Tomorrow I’m headed to WordCamp San Diego to present a session titled Expectations Management in Contracts & Scoping. The entire presentation is focused on establishing proper scoping and documentation for website design projects. The session is a collaborative one, so I’ll be joined by industry veteran Karim Marucchi (the CEO of Crowd Favorite).
While this presentation is focused on helping WordPress developers, the same lessons apply to those who purchase web design services. After all, the best projects have will clearly defined expectations that help protect both the buyer and the seller of such services.
Why this Matters to You the Buyer of Web Design Services
Whether you are a firm selling website design or a company procuring these services, you want to establish a clear baseline for any project. While I may not have truly seen the value of this when I launched our firm, I now know that it is critical part of any successful project.
After executing hundreds of website design projects over the last six year years one thing became crystal clear – success begins and ends with strong expectations management.
The better the job I do in scoping the project with the client in the sales process, the happier everyone is throughout the project execution and go-live. The client knows what is going to happen and my team knows what needs to happen. This produces cohesiveness and a sense of calm for all parties involved.
A successful website project will start and finish with solid expectations management. Yes I just repeated that, because it is the prime component of quality web design and development.
The core function of establishing clear expectations is executing a strong process for project scoping. If the deliverables are clearly defined and they align with a formal contract and development plan, the client and developer are in sync and the project is on a path for success.
As a web developer I want to exceed your expectations. I want you to love your new website and I want you to have a positive view of the entire design and build process.
To make sure I exceed your expectations, I will try and progress you through a scoping process that will formulate our project plan and lead to a successful launch. The more we communicate and document requirements within scoping, the more smoothly the project management and execution flows.
Here are my tips for successful project planning and scoping…
Set Expectations Early by Clearly Defining the Website Design Project
We often receive requests for cost and timing proposals without having any requirements or expectations defined by the prospect. Real sample verbiage from inquiries include:
- “I need a new website and require a cost and timing estimate.”
- “Please look at my existing website and provide a proposal for update.”
- “Looking for a price to move our site into WordPress. Have a look at the site and let me know a rough price, then we can talk details.”
These brief descriptions of the website design projects – or really lack there of – are a recipe for disaster.
Custom WordPress websites can range from $3,000 – $500,000. Developers need to know specifics to grasp where your project resides on this large range of budgets. The larger and more complex the build, the higher price for execution.
The more information a prospect provides at the initial inquiry, the more precise I can be with my response. This not only helps me know if we are a potential fit, it allows the prospect to quickly qualify us in or out as a technology parter.
As your WordPress developer, I cannot execute the project to your satisfaction if I don’t have a solid understanding of your expectations. Honestly I cannot even begin to quote it at this point, because I don’t have a good sense of what equates to success for you and your website. I can make assumptions, but that opens us both up to a lot of risk and it exponentially increases the potential for failure.
Assumptions also increase project cost. When a project has a large number of unknowns, developers will add in a cushion to cover the margin of error. For the buyer, this could equate to $1,000 or $10,000 in costs that may or may not be needed.
Shocking right? Yes, but it is reality nonetheless.
Here is a real world example of why strong expectations management is so critical to website design projects:
I once had an technology association ask for “Salesforce integration” as part of their large, multiple page proposal. They could not initially define the nature or extend of the integration needed. I spent multiple days inquiring and giving them specific questions to ascertain the true nature of this requirement.
The WordPress.org plugin repository does have a few Salesforce plugins that are designed to handle basic lead to Salesforce integration, but this is basic integration. I could have assumed this and quoted a few hundred dollars to set up and test this functionality in their new website. My inner voice of sanity told me this is not what they needed and making this assumption would lead to significant issues later on. Due to this, I did not take this route in our RFP response.