Experience Design Delivery – Discovery


Experience design (XD) is a discipline that has grown over the last few years into a fully independent field.

As an experience designer in this field, you soon realise  what a big influence on the project and the client we all have. With this responsibility in mind, I asked couple of colleagues  with expertise in the same field the simple question: what skillset do we cover and what type of deliverables do we produce?

This article will summarise all findings into one, hopefully, complete comprehensive document.

GON 2013 XD Skills Graph

XD Skillset and Deliverable for Experience Design

  • Discovery
    • Business Discovery
    • User Discovery
    • Tech  Discovery
    • Design Discovery
    • Trends Discovery
  • Co-Design
    • Experience Strategy
    • Process Flows & User Journeys
    • information Architecture
    • Wireframes
    • Interactive Prototype
    • Designing
  • Testing
    • Q&A

Experience Design Landscape

Experience Design (XD) is a discipline designing products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus on the quality of the user experience. Experience design extends to other disciplines, including cognitive psychology,  perceptual psychology, linguistics, architecture and environmental design, product design, information design, ethnography, brand strategy, interaction design, storytelling, heuristics and the communication of service design thinking.


2013 GIVISION MindMap

Business Discovery

Business Requirements Gathering

Understanding the client landscape is essential to any project related to the digital environment. Simple business gathering can take a day or two (which is mostly used for pitching). Proportional gathering across all digital entities can take over a month and we usually call a discovery session once the project is up and running.

Clients’ digital properties are divided into two separate groups: owned and related (but not necessarily rented). Owned digital properties are places where we have full control of the digital environment (data, APIs, UI, etc.). Related spaces are mostly blogs, social networks and services that bring the audience to our website or platform. Both need to be wisely integrated and well managed.

All our findings are then collected in spreadsheets. A simple matrix compares functions or features across  different digital properties, markets and competitors. These data are ranked from 1 to 10 depending on how granular our evaluation needs to be.

Competitive Analytics

  • Local vs. Global market – domain.com  / domain.co.uk, .eu, .fr, .de, .it etc.
  • Owned
    • Website(s) – list of products including future scale etc.
    • Integrated Campaign which live on their server space
    • Offerings – special offers, seasonal offers, best sellers, most popular etc.
    • Platform – Intraweb, CMS, Billing System etc.
    • Services – CSM, call centers, delivery service, return policy etc
    • Channels – Physical vs. Digital (TV, Add, Campaigns etc.)
  • Rented
    • Social network (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Vimeo, Google+ etc.)
    • Propaganda (News & magazines)
    • News (Flipboard, Feedly, etc)

Competitive Landscape Gathering

This technique is used for collecting data about clients and their competitors in one place (usually 3 to 5 competitors).  Then you have a chance to see clearly which competitors have better products, offerings or even customer services. By using unified system values you can determine the health of the digital environment within a particular area.

  • Heuristic evaluation is a recommended technique that allow you to measure part of the experience
  • Content Audit - content strategy etc.
    • Internal - intranet, internal communication etc.
    • External – web, campaign, PR etc.
    • Shared – news , channels – Facebook, Youtube, Instagram etc.

Clients Requirements Gathering

Another important part of requirements gathering is internal workshops. Those recently become very popular and equally overused techniques to get more insights from the businesses and depended digital offerings.

Designing the e-Commerce site means designing “ the behaviour of digital landscape”. With this in mind, you equalise your and client knowledge

  • Client Workshop – interesting source from IXDA
  • Co-Designed – client workshop advice from Paula Wellings
  • Understand the client internal procedure and processes (logistic, hierarchy, delivery)
  • Understand client internal challenges (dependent businesses & 3rd party contract)

2013 GIVISION Defining

User Discovery

Usability Research

Understanding how users access services or products is the key to success. All digital properties have to work on different platforms and resolutions, but also in different situations. You need to make sure all  findings are evaluated  against the same criteria.

  • Accessibility (or getting started with accessibility assessment )
    • Devices
    • Platforms
    • Languages
    • Application forms etc.
  • Readability
    • Small screen (google docs spreadsheet)
    • Zooming (google docs spreadsheet
  • Interaction
    • Unified interaction patterns across all touch points.
    • Paradigm and themes(google docs spreadsheet)
      • Unified registration forms
      • Unified payment methods
      • News channels
  • Tools
    • W3C – recommended tools from W3C
    • Patterns – this is one from many examples

Access points

More frequently we are designing outside the digital space. Bridges between CSM’s and retail environments have to work and match consumer needs. All these segments of the experience have different entries: mail, brochures, phone calls, a click or touch of a button – all of them sending a message or request to the system. Make sure your system responds equally well to  these different calls.

  • Retail vs. Digital – User journeys – User Scenarios
  • CSM – Customer Services Management – User Scenarios
  • Ecosystem – Service Design Map
  • Service Design tools

User Research

The complexity of the current digital environment would not work without user contributions. Capturing these inputs in a tangible form has several benefits.

The first one is a clear distinction of user groups and their needs,  which has immediate impacts on the business. The second benefit is mapping behaviour patterns against future trends.  The third is disclosure of socially relevant communication that is integrated into the core of the business model.

  • Target Audience – Age groups
  • User Interviews – Focus groups, Surveys
  • User types – Early adopters, Mass, Active, Trial Users, Advocates
2013 GIVISION Majority

User Surveys

User surveys are a predefined set of questions  placing the user in particular situations.  They can give  a real insight into the first set of improvements that you should consider. The same questions used across multiple audiences can reveal existing gaps and set for immediate challenges.

  • Accessing the experience – how, where, when?
  • Maintaining the client Relationship – accuracy of the response, social relevance, report a problem, help etc.
  • Experience in Social space – does the brand know the user and does the user know the brand?


This discipline allows you to look inside the digital landscape of the company that already exists. Summarising all information into one document will eventually support your previous findings and crystalise the tasks you should focus on. This includes owned and rented sites mentioned above.

If you are in an unfortunate situation where the client does not have any analytic whatsoever, propose that they install one and set the parameters as follows.

  • Number of users (How many users access)
  • Location (Where they are accessing from)
  • Time (When they access the site)
  • Drop off time (How long they stay on the site/page)
  • User groups (How many user groups they have and how granular they are)
  • Demographics (What type of demographics they have)
  • System (From which system user access the site)
  • Browser (What type of browser they use)
  • Device (What type of device they use – laptop, tablet, mobile)
  • Language (How many languages they support and how many of them are actually working)

This should give you decent insights into the audience and the current health of the site.

2013 GIVISION Analytics

Tech  Discovery

If you are not a design studio of “one”, do not do it by yourself. This part is for developers and the developer department only.

Front-End discovery

The best situation is when the front-end is separated from the back-end and work is on request through the API. If this is not the case, ask your developer what you can touch and what has to remain.

Draw for your development team a diagram which communicates clearly what is front-end and what is back-end. Be part of the team (you could save yourself a lot of time internally and externally to communicate changes and propositions).

  • Current System Architecture (front-end & back-end integration)
  • Proposed System Architecture (changes in front-end & back-end)
  • Implementation diagram (work out for your developer)
2013 GIVISION Code

Back-End system discovery

This discovery defines the health of back-end systems and of course, the future scalability of your proposed solution.

As an experience designer, be part of the technical discovery. Keep in mind that everything you do will eventually set up the limitations and clear directions on what can be done, what has to be build from scratch from and what is absolutely impossible to achieve.

  • System Architecture (databases, dependency)
  • Code base (programming language – PHP, MSDN etc.)
  • System CMS Technology – (health of the system)


When you work on e-commerce sites that have many “different“ access points you should aim to unify them. This is the most challenging part, especially if each part of the experience is built in a different programming language and lives in a different database.

But once you achieve that, you save a lot of time in design and development. To create tour shared components and behaviours will unify user flows and clarify the purpose of your solution.

Read the book: The Age of the Platform  


Evaluation in these areas running across all digital properties is the same as business requirements gathering above. These gatherings are focused on tone of voice, relevance to the brand, response time, quality of the response, but also more importantly, dealing with negative feedback.

Online audit

  • Owned platform – Tone of voice, Customer service, Content, Number of owned properties – What is doing well and what is not.
  • Competitor – talking about us, Social scale, Word of mouth, Social presence
  • Social listening – talking about us
  • Our Brand (market share, audience, sentiment, volume)
  • Competitors Brand (tracker for social listening)
  • Summary of findings – Recommendations (5-10 things to do)

Design Discovery

Following the same note I mentioned above for technology, this exercise is for designers and the design department only. We work closely enough? with our visual designers. Our documents get a taste of design elements and layouts, including icons, controls and BTN’s.

It also sends the client right message about what you are trying to communicate. To create one unified visual language that is implemented across all digital properties is the most important part of big projects.

Brand Elements

Each brand is built from elements such as logo, colour, patterns and shapes that can be used in the physical world (for example, on a business card) and also in the digital space (for example, as a profile image on a Facebook page, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc.). This has recently become equally relevant to all digital offerings – having all logos the same followed by a unified visual system that is supported across the web, applications and native apps.

Design Components

Unifying the brand language starts with design elements and is followed by components that share the brand identity. Yes – advertising! The ad world is endless and complex on its own. Environments are increasing exponentially via mobile and tablet. Recently, we have all experienced the wave of ads being tested in places you would not expect.

“What is your brand Ad strategy” – do you have one?.

Think where these components appear and how they are related to the main site, product or even more closely, to your brand message.

Design Controls

in a more sophisticated world where customisation is taking place we defining the set of controls (set of icons that represents these actions). As an example: B I U representing the action or behaviour in one unified cohesive system to edit text. At this point the collaboration between visual designer and experience designer is basically inevitable.

Trends Discovery

Watching the trends becomes part of our daily lives. Evaluating and implementing these findings becomes a challenge in your everyday practice. Trends are important for you to set the right direction for the project – especially if it is  a project that will take  months or years to build. Make sure that your proposal document to stakeholders include the comparison to the trend you referring to.

This is the end of the discovery session. Once this part is done, the team is usually ready to start work on the solution itself. The following article will be about co-designing, cooperation and modularity.

Let me know what do you think?

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