What is product discovery and why is it important?

By UserTesting | January 4, 2024
A team of software developers conversing around a table while working on laptops.

Product discovery marks the beginning of a journey. It's a team's first vital step in ensuring product-market fit on their next idea or product iteration. Without a product discovery phase, teams lose clarity on their direction. It's the compass that guides product and design teams to success.

Let's take a look at product discovery, discuss its importance, and share some best practices to ensure your team can successfully execute this phase of product development. 

What is product discovery?

Product discovery is an integral phase of design and development. During product discovery, the design or product team works to identify and define the right product or feature to build. This phase seeks to validate whether or not the approach is based on user needs, market conditions, and organizational goals. The main goal of product discovery is to develop a valuable, viable, and workable product. 

Common steps in product discovery

There are a few common steps that most teams take in their product discovery process. 

User research

Researchers conduct user interviewssurveys, and usability testing to better understand users' pain points. Product teams must understand the user's perspective to build a product that addresses user needs.

Market analysis

Product teams analyze the competitive landscape and market trends to identify opportunities and gaps in the market. Competitive research helps you position your product effectively and make informed decisions.

Defining the problem

The aforementioned research leads to the creation of a clear and specific problem statement. This statement outlines the details of the user challenge the team will try to solve. 


Design teams often run workshops and design exercises to develop solution concepts. These initial concepts may include inspirational items such as moodboards and examples of existing user experiences, or rough sketches and wireframes. 


The team then collaborates to eliminate untenable concepts and prioritize potential solutions they think could work. To weed out the bad ideas, design teams will often present their concepts and vote based on criteria such as user value, business impact, and technical feasibility.

Prototyping and testing

After prioritization, design teams create low-fidelity prototypes or mockups of the selected solutions. They identify test participants that fit their target audience and then run usability tests, interviews or surveys to test the prototypes and gather feedback.

Iteration and validation

The team makes incremental refinements until the product is validated via positive feedback and high reports of satisfaction from test participants. The design team can then hand the prototype off to development with confidence that the experience will connect with users.  

Why is product discovery important?

Product discovery plays a crucial role in the success of a product or project for several reasons. 

User-centric approach

Product discovery focuses on understanding and addressing user needs. Conducting thorough UX research and involving users in the process ensures that the team designs the product with the end users in mind. This increases the chances of creating a product that resonates with its target audience.

Market relevance

Through market analysis and competitive research, product teams stay informed about market trends and changing customer preferences. This means that the product remains relevant in a dynamic business environment.

Risk reduction

By validating assumptions and ideas early in the product development process, product discovery helps identify and lessen potential risks. It reduces the chances of wasting time and resources on building a product that may fail.

Efficient resource allocation

Product discovery lets teams prioritize features and solutions by potential impact and feasibility. This helps the team to allocate resources effectively and develop the most valuable features first. Sometimes, the product discovery phase reveals that a product is unnecessary or unfeasible — saving organizations time and money. 

Alignment with organizational goals

Product discovery helps align the product's direction with the organization's strategic goals. These include revenue growth, customer acquisition, or competitive advantage.

Innovation and creativity

Product discovery encourages teams to solve user problems by exploring innovative solutions. This can lead them to develop creative, unique, and competitive products.

Continuous improvement

Product discovery is an iterative process that continues throughout the product's lifecycle. It allows teams to adapt to changing circumstances, gather new insights, and make improvements as needed. This allows the product to remain valuable and competitive.

User satisfaction

By validating the product with real users, product discovery empowers teams to deliver a product that satisfies customers. Focusing on user needs leads to higher user retention and loyalty.

Product-market fit

By forcing design teams to do their due diligence and validate ideas, the product discovery phase can reduce rework and ensure that development efforts are allocated to the right features and solutions.

Data-informed decision-making

Product discovery encourages data-informed decision-making. The team relies on user feedback, market data, and metrics to make informed choices about feature development and product improvement.

Who is responsible for product discovery?

Product discovery can look different depending on the organization. Sometimes, the entire process is owned by the design team. But oftentimes, at larger organizations, the process incorporates the expertise of many different departments. 

Product or project managers

Product or project managers are often responsible for overseeing product discovery. They define the product vision, prioritize features, and make strategic decisions. They also communicate the product's goals and user needs to the development team.

UX researchers

UX researchers conduct user interviews, surveys, and usability testing. By doing so, they gather insights into user needs, behaviors, and pain points. These findings inform the product's direction. They may be involved throughout the product development lifecycle to help measure the success of product changes and identify areas for improvement.

Product designers

Designers create prototypes, mockups, and user interfaces, confirming the product's design aligns with user needs and usability.


Development teams work with product managers and designers to understand the technical feasibility of proposed solutions. They provide input on what the team can build within the available resources and timeframes.


Product discovery may also involve various other stakeholders within the organization. Executivesmarketing teams, and customer support may also provide input.

How can UserTesting help teams improve their product discovery process?

Product discovery is an ongoing and iterative process that continues throughout the product development lifecycle. It fosters innovation and encourages continuous improvement. Through product discovery, the team can be confident that the product aligns with user needs, market demand, and organizational objectives. 

UserTesting can significantly enhance the product discovery process by offering invaluable user insights. Through our platform, teams can recruit real users to interact with their product or prototype and provide direct feedback and observations. This firsthand UX information can help teams understand user behavior, preferences, pain points, and usability issues. User testing allows teams to understand their target audience better and ensure that the product meets user needs. Our platform gives quantitative and qualitative context that enables teams to make data-informed decisions.

We make the testing process faster, simpler, and more cost-effective, enabling teams to iterate and refine products on the fly. By incorporating user feedback early and consistently, teams can create user-centric products that increase their likelihood of success.

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About the author(s)

With UserTesting’s on-demand platform, you uncover ‘the why’ behind customer interactions. In just a few hours, you can capture the critical human insights you need to confidently deliver what your customers want and expect.