When talking with someone who is interested in having me as their designer, some of the first things that I do is ask a million questions about the intent and the business that the design is to be representing. Quite often, the person (or people) that I’m talking with don’t quite have a vision of everything that they need and/or want and that’s when the questions become fairly deeply digging to determine not only the “what” but everything that has to do with the design.
About 2 years ago, I went through this with the company that I am still working for when they decided to switch the software that their IT Servicedesk reps used on a daily basis to log their service requests. Though the company had a fairly good handle on what the business needed, they didn’t quite have everything nailed down and that was where I was brought in to assist with the layout of the screens. They’re not really “pretty” as the software that they chose isn’t really capable of anything remotely close to pretty, but the entire workflow prioritization was discovered as were many other elements that were previously not possible with the old software that now, 2 years later, are still in place and used hundreds of time on a daily basis for the location of quick information while also providing the functionality for call logging and tracking.
This same process is discussed in the link below – its a pretty well written article on the process that they went through with their client. If you’re interested in reading just what goes into the discovery process of design, this would be a great article to read.