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From Bravery Factor to Comfort Zone: Changing Our Discovery Process for On-Point Design Reveals

One small change to our discovery process, one big leap for client design reveals


You’ll hear it at least once during the course of any substantial digital project, especially during a website redesign. You and your team pile into a conference room with client stakeholders, plug in to the big display screen, fire up the presentation, and that’s when it happens. 


The tricky part is how to ensure that you’re getting a “Whoa, this is fantastic!” instead of a “Whoa, what have you done?” reaction. 

We wanted to get ahead of this reaction and get to know our clients better. We went looking for a way to get more positive reactions by better setting client expectations and better setting our own expectations around what would really impress the client. We needed an objective way to determine how far a client was willing to push with progressive design, functionality, and content, and we needed to figure it out early on in the discovery and strategy process. 

We landed on the term “Bravery Factor,” asking clients to rate their vision for their new website on a scale from 1–10, and began to roll it out as part of our discovery surveys. We believed that the better we could determine, in advance, what a client’s threshold was for progressive or non-traditional implementations, the more comfortable we’d feel delivering a solution that fit.


Over the course of the next 10 to 12 projects, we began to notice a pattern. Most client responses would land somewhere in the 8 to 9.5 range on the scale, which initially had us thinking, “Man, our clients are really swinging for the fences!” Later on, when getting into the strategy phase of our process, we would provide the client with a few examples of what their Bravery Factor response would look like brought to life. Consistently, we’d end up having to scale those original numbers back to a more realistic place—usually to around a 5 or 6.

As this became more and more of a trend, we sat down to analyze what was going on. The Bravery Factor score wasn’t as much use to us as we’d thought, because no one was answering that discovery survey question realistically. The notion seemed to be valuable, but the execution was clearly off.

As the internal team talked about how nearly all Bravery Factor numbers ended up having to be adjusted, we realized the issue was with the word “brave.” Of course! Our clients were answering it with an artificially high number—their way of puffing out their chest and proclaiming “I’m not scared” when faced with a binary choice between brave and not so brave. We needed a way to get the to the same information (how progressive the client will be when it comes to their site design) without making one side of the scale seem undesirable.

Enter: The Comfort Zone

We made some small, yet impactful changes to this part of our client discovery process, beginning with the terminology we were using with clients. Bravery Factor became “Comfort Zone,” our 1-10 scale came down to 1-5, and the labels assigned to the numbers on the scale changed as well. 


By making these slight changes, we were able to get a much more realistic notion of how far clients were willing to push themselves, without having to have those awkward conversations to bring them back down to Earth. 

The result? Better, more accurate information gathered more quickly, and a clearer understanding of the client’s willingness to push for a better digital product. 

Matt McDonald
Digital Strategist & Peer Pressure Professional
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