Discovery phase research

During discovery you should start to map the broader service landscape, research the real needs and problems faced by your users, and understand the policy intent and technology constraints.

Questions that you need to be answered during discovery: 

  • How do users currently perform this task or find the information they need?  
  • What existing services or channels do they use? 
  • What problems or frustrations do they experience? 
  • What do users need from your service to achieve their goal? 

Each round of user research should have clear, actionable and concise objectives. Before starting any research, you should understand: 

  • What you’re trying to achieve. Do you want to understand user behaviour, test new features or both? 
  • Which problems you’re trying to solve. 
  • Which assumptions or beliefs about your users or service you want to test. 
  • What you need to know now to be able to make an informed decision about next steps. 

Once you’ve agreed on your objectives, you need to decide which research methods you will use. 

Discovery research methodology

Think about your service from end to end and consider all the ways users interact with it including all tools, transactions, support and offline steps. 

Who to interview 

You must do research with a broad range of users, including those with: 

  • disabilities 
  • English as a second language 
  • low digital skills 
  • end users 
  • public servants who will deliver the service 
  • poor internet access such as people in remote areas. 

Typical user research activities 

To learn more about your users and their needs you can: 

  • create a user journey map based on people who would use your service 
  • conduct an empathy mapping exercise with users 
  • observe people using existing services to observe how they do things and their pain points 
  • use interviews and focus groups to explore relevant aspects of participants’ lives 
  • examine existing data such as website analytics, and call centre scripts 
  • review existing user research. 

From these activities you'll get 

  • a journey map that clearly charts your users’ current experience 
  • descriptions of different types of users (personas) 
  • sets of needs for different types of users 
  • an understanding of some of the barriers users with disabilities face. 


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