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Build services around the needs of users.

Think about the lifecycle of digital delivery.

In this phase you'll:

  • describe the opportunity or problem your users have that you want to address
  • identify user needs (as you understand them now) and how your service will meet them
  • map out how you’ll engage users during the project (and beyond)
  • establish the approximate scope of the project and what it might cost
  • outline who will have responsibility for the service meeting its goals
  • describe how the service aligns with government policies and directions
  • decide whether it's actually worth progressing
  • work out how to measure success.

Questions to answer in the discovery phase

  • Who is your audience?
    • It is important to understand your audience; you are designing for your audience, not your organisation.
  • What is the problem or opportunity that needs to be addressed?
    • Describe the current state that you want to alter, and why.
    • How would an intervention bring about benefits, and for whom?
    • Do your stakeholders agree? You need to make sure that stakeholders, users and the business are in agreement about the problem you’re trying to solve, or the opportunity you’re trying to grasp.
    • Does the current state that you want to alter include strengths that you don’t want to lose? How will you preserve them if you make an intervention?
  • What will success look like?
    • Outline what a desired future state might look like – before-and-after user stories are a good way to do this.
    • What will you need to measure to show success?
  • What's the approximate level of investment that will be required?
    • How much budget do you have available for developing a solution, and for its ongoing operations, maintenance and enhancement.
  • What are your approximate timeframes?
    • Knowing your timeframes helps you plan enough time for the different steps and to plan your communication with stakeholders.
  • Who will be the service owner?
    • Identify a service or product owner who will take responsibility for the service. Ensure they understand their responsibilities clearly to help ensure benefits are realised and obligations are met.
    • Work with them to put effective management and monitoring processes in place.
  • Who are the key stakeholders?
    • You need to know who to engage with them and bring them on the journey with you.
    • Work with decision-makers in partnership so there are ‘no surprises’ and seek required approvals in advance.
  • Where might the service best fit?
    • Could you reuse or leverage an existing site or platform, such as
    • Are there other initiatives in your sector or across government that you could take advantage of? Already-established platforms come with the benefit of an existing user base and search engine profile.
    • A new initiative doesn’t mean that a new website has to be built to accommodate it. But if you are thinking about standing up a new site (along with the management overhead that this entails), it may or may not require a new domain name. Are you familiar with the domain name policy?
      Management overhead — live phase
      Domain name policy
  • What are the constraints?
    • Are there technology or policy constraints that will impact on delivery? Who can remove these constraints? Policy and legislation changes may take time, but they can still change.

Output from the discovery phase

At the end of this phase you might have done some rough mockups, and you may have some early versions of user personas.

The discovery phase isn't finished until you can create a high-level plan, covering the following topics:

  1. A prioritised list of user needs and a definition of what’s in scope.
  2. A clear definition of what’s not in scope – at a high level. User stories are a good technique for this.
  3. The team resources and skills you'll need for the next phases of the project.
  4. A list of the people you’ll need support from.
  5. User research activities you plan to involve users in during the alpha phase.
  6. The benefits you expect and an indicative budget to realise them.
  7. The key performance indicators you’ll need to establish and track to ensure expected benefits are actually realised.

You'll also need:

  • a decision to progress to the next phase
  • funding allocated to continue the work.

Note: This guidance should help business owners and projects teams in government agencies to plan online delivery.

It draws on the UK government's Digital Service Standard.

Digital Service Standard

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