Two women having a meeting

What is Website Discovery and Why is it Important?

Maya Angelou may not have been talking about building a website when she said the famous quote, “You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been,” but it surely does resonate with me when it comes to the early stages of a website project.

Website discovery does exactly what Mrs. Angelou is alluding to: figure out what’s happened up until this point so we can pave the way forward.

Before we get into exactly what will happen during website discovery, let’s make sure we understand the definition of and goals for discovery. Website discovery is the first step of the web design and development journey. Using the popular home building analogy, think of website discovery as sitting down with the architect to discuss everything you want and need for your new home. The architect will ask a lot of questions, want to see photos you’ve taken or saved for inspiration and reference, and answer any questions you have to ensure you are getting exactly what you need. This is also the time to discuss what’s possible and not possible in terms of your budget and timeline. Website discovery works in the same way.

Without going through discovery, you may end up missing elements you really need or having and paying for extra stuff you don’t need. Getting a clear picture before we get started on the design and development of your website helps everything come together more efficiently, just as it would for a new home.

The purpose of the discovery process is to gather important information about your business, your goals and wishes, any relevant website history we may need to take into consideration, and the features and functionalities you want and need on your website. If we don’t know this information, it is difficult (or nearly impossible) to outline the scope of work, provide an accurate project fee, and set a realistic timeframe.

Discovery will:

  • Lead to better solutions
  • Focus on the objectives (not just the deliverables)
  • Prioritize user needs (vs. just the goals of the project)
  • Allow all stakeholders to get on the same page from the beginning

Who Needs Discovery

Discovery is not just for larger website projects. No matter how big, small, simple, or complex your website will be, going through discovery is essential to ensuring that your website meets all of your goals, needs, and budget.

At Exhale Design Co, all website and branding clients go through some sort of discovery. Clients who sign on for The Foundation Website package go through discovery after the website design and development contract is signed. The Works Website clients go through discovery before the website design and development project is quoted, and discovery is considered a separate, preliminary project.

Discovery as Part of Your Website Project

For Foundation Websites, which are straightforward, informational websites, the goal is to get clear on design preferences and determine if anything else might be needed for the website to be successful, such as a couple of additional pages or forms. With Foundation Websites, discovery includes one questionnaire and one strategy session. Following the strategy session, I have enough information to begin designing your website.

Paid Discovery Before Your Website Project

During our initial intro call, I will be able to determine if your new website will fall into the Works Website category. Meaning, your website needs many more pages than are included with the Foundation Website and/or it needs additional features or functionality that will involve research and strategy. In this case, we will need to go through discovery before I am able to quote the design and development phases of your project. If we forego discovery or I quote your project before going through discovery, I will not have sufficient information to go by in order to accurately quote your project in terms of scope and timeline. This could lead to drastically undercharging or overcharging for your project, which is never good for either party.

To get started, I’ll send over your contract and invoice for discovery. The fee for discovery ranges between $750-$1,250 depending on the complexity of your project. Once the contract is signed and the invoice is paid, you will receive a detailed questionnaire. After the questionnaire is completed, we’ll have a strategy session. Depending on how the strategy session goes, we may need an additional Zoom or we may go back and forth a bit more via email to ensure everyone is clear on exactly what you need and what tools and efforts will be needed to achieve your goals.

The final piece of the paid discovery process is your Project Roadmap. This document summarizes in detail the following: (1) everything we discussed during discovery to ensure we are on the same page (which is important should the project start veering in a different direction after it begins), (2) everything that will be included in your project (i.e. pages, posts, forms, ecommerce, site architecture, etc.), and (3) all costs involved including ongoing costs once the project is completed. After you review the Roadmap, you’ll confirm that you are ready to proceed. Then, I’ll send over your contract and first invoice for the design and development of your website. The Roadmap is yours to keep, which means that if you’re not ready to proceed now or with me, you have a plan laid out that you can implement however you see fit.

What is Discussed During Discovery?

Below is a sampling of questions that are covered during discovery. As you get to the bottom of the list, the questions are for clients going through paid discovery as they are meant for more complex websites.

  • How long has the business been around?
  • Does the business already have a website and if so, why is now the right time for a redesign?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What challenges does the business face?
  • Who are the competitors?
  • How do customers find you and how do you want them to find you?
  • If you already have a website, who is visiting your website and how did they arrive there?
  • What’s the #1 action you want site visitors to take when they arrive on your website?
  • What pages do you need on your website?
  • Do you want to collect email addresses on your website?
  • Have you already written your website copy or do you plan to work with a copywriter?
  • What are some websites you like and why?
  • Do you plan to sell any products on your website? (plus a plethora of ecommerce-related questions)
  • Do you plan to have a membership area on your website? (plus a plethora of membership-related questions)
  • Do you have advanced SEO needs?


Planning and strategizing are crucial steps in the website building process, and no one will benefit from skipping them. If you jump into such a significant part of your business too quickly or without a strategic plan, you may find yourself spending more time and money than you would have if you had taken the time for discovery (at least in some format) from the beginning. 

Web designers and developers who don’t ask you a plethora of questions to get to know you, your business, and your goals are likely not building you a strategic solution.  Instead, they are throwing words and graphics up on the screen without keeping your target audience and business goals in mind.  

Do you have questions about discovery? I’m happy to share the scoop!  Ask me below or get in touch here.

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Stefani Harris

Hey there! I'm Stefani, your website strategist, designer, developer, caretaker, and proud Google nerd. I believe in taking a mindful, holistic, and collaborative approach to accomplish your website and tech-related goals. Click here to learn more about me and Exhale Design Co. I look forward to meeting you and working with you!

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