A Step-by-Step Guide to Product Discovery in Mobile App Development

29 July 2021

Product discovery is vital for a successful and smooth mobile app development process. Find out the benefits of the discovery phase and how to accomplish it in five simple steps.

Product discovery is an important yet often overlooked stage of software development. Far too often, project teams emphasize usability over utility, leading to a limited focus on discovery. 

While the latter is critical, discovery is just as essential since you want a product that’s both usable and useful.  

Fortunately, discovery doesn’t take a lot of time. With good planning, you can incorporate it into the overall development process without straining your team. This guide should help you get through product discovery quickly and effectively. 

What is Product Discovery?

Product discovery in mobile app development is the initial stage of the development process during which the project team identifies the target audience and refines the development roadmap to ensure that the app actually solves the existing problem.  

Another way to think of discovery is a “revisit” of your goals and objectives, albeit in greater detail. The discovery phase helps you identify the exact gaps in the market and guides the development process to ensure that the end product addresses those gaps. 

For instance, many teams develop apps to bridge gaps in functionalities and user experience. Others also have their eyes trained on quality gaps in their industries. The product discovery phase is a special time during the app development process where the team reviews these gaps and tries to find a consensus on the best way to fill the gaps. 

Benefits of Product Discovery in App Development 

Product discovery is incredibly beneficial as it helps you define the path to successful app development and helps get you back on track whenever you stray. The key benefits include;

  • Define your target audience: For whom are you developing the app? Where are they located? What’s their average age? These are just some of the questions the discovery phase will answer. 
  • Reevaluate app features: It allows you to re-validate the features you’d like to include in your app. Are those features necessary? Do they add value? 
  • Differentiate your apps from your competitors: It’s during the discovery phase that the app development team defined the features that set you apart from the rest and, thus, give you an edge in the market. 
  • Determine whether users will like the app: Will the target audience love your app? Will it solve their needs? Will they find it easy to use?
  • Test your ideas before execution: Finally, the discovery phase is an opportunity to test your app before you take it to the users. This way, you can determine whether it serves the intended purpose and fix any issues before official development begins. 

Step-by-Step Product Discovery in Mobile App Development 

Different teams approach product discovery differently. We recommend accomplishing it in five key steps as follows;

          1. User research 

The user research phase involves going out and gathering data to test whether the assumptions you have about the product are right. Tools for this phase include interviews, observation studies, competitor researches, and surveys

The two most common outcomes of user research often include empathy maps and user personas. Empathy maps are easy-to-understand visuals that capture user behaviors and attitudes and present them on a four-quadrant diagram. They help project teams better understand the users. Meanwhile, personas are fictional representations of the target customer. They capture the goals, needs, demographics, and behaviors of customers. 

          2. Ideation 

Ideation simply means forming ideas of how to solve user problems. At this stage, development teams typically organize meetings with project stakeholders to present the data collected in the user research phase and brainstorm solutions to solve the identified problems. 

A popular approach is to organize the data in chunks and place the same ideas in clusters. Team members are then allowed to vote for their ideas and the most-voted idea is prioritized. By the end of the ideation phase, the team must have a clear vision and the solution you want to develop. 

          3. Prototyping 

Now that you have an idea of what you want to develop, you can start developing inexpensive prototypes of the solution to determine whether the project is feasible. Prototyping also allows the team to evaluate usability. You’ll need to test and improve the prototypes repeatedly until you have a winner. 

The most important tip here is to keep in mind that prototypes, though not the final product, are invaluable to the app development process. So, as much as you shouldn’t spend too much money at this stage, you still want to involve stakeholders. Also remember that prototyping is an iterative, not a linear process. It takes multiple trials to find the perfect solution. 

          4. Validation 

Once you have a winning prototype, the next step is to validate it. Validation is perhaps the most important step in the product discovery process, and the app development process at large because it tells you whether the project is worth the hassle. Is it worth the resources, time, and money? 

Here too, different teams use different tools and approaches. For instance, some app development team prefer A/B testing while other prefer interviews. Others also opt for surveys to see how users receive the product.  

          5. Refinement 

Finally, you’re ready to begin actual app development. You have a great prototype that you’ve tested repeatedly and determined to be a great fit for your customers. You’ve also asked the customers through surveys and A/B tests about the solutions and the feedback are very positive. 

Refinement is all about smoothing the edges to have the best product possible. For instance, if a member of the development team has fresh ideas that can improve the solution, you can find ways to incorporate the recommendations. Once you’re ready, the next step in the app development journey is product delivery. 


Product discovery is a critical phase in the mobile app development process. It’s the fact-finding phase without which you may never know whether the product under development will meet its purpose. Fortunately, you can accomplish it without prolonging the app development timeline. For further advice, contact the professionals at Nix Solutions.