User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Two pillars of user experience legwork -- research and discovery*. But what's the difference between them, really?

In practice, I've heard the terms used nearly interchangeably, and sometimes it feels like "discovery" is invoked as just a fancy way of saying research. One answer that a quick Google search uncovered: in research we seek something specific, whereas discovery is open-ended in what we're trying to find. True?

And of course, in a dictionary sense, there's a clear difference between to research and to discover. When it comes to UX, though, do we mean something particular or different as it relates to our work, our methods, our process?

--

*Not to be confused with discovery as it relates to affordance.

share|improve this question

Simply said, there is a causal relation between these two terms.

Research is the action, while discovery is the result. You discover something because you research it.

Research is the "process" and "discovery" is the product.

To name a few more differences, research can be extremely complex and diversified.

Research supports all kinds of strategies and proactive thinking, while discovery is simple, irrespective of its subject. You simply find something. Sure, afterwards you can embellish it and present it in a structured manner, but that's another process.

Discovery is also a subjective reality, whereas research is objective. As long as you engage in the process, you know that you are conducting a research. Discovery, on the other hand, is a matter of evaluating your outcome: you can either consider that you've made a discovery, or not. It is all about how you see the result of your research.

share|improve this answer

There is not one common definition: some say that research is a step in the discovery process; others seem to use research and discovery interchangeably; someone even described them as one skillset; or like the comment by @benny-skogberg understand discovery as an initial idea before doing research.

All are valid in their own sake; the one that makes sense to me is that discovery follows research, in the sense that good research of what is out there and analysis of results can lead the researchers to discover new aspects of a domain. I find that the idea that good research facilitates discovery works.

share|improve this answer

Relating to the UX process this is quite simple.

Discovery is the period spent finding out the extent of the job at hand. This means studying the brief, running internal workshops with the client, holding stakeholder interviews, etc. Stuff that really adds to the definition of the the task.

Research is trying to find out what product the users what at the end of the process - Now you know what the client wants, you need to find out how that sits with the users and how to keep them happy while solving the business problem.

Discovery usually only happens at the beginning of a project where research continues throughout design and development, right up to the delivery.

share|improve this answer

protected by Community Jun 28 at 15:41

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.