Web development is a process that starts as soon as a potential client reaches out to you about a new project – even before the contract is signed and the design work begins. These initial steps lay the foundation for the project and can set you up for either success or disaster further down the road.

One of the most important first steps you can take in the web development process 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 –for example, who will be writing the content– so there is no confusion later in the process. You can use the initial scope of work to detail what any additional costs may be if the project begins to creep out of scope.

A good scope of work sets realistic expectations that the client is comfortable with and that you, the developer, can satisfy. Conversely, a poor scope of work can result in an unhappy client who feels that his or her needs are not met.


So now that we have established the importance of an accurate scope of work, how do you go about creating one?

Creating Your Foundation & Scope of Work

The key to crafting a good 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 unclear about, ask! 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? Don’t like?


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

Negative Scope

Another thing to take into consideration is negative scope. Negative scope is a list of items that are NOT part of the project. When you’re contracted for web design, that’s what you’ll be provided. That doesn’t include hosting costs, SEO services, or social media marketing.

By defining the negative scope, you avoid the client making assumptions about which services are included in the project cost.

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 with the client, follow it up with an email detailing what was discussed and agreed upon. This will eliminate any he-said-she-said confusion in the future.

By making sure you get everything in writing, you’re creating a clear foundation so your clients know what to expect and when to expect it. Your web design experience will go smoothly when all projects and tasks are clearly laid out in the scope.


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 and money 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’re left with an unhappy client. Make sure they remain happy from design to launch.