Scope Creep, Timelines, and Budgets

I wanted to do a post about Scope Creep a month ago, because it just sounded so appropriate for Halloween. 😉 However it is DUE to scope creep that I had no time a month ago, and now I am in the pre-holiday lull, so away!

What is Scope Creep?
When a new client comes to me for a quote, I ask a LOT of questions. I make every attempt to make sure I know every last little thing that they are going to want in their web site; then I write up a quote for doing all of those things.

However, as the site progresses, inevitably the client will realize they need another page (or 10), an eNewsletter sign-up, a Flash slideshow, etc. etc. etc. This is scope creep – the original scope of the project is slowing growing bigger and bigger.

And I have no problem with that at all, but sometimes the client is surprised when I explain that those extra things are going to increase the ultimate cost. The point to remember is that I quoted for the work I thought I was going to do – not for any additional work that I might not know about.

I am actually pretty generous with my time – if it is a little thing, and there has not been any other “creep” going on, sometimes I will throw it in without additional charge. But I have found that this can be a dangerously slippery slope, and one that I quickly have to nip in the bud.

Some “creeps” are bigger than others:

  1. Adding pages – when you add pages, usually this not only means that I need to build, layout, and format another page; I will probably also need to add this page to your navigation, which may require some redesign. You can guesstimate about an additional hour charge for adding each page. If major changes to the design will be needed to accommodate the new navigation, it can be more.

  2. Adding Flash – Creating elements in Flash can be very time-intensive – you can estimate about an hour to add a simple Flash slideshow, or much more to create more interactive elements.

  3. Adding a customized blog or forum – Again, pretty time-intensive for me to customize a blog or forum to match your site. The cost will vary depending on the features needed, but you can estimate a minimum of 4–5 hours.

Pseudo Creeps
There are other things that can add to the cost of your site. They are not really additions, but extra work that I am asked to do that means more time I need to bill for.

  1. Endlessly revising content – when you submit your content to me to be added to the site, it should be in its final form. I have no problem with making edits here and there. I will not nitpick. 😉 However, if you are sending me new content for pages repeatedly, I will have to add a charge – every time you change your content, I need to reformat all of it. It is time-consuming work, and the original quote was for me to format it one time.

  2. Changing the design after design approval – I create designs in Photoshop and Illustrator. As long as they are in the design phase, it is relatively easy to make changes, move things around, change colors, etc. Once we get to a design that you want to move forward with, that design is considered final. I then de-construct it and rebuild it in html and css to be viewed on the web. This is a process that takes several hours to do. Then I start to create your individual pages. If at some point after design approval, you decide to change the design, depending on the change this whole process may have to be started over. There will be additional fees for the time to change the design and then rebuild the html and css, and to recreate your pages.

  3. Doing a 360 on the design – Occasionally a client comes to me with a set idea for the design, and I create designs with that in mind. We will go back and forth tweaking a design to get it JUST right. The hours I spend doing this were built into the original quote. However, if at some point in the process, you decide you want to scrap the whole idea and start over from scratch with a different concept, you may incur additional design fees, as we will be starting the entire process from scratch. Whether or not I will request additional fees will depend on how much time has already been invested in the original design.

How Can You Stay in Budget?
Planning, planning, planning, and more planning. Think long and hard about what you want to include in your web site, then sleep on it, and think about it some more. Look at your competitors’ web sites, ask friends what they would look for on a site like yours, and start writing up some content. As you write, you may realize that what you thought would be one page should probably be split up into several, or that some of your pages are so brief they would be better combined into one page. Have a trusted friend with proofreading/editing skills read over your content and make suggestions to improve it. Look over other web sites you love and make a list of things you HAVE to have and things you just would like to have. All of this preparation will give you a much clearer idea about what you really need, and will ensure that you get the most accurate quote possible.

How Can you Stay in Your Timeline?
Scope creep costs you not only money, but time. Your original deadline may NOT be met if:

  1. You request additional features that were not in the original scope of the project
  2. You do not provide your content in a timely manner, or you do not send it in final form
  3. You request major changes to the design after design approval or late in the design process
  4. You do not respond to questions, requests, or other inquiries in a timely manner.

So plan ahead, know what you want, and let’s make a web site together!