So, you came up with a new product idea. What’s next? For sure, you want to get a time and cost estimation from a software agency. However, most likely, they won’t be able to provide an accurate timeline and development costs after your request.

The matter is that to provide an estimate, a development team needs more information than you think. Is there any solution in this situation? Sure, it is a project discovery phase.

In this article, we will share a brief overview of a product discovery stage, and cover its goals, main tasks, and results for customers.

What is a project discovery phase?

The software project discovery process is a first and foremost stage in custom software product development. To put it short, its main goal is to collect information to define the requirements and analyze the customer’s business needs. As a result, clients get accurate project estimation and development costs.

The product discovery process is also important for software vendors. It allows them to clear up and define the following questions:

  • What are the customer’s business and its aspects;
  • What is the application target audience;
  • Who are the product end-users?

At Codica, we pay much attention to the product discovery process discussing a product, its business goals, and the target audience with a client. We always ask questions that allow our project team to explore the subject area. This way, we define bottlenecks, offer high-level solutions, and provide project cost and time estimates.

In the long run, we provide a client with an application wireframes and clickable prototypes, which represent the final product interface and simulate user interaction.

What are the possible formats of project discovery phases?

There are three efficient options to conduct a discovery meeting: at the agency’s office, on the client side, and remotely. You can choose the most suitable format for your team. For example, the factors to consider can be the time difference, distance from your development partner, and of course your personal preferences.

If you do not have an opportunity to visit the software vendor’s office or invite them to come, you can organize a remote product discovery session.

Below you can see an example of a product discovery session held by the Codica team and our customer.

What are the key product discovery roles?

Usually, there is a certain list of specialists that take part in a meeting from both the development agency and the client. Let’s take a look at the main participants and their product discovery roles:

  • Business analyst/Product manager

Business analysts/Product managers analyze, collect, and structure the input data from clients. They facilitate a discussion process and make a list of clarifying questions. Product Managers form epics and user stories that will be transformed into an estimate for a client. The main goal of a Product Manager is to make sure that both sides are in sync about the goals.

  • UI/UX designer

Web designers elaborate and discuss the requirements and preferences. They analyze the target audience, end-users, and competitors. This information is important to build a visually appealing and intuitive web solution based on the client’s demands. They are also responsible for building the userflow for your future product.

  • Lead software developer

Lead engineers are responsible for technical solutions. They analyze the artifacts (documentation or requirements that help understand the project architecture) of the project discovery phase during the meeting. It is crucial to make sure that the designed business logic is feasible within the development process. Finally, technical specialists offer the best architectural solutions and the most suitable technology stack.

  • Stakeholders

Stakeholders represent the client’s team and deliver their business idea to a software company. They explain what the product is about, its goals, and their expectations and requirements within a project.

To conclude, an effective product discovery requires active participation of both the customer’s and vendor’s team. We firmly believe that such close cooperation helps build successful and profitable software solutions.

Find a minute to learn how an effective discovery session with the customer allowed our team to build  PlanMyKids - activity booking marketplace.

The main tasks of a project discovery phase

Let’s take a look at the core tasks solved in the product discovery process.

1. Explore the subject area

In the beginning, a client and a project team investigate the subject area, analyze product concept, market, and competitors. At this stage, a client explains how the product should work, its main functions, and user flow.

2. Identify bottlenecks

When a client team provides their expectations on the product, a software agency analyzes the input data and discusses the project bottlenecks. It may include a certain feature or business logic implementation.

3. Discuss high-level solutions to the expected challenges

After that, technical specialists provide high-level solutions to the expected project pain points. A software agency explains to a client why a certain architecture solution perfectly meets the set requirements.

4. Define priorities and discuss a project scope

At this stage, project discovery stage sides move to identifying priorities for tasks and form a project scope. This phase is important for web app developers. They collaborate with Product Managers to efficiently allocate resources and prepare for the development process. A formed project scope allows clients to see the user stories that are crucial for providing accurate estimates.

5. Provide project cost and time estimate and form project documentation

The final goal of a product discovery phase is to form a list of documentation materials. It should include an accurate technical specification, list of initial project features, and high-level solutions.

As you can see a project discovery session is an important process between a client and a software vendor. It can include different stages depending on the agency and customers.

However, each product discovery session should begin with exploring the subject area. Then, it can include defining bottlenecks, discussing high-level solutions, defining priorities, forming a project scope. Finally, the contractor should provide the customer with accurate time and cost estimates.

Primary project discovery phase questions

Each session has an individual product discovery plan prepared for every new client. The main list of questions during the meeting may vary depending on the customer’s business, goals, and requirements. However, there are still some basic inquiries. Let’s take a look at them.

  • What is the business goal?

An agency asks clients about the main problems their product will solve. This information is important for understanding the overall solution concept.

  • What is the product’s target audience?

It is crucial to define the target audience for a solution and build the buyer persona portrait. These stages include defining users’ demographics, ages, geolocation, habits, etc. They will help build a customer-oriented product.

  • Who are the main competitors?

Competitor analysis allows identifying the core weaknesses and strengths of the existing products in the market. This information is useful to stand out from the crowd and build a unique and valuable solution.

  • What is the project’s timeline?

A timeframe is the easiest and most efficient way to track and manage a project’s planned activities. It gives a clear picture of the project’s course at a single glance.

  • What is the budget for the project?

This information is crucial to define whether the set requirements are feasible to implement. It results in an accurate software estimate from the development company which is important for both parties as well.

In conclusion, it is crucial for vendors to make up a list of questions before a meeting with a customer. Thus, it will be easier to define the main project requirements and demands. These questions as an integral part of a product discovery plan should be personally adapted for each new client.

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What will you get after the project discovery phase?

By the end of the product discovery stage, you will get the following results:

  • Clickable prototypes;
  • The list of priority features;
  • Technical stack and product architecture;
  • Time and cost estimation;
  • Product specification;
  • Recommendations on team composition.

So, the main outcome of a product discovery phase is to get a detailed project plan with time and cost estimates. Also, it includes product specification with technical stack and product architecture, project scope, and wireframes that can further be upgraded to clickable prototypes.

Let’s take a closer look at the product discovery techniques related to the product design. They allow you to test the product before development.

Wireframes

A wireframe is a final product design skeleton. It schematically shows the basic application structure and functionality. It should be created quickly and look aesthetic, albeit simple. Black, gray, and white colors are a typical wireframe palette.

Main goal: show the basic content groups, information structure, and the way users interact with the interface.

Participants: Product Manager, web designer, client.

Necessity: implement and test a custom scenario to show a client how users will reach the desired result; evaluate the design in a project discovery phase and create an interactive prototype.

To sum up, wireframes give clients a preliminary understanding of the future UI/UX infrastructure. This way, a project team can decide what screens to include in the clickable prototype.

Clickable prototype

A prototype is a mockup that represents the final product simulating real user interaction. It is clickable which means users can experience app functionality, navigate through the main pages, open drop-down menus, and so on.

Below you can see the prototype design prepared by Codica team for PlanMyKids, which is an activity booking marketplace.

In fact, you may think that an interactive product prototyping is a copy of a final product. However, it only simulates the way users will interact with the solution interface.

In this regard, prototypes are different from MVPs, as the latter are basically working solutions with minimum functionality to satisfy early adopters.

Still these two concepts are similar since both MVP software development and prototyping are used for testing the feasibility of a business idea.

Main goal: test the ways of user interaction with an app and simulate the user experience.

Participants: Product Manager, web designer, and client.

Necessity: help clients show the solution idea to stakeholders, get valuable feedback from end-users, and test real user experience before starting the development process.

In a word, prototyping is a powerful approach that allows clients to see how the final product will work. It gives an opportunity to simulate real user interaction, get valuable feedback, and come up with new ideas on application.

The video below shows the user flow on an activity booking marketplace that we have recently developed for our customer. We started working on this project by holding a number of discovery sessions. This way, we were able to collect all the information required for successful project delivery.

Conclusion

A product discovery in software development is a useful and efficient way for clients to validate their product idea. They identify business goals, desired outcomes, and get accurate time estimates and web app development cost. This way, both customers and project teams become ready for a clear and transparent development process.

At Codica, we devote much attention to this development stage. We ask questions that allow our project team to explore the subject area, its bottlenecks, offer high-level solutions and the most suitable tech stack. Finally, we provide a client with an accurate time and cost estimate, application wireframe and clickable prototypes.

If you already have a project idea to discuss, contact us and get a free quote. Also, you may check our case studies to get a better idea of the products we deliver.

Our custom web application development company will be glad to organize a product discovery phase and, with its help, turn your project into reality.