Do I Really Need Discovery for My Web Project?

You need some programming done on your website and your web developer has asked for some paid discovery time…is she scamming you?

Although most of the websites we build don't need Discovery (notice the capital “D”), whenever we come up against a complex programming job, we strongly recommend it. And what's more, we expect to get paid for it, even if you decide not to move forward with the project. Why do we do this?

In the fourteen plus years I've been running flyte I've realized that my assumptions and the assumptions of my clients don't always match up perfectly. That's certainly not their fault; building a website is not an every day occurrence for them and so they make certain assumptions based on similar experiences in vaguely-related fields, or just on their hopes and wishes. And on my side, I often forget that building websites isn't their business, so I make my own misguided assumptions…like they're no longer using IE6. 🙄

I've had clients who were surprised to find out that we weren't writing their copy for them, or creating a logo for them, or setting up their new email login on their iPhones. (All services we offer as add-ons. Except for the iPhone. That's what your local Genius Bar is for.)

Custom programming takes this to a whole other level.

Even when we've listed out the deliverables as specifically as possible there are always issues:

  • Do you want the ability to create your own subcategories? If so, do subcategories need to be tied into just one category or several? If you delete a subcategory do all the products/services that were aligned with them also get deleted? If not, where do they go?
  • Do you want the system to send out confirmation emails or did you want to be able to override that with a personal message?
  • What type of discount codes will you be offering? Will those change in the future?
  • How will people create/recover usernames and passwords?

These are just a few examples of what we've run into in the past. Even when you think you know what the client wants, even when they feel they've been as clear as possible, miscommunication happens.

To limit this, we like to create storyboards that walk clients through what their experience will be (here's how you approve a new member, here's how you send them a reminder email, etc.) as well as the experience of the user (this is where they can sign up, where they enter their discount code, etc.)

Doing this takes time. Besides the hours it takes, it's also based on years of experience in programming and user-interface. What makes sense for your end user? What is scalable? What is affordable?

The way we (and many other firms) set this up is that you pay us for the Discovery work, with the deliverable being storyboards and a firm price on the project. You're not required to move forward with us at that point, and you can even shop those storyboards around. Of course, if we've done a good job why wouldn't you want to work with us? 🙂

If you don't do discovery, we still need to create those storyboards during the project to be able to do the programming. (You wouldn't build a house without a blueprint, would you?) Unfortunately, if some major misunderstandings surface at that point that cause the budget to change it may be more difficult to extricate yourself at that point…we may already be hip-deep into web design, a keyword analysis, or other parallel work for your site.

In short, Discovery isn't extra work or a programmer trying to pad their bill, it's insurance for your job coming in on time and on budget.

Can I get an “amen?”

Rich Brooks
Now I'm Selling Insurance?

Photo credit: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives