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A poster with a user journey. On top are overlapping sticky notes with various notes about personas, motivations, and pain points. It's a great example of part of the nonprofit discovery process.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

So you signed on to have your nonprofit website redesigned. You’re probably ready to see mockups with new visuals and content as soon as possible, right? But let’s not rush into a redesign! 

In order to have the best possible website that will support your organization and your site visitors, you need to spend time in the discovery phase.

In this post, we’ll explore what a discovery phase is, why it’s important, and what to expect during the process.

So, What is The Discovery Phase?

We previously discussed the importance of User Experience, which highlights the need for human-centered design in order to have a usable website that will surpass your nonprofit organization’s goals.

In the discovery phase of your redesign, you will get to focus on:

  • The overarching goals for your project
  • Your target constituents, as well as their demographics and interests
  • The key desired action for your entire site and specific pages

These points only highlight the main features of a discovery phase. There are many milestones to reach, which I outline below. But first, you may still be wondering—why does our organization need to invest in research and discovery?

Why A Good Discovery Phase is Important to Your Nonprofit Website Redesign

A good discovery phase is vital to any website redesign. It’s crucial not to speed through this phase  because it could end up in wasted time, money, and effort. Without a thorough discovery phase, you could end up with a website that doesn’t meet your goals or the goals of your constituents.

Ultimately, you want to make sure your new website effectively promotes your organization’s cause.

The discovery phase will allow everyone involved to:

  • Understand the design problem at its core
  • Have an informed and efficient design process
  • Prevent overspend in design stage, both in terms of time and money
  • Improve the ability for you to provide a successful user experience for both staff and site visitors
  • Create a site with your organization’s goals in mind
  • Build a dynamic site that won’t require a lot of time for maintenance and tweaks

You can see that a thorough discovery phase is the critical preparation work needed before a redesign. Below are the steps you’ll commonly see in this phase.

What the Discovery Phase Entails

There are several steps for your nonprofit’s discovery phase. At Lucid Fox, our discovery phase has three main sub-phases.

1. Analysis and Metrics

First, research is done at the computer.

In this phase, we research competitor organizations to see how they’re similar to yours so we can learn from them.

We’ll also look at the metrics of your existing site to find out how long people are spending on your site and if they’re taking the desired action on the right pages. Depending on how your analytics are set up, we can also see if people are getting frustrated or abandoning the site at certain points.

Finally, we’ll do a complete test of your site’s current usability to see how and where things need to improve.

2. Personas and User Flows

Now it’s time to bring the research to your constituents and your stakeholders. 

We’ll interview your donors and volunteers and compile profiles—or personas—designed to represent your website visitors. This helps us understand why the various personas may visit your site, and what they will be looking for when they get there. We may also have the opportunity to conduct research-driven workshops.

Stakeholder interviews are important as well, because they help us make sure everyone is aligned with the goals of the redesign.

By the end of this phase, you’ll get user journey maps, personas, use cases, and user interview or survey data.

3. Information Architecture and Site Audit

Finally, we will comb through your existing site to do a content and design audit. We’ll ask the questions:

  • How is content currently structured on your site?
  • In the redesign, what content should go where?
  • How does a person travel through your site now, and how will they do so in the future?

At the end, we’ll create a comprehensive site map that will advise us what goes where to ensure the best user experience possible.

Sign On With an Agency That Focuses on The Discovery Phase

A lot of web designers and developers rush through the discovery phase of a project, simply because it’s historically viewed as a time-consuming process and not everyone understands the value. Some web agencies will focus on the discovery phase if they have a User Experience-centric project manager on board, but it’s not always included in your project.

Here at Lucid Fox, we do things differently. All of our projects for nonprofit web design start with a comprehensive discovery phase, which will focus on all of the milestones mentioned above.

If you’re ready to sign on with Lucid Fox to design and develop an efficient, human-centered website, get in touch with us.

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