The goal of the discover phase is to understand the target audience and their characteristics. This phase serves as a foundation for the rest of the design process. The following are some examples of methods we employ to understand our customers' end-users.
Interviews with representative users from each user group are performed with a design team that is typically made up of an interviewer and a recorder. The interviews are conducted onsite in the context of the user's work environment. Once the preliminary background information is gathered, the core of the session begins which is based on an informal and dynamic interchange between the participant and interviewer. This approach tends to put the user at ease since they typically feel "listened to" in a way that they often have not experienced before in previous customer information gathering sessions. Lots of detailed data about the user's task flow, needs, and goals are gathered in these interviews which directly feeds into the define phase.
The database of registered users that many sites maintain can be a valuable source of user data. The database can be analyzed in order to form an accurate profile of the site's user population. Types of users and the sizes of user groups can be gathered and presented graphically to make this data accessible and easy to understand.
Direct feedback from users is gathered on many websites. This type of feedback can originate from a feedback link posted on the website or from customer service tickets. The data can be quite useful to get an understanding of problems that customers are having with the site's functionality and its usability. Ideally, this source of user data is paired with contextual interviews to provide a comprehensive picture of the user population.