutely worth the time and money to go through a product discovery.

In fact, when you are finished, if you want, you take all of the deliverable and find another development agency and you'll be far ahead.