Maidstone Digital Service
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1 - Discover

In the Discover phase we begin to identify the problem, opportunity or need to be addressed as well as define some of the boundaries of the solution space.


  • To learn directly from the people being designed for
  • Identify the problem, opportunity, or needs to be addressed
  • Define the solution space
  • Build a rich knowledge with inspiration and insights.

The discover phase is not:

Reinforcing existing ideas

The goal is to learn about users and the challenges they face, not to gather evidence to support a predefined solution.

Focused on solutions

Avoid making assumptions or thinking about solutions before the research is complete. Solutions come later in the process

Operating within an established scope

Be flexible. User research is an unpredictable process and often leads to unexpected insights. Use research even if it doesn’t align with expected findings, to show how far a problem might extend.

What should you do in the discover phase:

Identify services users

You need to identify who are the services users and the best ways to engage with them – remember don’t just target people who currently engage with the service, think of everyone who might need the service. Users might not just be external customers; they could be internal staff or partners.

When engaging with users it’s important to speak with mainstream users and those on either extreme of the spectrum. For example, if designing an online form don’t just speak to residents who currently engage with online services also identify individuals who cannot or do not interact online at all. An idea that suits an extreme user is likely to work for the majority. It may be useful to liaise with organisations like Involve if there are certain demographics of people you want to target, as they are often involved in forums and activities with different groups.

Gather research already done

There’s lots of information you can already use. Make sure you’re checking for other local authority projects on sites like Pipeline or LGA. Look for internal projects via the lessons log or if there’s any consultations which are relevant.

You can also learn from internal customer insight information such as failure demand data, complaints, contact volumes, or performance information. Check if customer feedback is already collected and if so utilise this, or look at website and online forms feedback data.

Engage with users

Now you’re equipped with who the service users are and any knowledge we already have relating to them it’s time to engage with users. You want to understand their needs, how they interact with the authority and what are their motivators or barriers to using the service. Make sure you approach this with an open and unbiased mindset.

There’s lots of ways you can do user research, some useful techniques could be shadowing/observations, surveys/questionnaires or focus groups. Getting a better understanding of the end-to-end process may also help you target your user research, so using tools like process mapping, or customer journey mapping can be beneficial.

Engage with stakeholders

Although the user should be at the centre of anything we design, we must remember there are various stakeholders whose needs we also must meet. Seek to understand where the service is within the organisational priorities and what the authority wants from it.

You also need to consider who else is affected by changes to a service. To ensure you engage with the right stakeholder and at the right frequencies refer to your stakeholder analysis and communication plan.

To gather insights from stakeholders you could conduct staff interviews or focus groups.

At the end of this stage of the review process you should have gathered enough data to understand the current service(s) from both an inside out and an outside in perspective.

Digital Services

The Digital Service team at Maidstone Borough Council lead on the research, design and development of user centered services for residents in Maidstone

Find out more about the team

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