The Importance of a Discovery Phase to Experience Design

Smart marketers call on research and discovery to home in on the best solutions and align on project goals before the design phase.

Experience design requires a sort of jack-of-all-trades. It is a mix of art and science, tapping into both creativity and problem solving. A discovery phase informs both, acting as the bedrock for each successful project.

During discovery, experience designers do a deep dive into learning about particular products, industries or services. Gathering information to gain understanding is the foundation for organizing information and making decisions about how to use visual elements, such as color and layout, to meet business goals and user needs.

A good example of a successful discovery process is Manifest’s partnership with Walgreens to redesign its 340B portal.

Learning About the Product

The first step in experience design discovery is to understand the product and the user. Manifest’s team of strategists and designers first asked, “What is 340B?”

340B is a federal government program that requires drug manufacturers to provide prescription drugs at reduced prices to low-income patients. Participating healthcare organizations must manage 340B information and are subject to audits.

Walgreens, as a participating pharmacy, offers its clients tools to manage detailed information through a 340B portal, as well as support through a dedicated customer service team. Some of the detailed information on the portal is presented through graphs and charts, so we also researched best-in-class data visualizations to support future design explorations and decisions.

Identifying and Prioritizing Updates

Next, the strategy team led stakeholder and client interviews.

Stakeholders included Walgreens’ customer service team, which interacts with the clients using the portal on a daily basis. We also spoke directly to the users (Walgreens’ customers) to get their thoughts on the current experience and to understand how they use the portal and what improvements might benefit them.

We were a bit surprised to find that, despite the pretty underwhelming appearance of the current portal, users were unanimously happy with their experience. However, they also had a tendency to rely on customer service for answers to any and all questions about the portal. Based on our interviews, the overall finding and guiding insight for decisions moving forward was to balance updates and enhancements focused on improving self-sufficiency through familiarity.

Agreement Among Key Stakeholders

One of the biggest challenges for clients is prioritizing updates, which is essential for keeping a project within scope.

Based on what we learned about how people were using the site, we identified recommended enhancements and compiled them into categorized lists. We shared these with Walgreens stakeholders in a brainstorming session, talking through ideas and technical feasibility, and adding new ideas to the list. To prioritize features to be included in the redesign, user experience led us through an exercise of voting for top ideas, which provided consensus and defined goals, setting us up for success in the design process.

Informed Design

We often referred back to interviews and discovery findings as we made decisions about design. We were able to reference that information during detailed design reviews, keeping the focus on the users and the overall goal of providing more self-sufficiency while balancing familiarity.

We followed up with the users we interviewed earlier and received feedback on our designs, further informing the final design. Ultimately, we were able to create an experience that impressed our partners at Walgreens and supported our shared objectives—highlighting the most important information while keeping it in the same order on the page; providing options for customization; and offering support content, such as frequently asked questions.

By gathering information from stakeholders and users through a discovery process, we are able to gain valuable information about the people we are designing an experience for, rather than making assumptions and letting our bias drive design.

The result is an informed experience that focuses on users, made possible through research that leads to a shared vision of how to measure success.