How to reduce changes in website project scope?

Some tips on avoiding the consequences of customers not knowing what they want.

The lack of customer clarity

Why do the customers change the scope of the project halfway through so often? Usually, it’s because it’s difficult for them to describe what they have in mind. Sometimes their vision or the reason why they want to build their presence online are blurred. Almost every time I asked a potential customer why do they want a website I heard that „everyone needs to be online”. This lack of clear goal and often low level of technical savviness make it extremely difficult to communicate successfully.

Causes Iterations

And this inability to describe upfront what they want or need is the main reason for iterations. Often it’s only after the presentation of a graphic design or even a finished website when customers can clarify their requirements. This usually means lots of changes. Then if you add all the complexity of responsive websites, search engine optimization and social integrations it often requires up to five iterations before the website got accepted. It dramatically lowers the profit on the project as most websites are developed on a fixed fee. Some web developers even abandon a project when they are presented with a too long list of bugs, as they know it means hours of poorly paid work to get such website done.

Reducing changes in website project scope

There are several techniques that can help you decrease the chance of project scope change. The rule of thumb here is that every hour spent on specifying the requirements before the writing the first line of code saves you ten hours afterward.

MockUps / Wireframes

Create a pure and simple sketch of the project to help a customer visualize the location (not graphics) of elements of the website and the structure of navigation. This way you can make sure that both you and your customer think about more or less same website before you dive deep into coding. I’ve been using UXpin for that, but you can easily find dozens of other tools out there.

Questions

That’s where your experience in both web development and psychology comes in handy. First, when customers were describing their vision I often asked: „why this is important for you?”. You wouldn’t believe how many myths about what is good for SEO, security or website traffic are there. Asking this question gives you a chance to educate your customer on the current state-of-art and explain that displaying white text on white background is not a recommended way of tracking more traffic from Google. Secondly, I used to ask a list of regular questions that included:

  • Who is your typical visitor?
  • What is the goal, that visitor shall achieve while on the website?
  • Do you plan to actively add content to the website?
  • Which social media do you want to integrate with?
  • What type of social integration do you have in mind? Is it liking/sharing or something else?
  • Will you be adding/changing content to the website yourself?
  • What kind of devices will you visitor use to access the website?
  • What interactions will be possible on the website (apart from reading the content)?
  • Will there be any contact information provided? In what way?
  • Do you need to connect the website to any other software/service?

Requirements documentation

My third advice to you is: write down the requirements and attach it to the agreement. Scrum and other agile methodologies are a wonderful way of developing new code, but they are difficult to understand in terms of billing for the customer. So I suggest a good old written document with as many details as possible. If you want to get my requirements documentation template feel free to sign up to Perfect Dashboard and download it.

Projects with no risk of a scope change

Yes! There are projects where there is no risk of change of scope during the project. I’m talking about website management here. In website maintenance contract you just specify the level of SLA and some details about backups and updates frequency and that’s it. There is no approval process, there is even no need to contact your customers, as you are dealing with code, not humans.

If you want to learn how to sell website management to avoid conflict around the change of scope sign up to Perfect Dashboard and get guides and document templates for free.