The roller coaster of discovery by Lucille Harvey

In this blog, Principal Consultant Lucille Harvey talks about the roller coaster nature of discovery projects. 

The discovery project provides an essential foundation for any digital programme. It’s the starting point. The bedrock that affords us the space and time for research. It’s an opportunity to understand and analyse without thinking about solutions. And it’s a roller coaster. Exciting. Hair raising. Scary (sometimes). And surprising. Which is why I wanted to write about it.

What is the Discovery phase of a project?

The discovery phase is an information gathering process designed to help the team understand the project’s vision, goals, and scope. It is common for the discovery process to involve several experts, such as developers, business analysts and UX/UR, as well as the client and key stakeholders. Discoveries work best if the whole team is involved from the start.

The dos and don’ts of discovery

Let’s start with the don’ts. I only have one. But it is a biggie. 


  • Consider any possible solutions. Once you have all the insight and data you need, identifying solutions is for the later phases. If you start thinking about solutions now, you risk clouding your ability to ‘discover’.


  • Focus on the client. Put yourself in their shoes. What problem do they need you to solve?
  • Identify the key stakeholders and users. Spend time with them. Get to know them. Understand their perspectives.
  • Research, research, using as many different tactics as possible, from desk research to interviews, surveys, workshops, etc… you name it. It all happens in discovery! And as you gather data, analyse, synthesise, and repeat. 

The roller coaster nature of a discovery

As I mentioned, discoveries are like roller coasters; there are ups, downs, and loops. You can go quickly and sometimes speed up rapidly, only to slow down to a near stop. The important thing is that the team go on the journey together. And what a journey. It’s a roller coaster of emotions. Here are a few that you might experience: 

  • Trepidation – Starting a project can be daunting. Everything is new. You have a limited time to absorb as much as possible. But you’re part of a team. You’re there to learn. And no question is a stupid one. It’s also the time for planning, working out what you need to work out, and how you will work it out! The pace will pick up quickly. So, any nervousness is often short-lived. 
  • Excitement – It is an exciting step for any user researcher to begin their research. We love speaking to people and uncovering new knowledge. During this time, we may interview, observe potential users, and have meetings or workshops. We will be gathering our findings, analysing them, and documenting our insights. This stage can raise more questions; we may need to adapt our plans and approach – you don’t know what you don’t know at the start!
  • Confusion – Not all problems are easy to solve or understand, and you can often encounter more problems and challenges than you initially forecast. Sometimes, the roller coaster can come rushing down to the depths of confusion and the unknown. Lots of unknowns. At this point, you may need guidance on which direction to turn to next. Or how to interpret the results. Or even if you can make any good recommendations to the client. But don’t panic. With a team of experts, confusion rarely reigns for long.
  • Light bulb moments – This is the moment when things become clear again. Something clicks, and it all makes sense. You may need that extra bit of analysis to understand the data. Or time to reframe your approach. Or just talking things through with your team. Things become clear again, and you know how to move the project and research on.
  • An end – It may be coming to an end, but somehow you want more! By the end of a discovery, you will have become an expert in the subject matter. You will know every minute detail. Every nuance. It can be hard to let go when it comes to an end. But we are there and ready as experts for the next stage.

We hope that you have found this blog useful. If you are interested in UX or have a question for the Triad UX team, please get in touch.