Discovery Phase — 5 Steps for anyone to do it right.

Jessica Kende
4 min readAug 14, 2020


Before your Project begins.. Do this — the discovery phase from a wannabe designer.

Illustrations by me (Jessica Kende)


The way that I have approached UX design thus far has been with brute force, similar to my previous role as a General Contractor in the Construction Industry.

With the skills I had, I immediately started constructing wireframes and then doing usability testing. This was like constructing a building and then finding people don’t want a pool in the waiting room after its built — a story for another time.

I was missing a key step that isn’t done in General Contracting — discovery.

A discovery is a preliminary phase in the UX-design process that involves researching the problem space, framing the problem(s) to be solved, and gathering enough evidence and initial direction on what to do next.

— Nielson Norman Group

Incorporating this phase as the first step in my design process has ensured that every one of my projects are informed by data and guided by human centered designs from inception.

Here is my discovery process that can be done in 5 a novice..while at home during a pandemic..with limited connection to the outside world.

Step 1 — Research Objectives

Create 3–5 main goals that relate to the problem you are solving to define the focus of the discovery phase.

Do you know the trends in the market? The motivation and pain points for the user?

You need to have markers to guide your discovery process and evaluate your progress.

Step 2 — Market Research

Find out information about the industry you want to break into and define your demographic.

What external characteristics does the user have? Are they mobile or at a laptop when using the service? Do they pay for this service?

You need to know who you are designing for.

Step 3 — Competitive Analysis

Identify direct competitors for the system you are creating.

Where are the competitors strengths and weaknesses? How do existing services affect the market?

You need to know how your competitors aren’t satisfying the user’s needs.

Step 4 — 1:1 Interviews

Gain qualitative data about the defined demographic’s goals, needs, frustrations, and motivations. (Pro-tip: Record these sessions for later).

To get the most out of an interview, ask open ended questions :“Tell me about a time when you” “How do you go about” “What were the most important”

Do your best to find 5 users within your demographic but as Steve Krug mentioned in his book — having one participant is 100 percent better than none.

You need to speak to users to gain insight into how the product makes them feel.

Step 5 — Empathy Map

Transpose the main statements from the interviews (Post-its are helpful) and look for patterns and similar topics to form 3–5 main insights.

What ideas are being repeated by the users I interviewed? What does the user need to satisfy the identified insights?

You need to define your users’ needs to design systems that satisfy them.

You’re Finished — Now Evaluate

Did you meet your research goals?

Whatever the answer — more discovery will only make your awesome project better!



Jessica Kende

Outspoken Adobe UX Designer with equal parts skill, drive, and curiosity. Learning to navigate the design space — and writing about it.