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What to be ready for in the discovery phase


So you’ve decided on a web agency or developer to build out your new website, and you’ve probably signed a contract with them. And now they’re probably talking about something called the discovery phase.

What the heck is that?

Now, before you get too worried because that seems like trial lingo, don’t worry about it. Unlike what you might think about in the trial sense, in this case everyone is working towards the same goal.

It is a crucial part of the process. It’s essentially the way the person you’re working with will get to know you and your business and your problem better so that they can build a solution that will work for you.

So let’s discuss in more detail what the discovery phase is, what will happen and how you can make this part run smoothly to ultimately get a much better website.

What is the discovery phase?

Simply put, the discovery phase is when the web agency or developer begins to ask you a lot of questions about your business, the website and what you want and need the website to be.

If you’re familiar with civil suits, this is fairly similar to the discovery process in the courts. Although in this case, both sides are working together for a positive solution.

This is a chance for the web agency or developer to learn more about your business, your current situation and what you are needing for a new website. Some of this might have been discussed previously in your conversations before hiring them. But this process will get a lot deeper than what you’ve discussed before.

They will likely be asking you a lot of questions, especially about your business. After all, in order to create a solution that will work for you, they need to have a good level of understanding about what’s going on. And there’s a chance that there will be a number of meetings and calls as they try to learn as much as they can about the situation.

If you have a physical store and the agency or developer you’ve hired is local, they might even stop by to check out the store.

And all of this is to help them get a better understanding of you, your business and how this new website can help. And from the notes that they take during this process, they will start to craft the solution that will ultimately help your business grow.

What will happen during the discovery phase?

So what exactly is going to happen during the discovery phase? Well as I’ve mentioned above, the web agency or developer is going to be asking you a lot of questions.

They’ll probably start out by asking about your business. Why did you start your business? What does your business do? How do you help your customers? How do you currently reach your customers? And so on and so forth.

Then they’ll probably ask about why you need a new website? What problem are you running into with your business and the online world? How is this website going to help your business? What are your needs for this new website? And what do you want this website to do?

From there they’ll probably ask follow up questions that are more specific to your business and situation.

And while those might seem like a lot of questions and a lot of work, they are going to serve you and your website well down the road. The more information you’re able to give the people working on your website, the better the solution will be and the more your website is going to be able to help your business. And that is the ultimate goal of any website.

So be prepared to answer a lot of questions.

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Have a good idea of what you want with your website

And to that point, it is a very, very good idea that you come into the discovery phase prepared to answer those questions and more. The better prepared you are, the smoother this part of the process is going to go.

While you might not have the crystal clear picture of what the website needs to be, having a good rough outline is a great place to start. Because from there, the agency or developer can help you get that picture into better focus. Plus you don’t have to waste time spinning your wheels trying to come up with an answer.

In fact, if you’ve followed the website planning guide, you’ll know that before you’ve even thought about this part of the process, you’ll have created a plan for the website ahead of time. And that plan includes what problem you’re having, what your business wants/needs and how this website will help your business.

Having that ready to go will give you a head start. You can skip the part of trying to figure that out and right into having productive conversations with the agency or developer. And that’s really where the fun begins.

Again, failing to plan is planning to fail.

But you don’t need to have everything planned out

At the same time, you don’t necessarily need to have every little thing planned out for your new website. That is honestly pretty much expected on every project that I work on.

Sure, it is good to have an idea of what you want and need. You should know what the problem you’re having with your business and website, what you want this website to do and what it needs in order to help your business.

But you don’t need to know everything. You don’t necessarily need to have a design picked out well in advance. Or what tools should be used in order to create the website, like whether to use a CMS like WordPress or Drupal or something different. That’s the job of the agency or person you are hiring.

(Pro tip: if you’re hiring someone to build the website for you, lean on them when it comes to things you don’t know much about. After all, that’s part of why you hired them in the first place.

Plus, there’s a good chance that they might look at your situation and come up with better ideas that you might not have thought about before. And those ideas can make the end result much better for you and your business.

So don’t stress if you don’t have every little thing planned out for your website . Just have a really good idea of what you need and want.

Be flexible with what the agency or developer suggests

To that point, you need to be flexible with whatever the solution that they come up with. Again, you’re hiring them for a reason, so it’s probably a good idea to listen to what they have to say.

At the end of this point in the process, they’re going to tell you their plan for your website. And it might not necessarily be what you had originally envisioned. And that’s okay.

They are the experts in this area. They’ve worked with a lot of clients before, hopefully ones similar to you. So they already know what’s going to work and what’s not going to work.

They might also see potential problems or better solutions that you can’t see right now. Maybe there’s a roadblock coming that can’t be fixed with a simple website solution, and you’re going to need to go a different route to avoid it.

So if you come in with an idea for a completely custom website and they respond by saying it would be better to use a pre-built WordPress theme, then trust them on that. Or maybe if they feel that you’re not quite ready for an online store, then maybe you truly aren’t ready for ecommerce. That’s okay.

You hired them for their expertise. So use that expertise to get a website that’s really going to help your business grow.

So in short, come prepared for the discovery phase. Have a good idea of what you want and need with this website. Be open when answering questions. And have an open mind when it comes to the solution for your website.

That will make this part of the process a success, and ultimately give you a much better website.

Keep Learning with the Small Business Websites Newsletter

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to websites. How do you build a website that’s going to help your business grow? How do you manage a website to help your business grow? What’s the latest website news that you should know about? What are some websites you can look to for inspiration?

The Small Business Websites Newsletter helps you answer each of these questions. The biweekly newsletter will take a deep dive into some website-related topic, like SEO, WordPress, how to plan a website and more, to help you learn more about websites. I’ll also include some website news that you should know about as well as add inspiration I’ve found that might help you. And you’ll even get discounts for various products I offer. And all of this is for free.

So if you want to be better at building or managing your small business website (or any website for that matter), then you’ll want to sign up today!

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