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Why a Good Scope of Work Is Vital to Your Web Development Project

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Before the contracts are signed or the design work commences, web development is a process that begins with one thing: a vision. When a potential client reaches out to you about a new project, they have a unique vision that they’re bringing to the table, and they’re counting on you to make it a reality. 

However, the success of attaining this vision relies on a few initial steps. These critical measures lay the foundation for the project, and can determine whether or not you achieve positive results — and ultimately, client satisfaction — further down the road.

One of the primary essential steps in the journey from vision to final product is creating a thorough scope of work. A scope of work is a statement that clearly defines the deliverables, establishes a timeframe, and lays out the cost of a project. It should also spell out the roles of both the client and developer so there is no confusion later in the process. You can even use the initial scope of work to detail what, if any, additional costs might be if the project begins to creep out of scope.

An effective scope of work sets realistic expectations that the client is comfortable with and that you, the developer, can reasonably satisfy. Conversely, a poor scope of work can result in an unhappy client who feels that their needs are not met.

So, now that we have established the significance of an accurate scope of work, the question is: How do you go about creating one?

Creating Your Foundation & Scope of Work

The key to crafting a quality, precise scope that outlines all the work that needs to be done and collaborated upon is communication. Be sure that you are asking the client enough questions to fully understand their vision for the project. Don’t make assumptions — if there is anything you are uncertain about, get clarification. 

Some key questions you should be asking your client are:

  • What is the goal of your website?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Is your website going to be eCommerce?
  • What is your budget?
  • When would you like the website to be completed?
  • What functionalities would you like on your website?
  • Will you be writing the content for the site?
  • Will you be providing photos for the site?
  • What are some other websites that you like? 
  • What are some other websites that you don’t like?

Of course, there are many other questions and follow-up queries you can be asking as you move through the development phase, but the list above should give you a good starting point.

Get It In Writing

Most importantly, you should always put the scope of work in writing and get the client to sign off on it. Make sure that any conversations about changes to the scope of work are documented. If you have a phone call or video chat with the client, ask if you can record it and follow it up with an email detailing what was discussed and agreed upon. This will eliminate any confusion or disputes in the future.

Ensuring you get everything in writing allows you to create a clear foundation so your clients know what to expect and when to expect it. Not only that, but it will allow the web design experience to go smoothly, since all projects and tasks are clearly laid out in the scope of work.

Things to Keep in Mind

A strong foundation is paramount to a structure’s success, and this is no different in web development. Doing a little extra work up front will help you save time, money and frustration in the long run, as well as ensure that you have a happy and satisfied client.

When you and your client are on the same page, you’ll experience success. With a lack of communication and assumptions in the development phase, you’ll only be left with an unhappy client. Take the first step to making sure they remain happy from design to launch by drafting a scope of work. 

Originally written by Rebecca Young, published May 10, 2016.
Updated by Chris Shirlow, re-published May 14, 2020.

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