Starting a web project without first conducting a discovery process is like putting on a blindfold and hiking the Grand Canyon. It's exciting but it likely ends in disaster.

At the core of every great website is compelling content and complimentary design that expresses how an organization wants to be perceived. Many brands have a notion of this idea in their public presence but lack genuine resonance with their audience. Figuring out how to elevate an organization's public presence is a complicated process that requires critical examination.

THOR is a believer in the power of the discovery process and the benefits it provides for organizations that we partner with. At the core, the discovery phase of a communications project is a journey through an organization's past, present, and future. Within this process we delve into the workflow of the organization to include the customer journeys, the web of legacy systems, and the people that make an organization work.

While some of the information garnered from the process is concrete, some can be abstract. How do you quantify what is truly working and what isn't? What respresents good design? What does success mean and how do we know when we've achieved it? While much of this sounds subjective at the surface, most websites contain patterns that organizations can identify and use to improve their performance.

THOR's discovery process uncovers the aspects of your website and communications strategy that are most in need of upgrades and leads to a roadmap for a successful project.

Looking To The Past For Answers

THOR prefers to begin a discovery process with an introspective look at the organization. We perform a series of interviews that include key stakeholders as well as front-line workers who, while potentially less involved in the overall project, play a crucial role in the hands-on work in the systems and often offer pertinent insights into technology decisions.

These interviews form a foundational layer to our understanding of the organization and a genuine assessment of the way the company sees itself.

We perform the same activity with customers and members of key constituencies that the organization is trying to reach. The goal of these parallel interviews is to evaluate whether an organization and their audience see things the same way. 

Often this is the most revealing part of our process, with answers that diverge in unexpected ways. The results give stakeholders a chance to reevaluate their prior assumptions and, in an ideal scenario, to adjust the direction of their project to match the data. If we're looking at a new website build, these insights can inform the list of necessary features and content in a similar way.

Quantifying Success

Interviews tell us the direction the wind is blowing but don't always tell us how strong the gale is. We quantify the opinions in the interviews with survey data in which internal and external audiences rate aspects of the organization and its website on a sliding scale. These ratings help us determine the areas of the site that are working and where the biggest needs can be found. They can also help us see if the tone and language of the communications match the design and technology of the brand.

Alongside the survey, THOR performs a site audit that tangibly outlines the sections and components of the site that function properly and those that need help. We follow this with detailed recommendations regarding the tools that the organization should use. Would-be clients can review our Website 101 for a sense of the solutions and tools THOR favors with the understanding that our process is generally customized to an organization's needs. 

Our findings report synthesizes all of these discovery tasks into a roadmap where we aim to keep what's working, improve what isn't, and move the organization closer to its goals with our recommendations. 

As an example, organizations that find themselves drowning in legacy technology are generally the most eager to tear their entire infrastructure down and start over. But more often than not, migration into better systems is a gradual process that is informed by data. Similarly, new website roadmaps frequently bloat the feature pipeline at the expense of being able to release the site in a timely manner. These are the types of situations where a partner like THOR can provide our expertise to focus the effort and save countless development and design hours.

Audience Development

The last part of our discovery process typically includes strategic recommendations around content development that is derived from our audience analysis work. Many of our clients choose to develop content for their projects in house. And to make that process more valuable, THOR makes strategic recommendations regarding the development of content and its value to intended audiences. 

One of our favorite strategies is known as a long tail content strategy in which THOR helps refine organizational goals into a flexible taxonomy of terms typically comprised of 15-20 key words or phrases. These act as a lodestar to help an organization focus their communication efforts in the coming years by building earned media through search and social channels around the terms.

Scheduling and Costs

Discovery engagements typically take place over the course of 1-2 months and include interviews, surveys, audience analysis, personas and site audits. The findings are tied together in a single report that is presented to the organization by our team. We position these tasks ahead of design and development work to be certain that we are optimizing our efforts once the project begins in earnest. Reach out to THOR and begin your journey with us today.