How to create a website discovery document: A step-by-step guide

53-page PDF. Instant download. Version 1.3

An essential workbook for new web projects

Get clarity to take action

Confidently lead the project

Proven framework

Eliminate guesswork

Learn what matters

Workbook 1

53 pages

Workbook 2

100+ prompts and discussion points

Workbook 3

Lead with clarity and confidence

Find out exactly what you're building – but more importantly, who you're building it for

53-page PDF. Instant download. Version 1.3

Disco Michael

Demystify and de-risk your next web project

Get Stakeholder Alignment

Get everyone on the same page and pointing in the right direction.


Remove doubts and build confidence in your website planning.

A Toolkit for Success

A defined way forward based on logical discussion.

Define Clearer Goals

A hierarchy of measurable user and business goals.

Tighter Specification

A foundation for website specification and definition.

Own The Workshop

Utilise the prompts to draw logical conclusions.

Mitigate Risks

Save pain further down the road by identifying and addressing early on.

Budget Alignment

See what's possible within the budget – and what needs to wait.

Proven Framework

Used on dozens of new web projects.

Disco Value 2

For agencies, freelancers & digital teams

Delivery Certainty

Critically thinking about all this takes a lot of brainpower.

Help Others Level Up

With minor shifts or major shake ups.

Side-step Mistakes

Avoid pitfalls of bad planning.

Become Unstuck

A toolkit to unravel complex and unique problems.

Be a Trusted Resource

Objectively asses business problems.

Transformation Guide

Guided towards the next significant steps.

Move Quick

A framework to get answers and clarity quickly.

Perfectly Positioned

Optimise the market opportunities.

See Where To Invest

Remove the guesswork from the project.

Workbook 5

Questions & prompts to lead the perfect workshop

The organisation

Who are they? Why do they exist? What makes them different?

The users

Who are they and what motivates them?

The Competitors

Who are they? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Products & Services

What do they offer? Why should someone choose them?

The Brand

Where do they sit in the market place? What are their strengths?

The Content

What do they already have? What do they need?

Technical Requirements

What technology do they need to hook into and utilise?

The Marketing

How will this site support marketing campaigns?

The Opportunities

What opportunities are they missing out on?

The workbook you wish you had for your last web project

53-page PDF. Instant download. Version 1.3


Website Discovery Workbook FAQs

Where can I run the workshop?

Our website discovery workbook workshop is designed to be run remotely using video calls and screen sharing. We've run dozens of discovery workshops this way, and it works a treat. But it also works perfectly in real life too. It's really up to you, the client and your team.

Who should lead the workshop?

The workshop can be lead by an individual or team – preferably someone who isn't afraid of asking or shying away from difficult questions.

Where possible, we'd recommend three different types of people running the session:

1. Business and strategy brains

to help draw out those all important goals and mediate between the technical and non-technical.

2. UX/UI Designer

To bring their expertise on what makes a successful user experience.

3. Developer

Developer to bring the technical knowledge and solutions needed to deliver the project.

However, this isn't always possible and it's not uncommon for these three roles to be covered by one person.

From my clients' side, who should I invite to the workshop?

Ideally, you'll need to bring along key stakeholders and/or decision-makers from the organisation you're working with.

Here's some examples:

1. Someone with high-level knowledge

Culture is often based on the history of the founder and the way they act – so having a founder present to share in their own words is beneficial.

2. Decision-maker

Digital discovery sessions can sometimes involve big changes from to meet their users needs. Having someone in the session who can verify how realistic those changes could be made is beneficial.

3. Someone on the ground

These are the people who are directly effected by the result of the project, e.g. a marketing manager.

This isn't always possible, so for smaller teams and organisations, these roles may be covered by one person.

How long will the workshop last?

That's up to you – but there’s a lot to cover, so, we would factor in 6 to 7 hours. This should give you enough time to discuss all the points in detail. However, if it's specifically complex problem we're trying to solve, then it may run into a second day.

How should I plan the workshop day?

Using the workbook, a typical workshop day will look like this:

  1. Welcome + Intros
  2. The Organisation
  3. The Offering
  4. The Audience
  5. The Competitors
  6. The Brand
  7. Lunch 🍔
  8. The Content
  9. The Technical Requirements
  10. The Marketing
  11. Finishing Up

When we're leading the website discovery workshop, the day usually starts at 10:00am with a break for lunch around 1:00pm – and aiming to be finished by 5:00pm.

What do I need to bring?

Just open and willing people and something to take notes with. If you’re running your session remotely, use your preferred video calling software and we’d recommend an app called Notion for taking notes, it’s mega! If you can, record your session, this way you can can keep the discussion flowing and go back if you miss anything in your notes.

What happens after the workshop?

That's totally up to you. However, what would recommend is as soon as possible after the workshop (while it's still fresh) that you send to the client:

  • Key findings and observations document
  • Recommendations
  • Next Steps
  • A link to the workshop recording

The next steps depend on how you work, but off the back of the website discovery workshop, a logical progression would be to move on to the following:

  1. Scope of Work
  2. Sitemaps
  3. Wireframes / Prototypes
  4. UI/UX Design
  5. Development

53-page PDF. Instant download. Version 1.3

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Download the Website Discovery Workbook.

  • 53 pages
  • 100+ prompts and discussion points
  • A toolkit for new website projects
  • New and updated: September 2022. Version 1.3

53-page PDF. Instant download. Version 1.3

We live in a digital world. With technology advancing at such a rapid rate, creating a digital presence is essential to stand out from the crowd. Whether it be for business, personal, or just creative endeavors, creating a website is the key to unlocking potential opportunities. However, the creation process can often seem daunting. Where do you start? How do you know what your website needs? This is where a discovery document comes in.

A discovery document helps define website objectives, information architecture, content strategy, and more. It serves as a foundational document for a website build that both the developer and web designer can use to inform their decisions. Fortunately, creating a discovery document is not difficult. This can be done by following a few simple steps that will help navigate the website build. In this blog post, we will be outlining how to create a website discovery document step-by-step. Let’s get started!

Quick Review of Key Points

A website discovery document is a plan used by web developers and designers to outline the purpose of a website, as well as its desired features, content, and functionality. A website discovery document helps web professionals create an effective web project that meets the client’s needs.

Understanding the Project Goals

It is crucial to understand the project goals before beginning the process of creating a website discovery document. A project goal is a general intention or objective for a development project, which can be broken down into specific, measurable sub-goals relevant to each component of the project. It's important to have an understanding of the overall mission and vision of the website prior to writing a website discovery document, as this will serve as a baseline for all subsequent steps.

Start by determining who will be involved in the project, including stakeholders, decision-makers, developers, designers, etc. This will help you identify any potential conflicts that may arise due to different perspectives on what should be included in the website discovery document. You should also define clearly your expected outcome of the website, so that everyone understands what you are trying to accomplish during the discovery process. This will help you create a road map for success by outlining all prerequisites and tasks needed to reach your desired outcome.

Additionally, it is important to take into account any budgetary or temporal restrictions that may be present while building your website discovery document. For example, if there are constraints regarding budget or timeframe then you should prioritize features accordingly in order to optimize results within given parameters. Setting up well-defined objectives -- including what should be accomplished within a certain time frame -- is key to successful completion of this part of the project.

Once you have a clear idea about what needs to be achieved and by when, you are ready for the next step: researching potential users. Knowing who your target audience is and how they might interact with your website prior to its development will enable you to create an effective website discovery document that reflects their needs and preferences.

  • An average website takes approximately 160 hours to complete.
  • A website discovery document can help save time and money by reducing the design and development process to 50-70 hours.
  • According to Forbes, 69% of businesses either lack or have an incomplete website management plan without a formal discovery document.

Researching Potential Users

Creating a website discovery document is not a simple task, and it requires deep research into your target audience. You must understand your current and potential users – their wants, needs, interests, and frustrations related to the website. There are several ways of researching user behavior and inclinations:

Focus Groups: Hold focus groups with individuals from the target demographic and ask them questions about their habits, preferences, and views regarding your website.

Surveys: Ask targeted questions to the relevant audience at scale through online surveys. The data collected can be used to create user personas that represent different types of website users.

Structured Interviews: Have one-on-one interviews with members of the target audience to gain an in-depth understanding of how people view your website.

Analytics Data: Look at data from existing analytics tools such as Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics and assess how users interact with the site on an individual basis.

By exploring these different research methods, you will build empathy for your target users and gain a better understanding of their experience. This can provide invaluable insight into how they behave when interacting with the website – ultimately helping you optimize the design of the website in order to meet user needs more effectively.

Armed with this detailed understanding of user behavior, we can move on to gaining deeper insights from user stories in the next section.

Gaining Insight From User Stories

As part of the website discovery document, user stories provide insight into how website users interact with the features of a website. A user story outlines end-user requirements from the perspective of a real or hypothetical user and speaks to their expectations and needs related to an online experience.

User stories help designers identify not only what website users need, but also the reasons why they need it. This allows them to create websites tailored to meet these objectives in the most efficient way possible. Additionally, user stories can uncover both explicit and implicit goals that people have when using a website.

While user stories are powerful tools for idea generation, they could lead to websites being viewed solely through the lens of user stories instead of broader functionality. Moreover, if user stories are overly detailed, they might keep website designers from being creative. To balance this risk with the potential benefit of gaining valuable insights from user stories, it is important for designers to stay open-minded and use them as guidelines rather than rigid directions.

Creating the Website Structure is a critical step to ensure that the website design is practical and meets all stakeholders' expectations. By taking into account both explicit and implicit goals from users stories, designers can create an effective hierarchy for pages within a website that ensure each page will be placed in its optimal spot within the whole website structure.

Creating the Website Structure

When creating a website discovery document, the structure of the website is arguably one of the most vital steps. Structuring a website successfully can be the difference between success and failure; as such, it should not be taken lightly.

Before developing a site’s structure, it is essential to conduct comprehensive research into the target audience and industry. Through understanding the customer journey, their needs and expectations of the content, and the types of information they are searching for on other websites, you can create a website structure that meets those expectations and gives users what they want in an intuitive manner. It’s also important to consider how many pages you need for your website based on topics relevant to the industry in question.

When structuring a website, it is best to focus on organizing content logically instead of trying to guess algorithms or please search engines. Although website navigation affects SEO, navigation is primarily there to provide users with ease of use; ultimately, having clear navigation will achieve both goals. Users should always be able to find what they’re looking for within 2–3 clicks.

It’s also important to keep consistency throughout all navigational tools across the entire web page - this goes beyond menus into things like page titles and other tags too - so user-friendly URLs help with this. While including keywords has its merits when optimizing websites, overusing them can have an adverse effect as well as hindering user usability if incoherent names are used for different sections or pages.

Creating the website structure includes careful consideration regarding internal links, meaning that consideration should be given to what links are included between pages and how often links appear within copy itself. Websites should link to each other when appropriate but too many unrelated links could distract users from their main purpose; cluttered pages waste valuable real estate without adding value to customers so streamlining pages should be prioritized.

Having constructed a strong web structure -- with engaging content prioritizing user experience -- we can now look at how we design a user journey taking all visitors through various stages in order to achieve the desired result.

Designing a User Journey

To design an effective website, it is important to consider the user journey. This means understanding who will use the website and how they are likely to navigate through it. By mapping out the user journey, you can ensure that all needs of the user are considered when designing the website, from how quickly they can find what they need, to how intuitive the navigation is.

One key aspect of designing a user journey on a website is being aware of Jakob Nielsen's Usability Heuristics. These are ten criteria for evaluating user interface designs which form a checklist of dos and don’ts when designing a website. For example, one heuristic is 'match between system and the real world'. This means that language used and actions taken by users should be familiar and match their real-world experience where possible. As Peter Morville said “you have to make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for”, and making sure your website follows usability heuristics is an important part of this.

Another key aspect of designing a user journey is thinking about how many steps or clicks it will take for someone to find what they are looking for on the website. When working out these steps, known as page flow, you should try to keep them as simple as possible. Having too many clicks from one page to another can cause users to become disinterested or frustrated while navigating the website, so cutting any unnecessary steps or pages can work in your favour. Also, engaging with the user at each step encourages them to complete their journey without difficulty or confusion.

These two elements go hand-in-hand when considering the overall experience of a user on a website. By taking into account both usability heuristics and page flow, you can design an effective user journey suitable for your target audience.

Having created a map outlining a comprehensive overview of your site's layout and structure, you're now ready to develop a flow chart that articulates the specific paths customers might take while using your site. In the next section we’ll discuss developing a flow chart for your website discovery document.

Developing a Flow Chart

A flow chart is a snapshot of the website’s user journey and allows developers to visually understand how users move through the existing design. It helps shape the developer's understanding of the problem they are solving and organizes a sequence of actions.

Flow charts should consider the following criteria:

• What tasks will the user want to complete?

• What journey do they need to go through?

• How long does it take them to complete both simple and complex tasks?

• What obstacles do they encounter on their journey?

In developing a successful flow chart, there needs to be a balance between efficiency and accuracy. If designers overcomplicate the flow with too many details, then that could hinder development instead of improve it. Therefore, it's important for designers to only include information that is absolutely necessary when creating the website discovery document.

The development team should maintain an open dialogue and collaboratively review any changes after each iteration throughout the build process. This will help ensure that everyone is clear on what action takes place as users navigate through the website.

By understanding a product or services more deeply, developers can create clearer pathways for users and intuitively predict what actions they'll take next — all while accounting for user feedback and analytics to maximize current performance while anticipating future growth. Developing flow charts is an integral part of this process.

Leading into our next section, we'll discuss how to build the website in line with user requirements detailed in this Discovery Document.

Building the Website

Deciding to build a website is a major decision. If the company opts to do it yourself, they must first be sure that they have the knowledge and skill set required. This can include advanced coding languages like HTML and CSS which will require extensive study and practice. On the other hand, most companies may choose to hire a web developer, either permanently on staff or through an outsourcing service, depending on their budget. A good place to start would be with a freelancer recommended by another trusted source such as colleagues or past clients.

Conducting an audit of existing websites both competing and within your own company can also be helpful in developing an understanding of current standards in website design. An audit should cover aspects such as color schemes, user interface elements, page layout designs, etc. Applying these insights from the audit process into the website discovery document should yield stronger results when it comes time for development. It’s important to note that this will also help in creating wireframes further down the line since wireframes typically resemble the elements found in a typical website.

The next step in building a website is getting approval from top-level executives on the site's content management system (CMS). This decision typically falls upon those who are responsible for data analystics and other metrics such as user experience or customer service related goals. Additionally, each stakeholder should understand how the CMS interacts with key components such as databases and APIs that connect different parts of your website or platform together. Once all stakeholders are on board with the CMS selection, coding for the site can begin*.

Now that decisions about building a website have been made, it’s now possible to move onto drafting wireframes–the graphical representation of each page. Wireframe development helps to ensure that users will be able to reach their destination easily and quickly while also learning more about their journey along the way**. Establishing this information early helps to identify potential issues related to usability before they arise during production.

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In conclusion, careful consideration when building a website is essential if companies want their sites to function effectively and achieve their desired goals. By following this guide and taking into account both sides of relevant arguments it should be possible for companies to confidently make these decisions in-house or with technical support from outside experts. Moving forward, it is time to draft wireframes - graphical representations of each page - that will help ensure users will be able to reach their destinations effortlessly and understand more about their journey along the way*.

*Insert citation

Drafting Wireframes

When designing a new website, wireframes are an important step to establish the basic structure and layout of the site. A wireframe is a visual representation of how elements on a page will be arranged, as well as how a user might interact with them. They provide designers with a visual guide that helps to quickly implement the website’s architecture while having all necessary elements in order. Wireframes usually contain placeholder text and visuals and do not focus on colors or styling.

There are both pros and cons to creating wireframes at the beginning of the design process. On one hand, wireframes help designers think through how a user will interact with the website before any other design elements are in place, which can save precious time and money down the road. Conversely, some argue that without any visual design elements or assets, it can be difficult to gauge what features are truly necessary. Additionally, if there is no buy-in from stakeholders who have already seen a design concept they may become disengaged further down the line.

Despite these considerations, it’s still recommended that designers create wireframes prior to any comprehensive UI/UX design work since it will ensure all required functionality is included before any creativity enters into the mix. With that in mind let’s move on to developing interaction elements, which will be covered in our next section.

Essential Points to Remember

Wireframes are a visual representation of the structure and layout of a website, helping to save time and money in the design process. While they are beneficial in many ways, some argue that their lack of design elements or assets can make it difficult to work out what is necessary. Despite this, designers should still create wireframes prior to any comprehensive UI/UX design work as it will ensure all required functionality has been included.

Developing Interaction Elements

When it comes to website development, interaction elements play an important role in the user experience. Interaction elements include anything that enables users to interact with a website, such as menus, buttons, forms, and search boxes. It’s important to ensure that interaction elements are easy and intuitive for users to use.

When developing interaction elements for the website, consider usability testing to ensure the interface is efficient and effective. Usability testing entails running the website by a set of testers, usually recruited from the target audience, who follow predefined tasks using the interactive components on the website. This allows administrators to get direct feedback on how intuitive and effective the interface is to use before it’s written into production code. Usability testing can be a helpful tool in understanding how consumers are likely to interact with a website.

On the other hand, there are also those in favor of skipping usability testing completely and allowing interaction elements to remain more open-ended due to its potential unpredictability. Others argue that extensive testing reduces innovation because it's impossible to know what creative solutions customers might come up with when they're given more freedom with their interactions.

However you decide to go about developing interaction elements it is important that they are tuned towards achieving the desired user experience while still remaining attainable within the given resource constraints.

Now that you have developed your interaction elements your next step should be finalizing the process by ensuring all small details get taken care of. The following sections will focus on: Finalizing the Process.

Finalizing the Process

Finalizing the Process:

Once all the information outlining the purpose, goals and functionalities of a website have been collected, it's time to finalize the website discovery document. Review the entire document to ensure accuracy, provide no contradicting information and check for typos or other mistakes. Consider consulting a professional web developer or business manager to review the document as an outside source.

The next step is to set specific timelines and deadlines for each phase of development. Each section of the website should include realistic completion dates. Reasonable due dates will help guide you through the process and keep your project on track with any cooperation partners involved in content creation. Additionally, allowing enough time for testing helps avoid last-minute issues before going live.

When deadlines are finalized and controlled by a continual tracking system, it’s essential that efforts be made to proactively communicate with any parties responsible for creating content or elements in order to reach successful completion and launch. The document should also include defined short-term and long-term objectives or goals that allow you to measure success over time.

With a detailed understanding of requirements, scope and expectations, everyone involved in the process can move forward confidently towards completing the project successfully. This clarity of purpose serves as a quality reference point throughout its implementation and during future updates. Now that everything has been finalized, you can begin adding content to the website discovery document which will be discussed in the next section.

Adding the Content

To create a website discovery document, the next step is to add content. This includes a variety of elements, such as text, images, videos, user pathways, data points and other desired functionality. Each element should be carefully considered in terms of function and usability in order to thoroughly explain the website’s goal.

Text: Give the website a “voice” that represents the brand. Consider how each page will describe the purpose of the site and its corresponding goals. Highlight any key information that may be vital to success while staying concise and avoiding cliched phrases or language that isn’t unique to the brand.

Images: When selecting photos or illustrations for the site, think about what resonates with the audience. It is important to choose photographs that have enough resolution for a website but aren’t overly large—this will help to keep loading times for the site to a minimum. Additionally, provide clear titles for images so that people can find them easily on search engines.

Videos: Videos should demonstrate value to visitors in an entertaining way, whether it be a tutorial video featuring product demonstrations or containing information about recent news surrounding the company. Additionally, consider adding captions to videos when possible in order to make them more accessible and improve SEO results.

User Pathways: User pathways allow web users to easily find what they are looking for without having to scroll through pages of information. Think about how each page ties into one another so that visitors don’t get lost along their journey. Consider using drop-down menus or visual indicators (such as arrow keys) that indicate different parts of a page when creating pathways.

Data Points: Collecting data points provides insights into user behavior by tracking clicks and actions taken by website visitors, allowing teams to gauge what works for their users (and what doesn’t). As data points can vary from project to project, decide which ones are most relevant for your website discovery document before gathering them from analytics tools like Google Analytics or Hotjar. For instance, look at average time spent on a given page and compare it to others; use this information to determine which areas need more attention or if further design elements need tweaking.

Functionality: Depending on the type of product or service being offered, it's important to consider which out-of-the-box features would be essential for a successful website. This could include eCommerce components like shopping carts or customer review modules; interactive elements like conversational bots; or streaming features such as audio and video files. Choose features that offer value while being mindful of budget and technical limitations.

Ultimately, creating a website discovery document requires careful planning and thoughtful consideration of content elements across multiple disciplines such as design, development, visuals and user experience in order to achieve an intuitive online presence that offers true value both from a customer perspective and from branding considerations.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions with Detailed Explanations

What information should be included in a website discovery document?

A website discovery document should include detailed information on the organization's goals and objectives for creating the website. This may include desired user experience, target demographic, key content, visuals and branding plans. Additionally, the document should identify any technical requirements for the site, such as hosting environment, web server technology and database usage. Finally, a timeline for development of the project should be included. By providing a comprehensive list of requirements in a website discovery document, you will ensure all stakeholders understand the scope of work and agree to the same goals prior to proceeding with the work.

How can website discovery documents help accelerate website development?

Website discovery documents are essential to the success of website development. They provide a detailed overview of what exactly is required for a project and can identify the needs and expectations of the customer, as well as any potential risks or obstacles. This helps to ensure that all parties involved have a common understanding of how the project should move forward and coordinate resources accordingly. The document can also be used as a tool to communicate with stakeholders and other experts so they can give feedback and provide perspective during the development process. Ultimately, this allows teams to develop websites more quickly, efficiently, and with fewer delays or issues down the road.

What are the benefits of creating a website discovery document?

Creating a website discovery document can be incredibly beneficial to the development process. By taking the time to properly map out all the different components of a website, it ensures that each and every part is thoroughly considered. This allows project stakeholders to plan ahead and take into account how everything will interact with each other. Additionally, by investing in a website discovery document, developers can save time and money by avoiding costly mistakes during the actual build process. Furthermore, taking the time to properly document the vision for a website also helps create consensus between project team members who might not have initially agreed on certain aspects of the project. This means that everyone involved can better focus on creating a successful end product. Finally, having a written record of everything involved in the design process serves as an invaluable reference point should anything need to be updated or adjusted down the line.

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