Project Discovery: The foundation of eCommerce success

What is the project discovery process?

When embarking on a new eCommerce website project, it’s vital that everyone is on the same page. For any project to be successful, both client and developer need to have a shared vision: they must have the same definition of success. 

The project management discovery phase is how we at Best Response Media ensure this is the case. It consists of a series of collaborative sessions in which we join forces to share ideas and discuss the project from every angle. At the end of the process, we’ll have enough information to create a project specification, narrowing our focus to a specific scope and producing an estimate for each component.

The discovery process is a vital first step in a smooth web development process. Without one, an eCommerce project would be ill-defined, subject to any number of pitfalls, from inaccurate budgeting to missing functionalities.

Discovery sessions

The discovery sessions are designed to identify your requirements and explore different ways of fulfilling them. By splitting your project into sections and tackling each in a separate session, we can be certain every aspect of your new eCommerce website has been appropriately examined and there are no nasty surprises lurking down the line.

With the help of these sessions, we’ll be able to gain a clear understanding of your preferences and priorities for each element of the project. We’ll use our expertise to assess and communicate what’s possible, offering features and strategies that you may not have considered, as well as identifying potential problem points and suggesting solutions.

The discovery sessions aren’t intended to provide all the answers then and there. Instead, they serve as an expanded list of project requirements and possible routes to meeting them. To complete the discovery process, we then assess these and produce a project specification, nailing down our approach.

Preparation for the discovery phase

Before beginning the discovery phase, we ask clients to complete a project requirements document. Containing an outline of your eCommerce aims and an overview of how your new site should function, this report serves as an introduction to both your business and your eCommerce project and provides a useful jumping-off point for the discovery process. It will give us an insight into the context surrounding your project, as well as its functional and non-functional requirements. 

For more information on this step, as well as a template that’ll see you through the process, check out our guide to writing project requirements for eCommerce websites.

If you already have one, we should also have access to your existing site prior to the first discovery session, so that our development team can review its code and modules. This allows us to come prepared to ask specific questions that will help move the discussion forward.

Who should be involved in the process?

We will include at least one member from each team we have working on the project in the discovery process. This will depend on which of our services you’re making use of: our experts are skilled in design, development, SEO and QA, but you may be tackling one or more of these processes in-house or through a third party.

At your end, it’s vital that all key stakeholders involved in the project are present for the discovery phase. For example, if your eCommerce project includes a back-end integration, the team responsible for managing that process needs to be involved in the discovery sessions. Stakeholders such as these are likely to have additional requirements, and these might otherwise not come to light until the project is already underway. It’s best to have all the information available before development begins.

How many sessions?

Typically, five sessions will be needed to cover every aspect of the development process, but more or fewer may be required, depending on the scope and specifics of your project. We will agree a fixed number of hours before the discovery phase begins, meaning this stage can be accurately incorporated into the project’s overall timeframe.

Design discovery: This session covers each website page to be designed, in detail, along with the functional requirements of these pages. For example, we’ll need to determine how catalogue pages and product detail pages will function: what features they will have and what information they will display.

Modules/plugins discovery: This session covers every module your eCommerce site will make use of, from payment gateways to helpdesk modules for customer support. It will also involve discussions of all modifications that will be made to the Magento default functionality.  

Integration discovery: This session deals with each system integration involved in your project. We will discuss which PIMs, CRMs and ERPs your website will be integrated with and map out how the site must interact with each of them. We’ll also examine which systems Magento has pre-existing modules for and which will require custom manual integrations.

Go live discovery: This session details all pre go live-work required in the project, as well as determining who is responsible for completing each task.

SEO migration discovery: This session covers which pages and content of the current site should receive an SEO migration. We will discuss a strategy for minimising fluctuations in visitor numbers, ensuring the new website retains the traffic of the old.

Delivering your results

Once the discovery sessions have been completed, we should have everything we need in order to produce a project specification. While the discovery sessions are intended to expand the requirements of the project, the project specification serves to focus its scope. 

In the discovery sessions, multiple strategies will be considered. The project specification will now narrow these down, proposing a concrete set of deliverables. Each feature listed in the specification will be estimated by the team responsible for delivering it, so as well as clearly defining the parameters of the project, the document will provide an outline of its scale and cost.

Assuming there are no issues with the project specification, this marks the end of the discovery process. Because each part of the project has been thoroughly discussed, we can get to work, secure in the knowledge that we’re putting our best foot forward.

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