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How a Discovery Phase Leads to Better App UX and Design


Until now, it was somewhat forgivable for enterprises to underestimate the importance of flawless user experience in mobile applications. Today, there is no exception. User retention doesn’t stand a chance against poor user experience.


Typically, a user will use less than five apps in a day. If an app is going to gain prime real estate in a user’s phone, it has to earn it. In other words, delivering high performing digital services is absolutely mandatory for enterprises. To avoid frustrated users, user experience design needs to be a central priority in every stage of mobile app development.

The Importance of User Experience

User experience is the intuitive, empathetic, and human-centric approach to managing a user’s interaction with technology. In comparison, brand loyalty is also principally an emotional connection. If a brand’s product elicits negative emotions from a user, the consequences can be detrimental.


Mobile App Development Guide


A 2017 survey of roughly 5,000 participants reveals the importance of user experience in retention initiatives. For example, 63% of respondents stated that flawless performance is essential for mobile apps. Similarly, 32% of participants said they will resort to an alternative product after a single subpar experience, and 20% will tell friends and family about a product that failed to meet their expectations.


More importantly, people are relying on mobile apps to simplify their lives. A poor user experience can have a harmful impact on a user’s daily routine. The same survey disclosed that 8% of respondents have been late for work, and an alarming 15% have lost their work at the expense of bad user experience. In short, if your users feel frustrated, stressed, or angry even one time, your brand image is in jeopardy.  


Despite these deterring, and obviously unnerving statistics, it’s next to impossible for enterprises to ignore the mobile frontier. Reaping the benefits of a mobile app project starts with devoted research into your product’s end-user: how they think, what they like, what they hate, what they find valuable and more importantly – why. An in-depth product discovery phase is the starting point of this process and is incredibly effective at determining your real user.

The Competency of Collaboration

Delivering a magnetic user experience is in no way a linear process. The development cycle involves so many connected moving parts that in the absence of collaboration, the final product could fall short of your initial ROI expectations. Adopting a collaborative approach to product discovery is easily the most effective way to ensure your final product meets the needs of your users.


The first step is to break down any departmental silos that can negatively impact the chances of building a seamless user experience into your product. An open flow of knowledge and frequent communication is crucial for setting goals and mapping the user journey towards those goals. Collectively, a team has more knowledge, experience, and insight than an individual.


The goal is not entirely about building a product, or a piece of software, rather the goal should be geared towards delivering a solution to a set of users. In return, those users will view your product as an essential component of how they conduct their daily lives. If you truly want to deliver a useful piece of software to support the user’s daily life, then you need to gain insight from those who build software, because developers have the best understanding of the potential that software holds. At the same time, developers must have a 360-degree understanding of what the end-user is trying to achieve. This is why collaboration is so important in user story mapping. Product owners, developers, designers, and architects who understand the entire user context can better frame the product to meet the user’s needs. A shared understanding allows everyone involved to identify hiccups in the user experience before the product reaches completion, and can hash out solutions to problems that affect every moving part within the cycle.

The Core Components of a Journey Map

User Journey Mapping

User Personas

These are the principal characters within the story. They demonstrate the needs, goals, pain points, opinions, feelings, expectations of the actual end user.


A user journey map should be constructed over a finite amount of time, or mutable phases like awareness, decision, or purchase phases.


Use your journey map to explore all of the highs and lows of the user’s emotional landscape including frustration, stress, confusion, satisfaction, excitement, etc.


It’s critical to pinpoint everything the user is doing: their actions, interactions, conversions, drop-offs, etc.


Be sure to include every channel where interaction takes place and the context of each action.

The User Journey Process

A major aspect of product discovery involves identifying and mapping the user journey. Building a visual representation of the user journey keeps you focused on the user, or groups of users, in relation to the emotional landscape of your product. Journey maps also help you identify any gaps in your thought process. Again, it’s important to give thoughtful consideration to how the end product will fit into the user’s life from the very moment they require the service you provide.


The purpose here is to build a grid-like visualization that tells a story from left to right with user personas on the left, the story ending on the right, and every action and interaction in between.


User Journey Visualization

Start with Research

A user map must have support from quantitative and qualitative research for it to come together in an actionable way. Conduct surveys, organize focus groups, or perform field research in order to gain an understanding of what’s working, and what areas are in need of improvement.


Quantitative data speaks volumes about user patterns and can expose any obstacles within the goal funnel. For any problems you may encounter, collectively brainstorm the reasons behind them and compare your hypothesis against your qualitative research. You may find your qualitative findings validate your reasoning, or you may find entirely unexplored explanations.

Create a Touchpoint Catalogue

Record a catalog of every touchpoint a user has with the product and the channels in which those touchpoints live.

Empathy Map

During this phase, you will pay close attention to the people whose problems you’re trying to solve and try to understand what’s going on in their minds: what are they thinking, feeling, seeing, and doing? At this point, you will be able to uncover the user’s true pain points, as well as the thoughts and feelings they experience along the way. An in-depth analysis of user’s emotional journey will allow the entire team to build a user-centric product where every decision is built with the end user in mind.


What caused the user to seek out the service provided by this product? What was the thought process that brought them here? Is the service relevant to their needs? Does the service address their pain points? What are they seeing at every touchpoint? Does the user understand the flow of the product? What might cause the user to misunderstand interface interactions? What might occur to frustrate the user? What might occur to satisfy the user? These are all important questions to consider when trying to gain insight into the current state and value of each touchpoint within the user’s journey.

Journey Map

Write each step a user takes in the journey on a card or post-it note and organize them in a left-to-right flow. It’s easy to get lost in the details, so be sure to reach the end of the journey before exploring each step in detail. Once the user journey reaches its goal, break down the details of each action vertically beneath the major journey events. This process not only keeps the user at the forefront of design decisions, it also allows you to explore solutions to any “what if” scenario that could arise during research and conceptual validation.


Recommended Reading: An Introductory Guide to Customer Journey Mapping


More than ever, it is imperative to think critically about user experience design and all the ways it can make a positive impression on your customers. If you’ve been laboring to transform your product vision into actual deliverables, product discovery can help. Product discovery goes a long way towards delivering a product that is truly meaningful to those who use it. As a result, you’ll be able to build an app that addresses relevant pain points and delivers an experience that retains long-term users.


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Annie Dossey

Digital Marketing Manager