Low risk, big reward
When the full scope and requirements are unknown, Discovery & Strategy allows a collaborative approach to uncover and decide the set of deliverables unique to your project.
Exercises and deliverables often include:
Our Discovery is a collaborative process that allows you to explore the best possible options for your business, guided by our digital commerce experts. This phase is iterative, so you’re not locked into a predetermined spec list. This allows for choice and adaptability. We’ll guide you through a number of exercises and provide the tools to help you uncover the specifics of your needs, whether you know them yet or not.
The goal at this phase is to uncover all the unique insights and business requirements that you have to create the perfect match between an open source framework and your business model.
The Project Canvas is a tool to transform an idea into a project plan, to stimulate collaboration and communication between all the involved parties (project team, sponsor, stakeholders, etc.). It ensures all project team members are on the “same page”.
This review uses available analytics tools to help us understand the consumption of your existing site, providing insights on popular content, user flows, conversions, etc.
Here we review reference sites (provided by you) and the websites of your key competitors in order to get a feel for visuals, navigation, tone and voice, and any other notable takeaways that may be important to your project and support a successful outcome.
When a new build is required and an existing site is available, we’ll often start by cataloging the existing site pages and sections. This provides a convenient way to compare and plan how content on the new build is organized. If analytics are available, we may also highlight high traffic pages and sections that may require special attention.
This activity is to get our design team familiar with your Brand. Acro's design leads review any brand assets, style guides, marketing collateral, websites, etc. in order to become savvy with the visual aspect of your brand; colours, typography, image style, tone and voice, etc.
While we will all come to the table with ideas and expertise, stakeholder interviews are important as they help identify all of the different pains and needs of everyone on your team. Organizations have multiple stakeholders, so these interviews make sure your people feel vested and that their voices are heard. The information gained helps with the prioritization of needs and tasks. The format of the interviews can vary widely, from simple online questionnaires to onsite interviews.
Similar to stakeholder interviews, online surveys give us a way to gather input and sentiment directly from your website’s users. This feedback is important and can help prioritize and inform the requirements of a new project from an outside point-of-view. These surveys can also be used to set a benchmark to compare against in the future.
A technical audit lets us review your website, code and hosting to assess the project’s current health as well as our ability to perform further work on it. It may end up revealing tasks that need to be done to bring the project up to standard. These tasks can range from small code formatting fixes to urgent security patches.
Technical audits are required any time we take on an existing build, but they also work well as a low-risk first step while getting to know each other in a new business relationship. For new relationships, this audit gives you a chance to see our expertise first hand.
A technical discovery maps out the technical and business logic information for your business, including parts outside of the direct scope of the website. This is a large deliverable and makes up the bulk of the technical side of Discovery and Strategy. It gives an overview of all the systems that may need to integrate and any major functionality that are important to your business. It may also list details of specific smaller sections where precision or special details are important. This deliverable is always part of any Discovery and Strategy project where integrations or significant custom functionality are being produced.
A tech stack review is a small knowledge-based activity that is primarily done by you, possibly even during initial communications with our business developers. This exercise provides a list of your existing systems and is used to plan out which systems need to be integrated and which may be replaced. This review is also often a requirement for our technical architecture deliverable.
At this phase, we take a two-pronged approach. With an understanding of your business as a whole, which we got from our Discovery, we split our focus between the technical specifications and the information architecture. The brilliance of this phase is when we bring both pieces together in a visualization. This allows you to see a working wireframe for your solution.
The goal at this phase is to bring everyone onto the same page through information and rapid prototyping.
The Information Architecture (I.A.) typically consists of: User Stories; Sitemap Diagrams; and sometimes simple Wireframes. Nearly every web development project starts with an information architecture exercise. Even with existing sites, there are likely modifications or updates to the organization of the site that could be beneficial. This is an opportunity for all stakeholders to provide input before moving into any creative and development phases where fundamental changes to the site’s organization can negatively impact the timeline and budget.
Visualization (aka Vis, Prototyping) is a low-fidelity (wireframe) designed that lets project teams (both yours and ours) to experience specific page flows and functionality, before going into full development. It’s a relatively low-cost exercise and allows for plenty of iterations and pivoting. Typically, we use the user stories outlined in the information architecture to guide the development of the Vis. Rarely is there a need to Viz out a complete website.
Often, brands go through an exercise where a "style guide" is produced that gives various details of how the brand should be presented. Style guides seem like a great idea in practice, but in reality, they quickly become outdated and out of sync.
A Design System is the evolution of a style guide. It's built on a foundation of reusable tokens, components, and patterns, that are living code, platform-agnostic, and can be pieced together to form the frontend look and feel of a website or app.
A development roadmap plans out any upcoming work for resourcing and timelines. It helps both you and Acro Media match resources, giving a clear outlook on when new features and functionality will be delivered.
Development roadmaps are critical for transparent communication and timeline accuracy. If a sudden scope change must be introduced into a project, the development roadmap provides a clear understanding of where the change should be made and how it will affect other tasks within the roadmap.
API specifications are crucial for software development, especially for integrations and automation. API specifications are documentation that provides precise details on how systems will talk to each other: what data can be sent, how it will be formatted, where will it be sent to, how will responses (such as successes or errors) be communicated, etc. They may also include how data will map between two systems with different data models.
API specifications are done so that other systems can talk to the API and get expected and predictable results. As long as they follow the specifications, both sides of the system know what is required, what to expect, and should be able to work independently. API specification documentation is required for any API that Acro Media creates and it must be provided for any API Acro Media needs to interface with.
For fast, responsive and secure ecommerce, server and hosting architecture is important. Server and hosting architecture maps out exactly how data will flow between your behind-the-scenes servers and which servers will have access to what data. These details ensure that your site is performant, capable of large traffic swings (i.e. for sales events), scalable, and compliant with industry regulations (such as PCI compliance).
Server hosting and architecture is normally done in conjunction with Acro Media's hosting but can be separately done for reference by you or a 3rd party. If you have a security team, this is often required by them.
Development workflows are a defined process for how software and functionality changes will be moved from staging to production, typically detailing the various steps for development, testing, review, and launch. These workflows ensure that your business is impacted as little as possible and may even contain specific rules such as acceptable launch times, approval processes and emergency rollback procedures.
Acro Media adheres to our own established development workflows, but this exercise is ofter completed whenever your own internal staff, or other non-Acro Media staff, are involved in the project development (typically other developers or a quality assurance team).