Creating Scope of Work Documents for Your Website Design Clients the Right Way

SoW documents for website designs can be a tough nut to crack. Understanding the project requirements, setting timelines, and getting them right is vital for the project’s success. Most website designers could make better SoW document, and they know it! 

A poorly written SoW document can cause project delays, misunderstandings, confusion, and the worst of all- scope creep! What is scope creep? Scope creep refers to the unlimited changes and increasing scope of work that a client can bring despite getting everything just right. 

A well-defined scope of work is critical for a design project; it will:

  1. Help you understand the project better.
  2. Ensure you and your client are on the same page
  3. Act as a shield for you from scope creep

This blog will help you understand how to make better SoW documents, point out to you some of the most common mistakes that designers make when creating an SoW document, and tell you what leads to a poor SoW. 

Common mistakes designers make when defining the scope of work

There are a few mistakes that seem hard to miss, but most designers tend to make them. Here are a few of these mistakes that you can skip and learn from. 

1. Poorly defined initial requirements

This is one of the most common mistakes designers make when defining a client’s scope of work. When you poorly define the client’s requirements in your SoW, you leave room for anonymity, leading to confusions, scope creep, and unnecessary project delays. 

Keep this rule in mind- Be as specific as possible; your client will appreciate it, which will help you in the future if any conflicting requirements are brought up, which weren’t previously discussed.  

2. Set unrealistic project timelines

Most website designers tend to over-promise and set unrealistic project timelines, which can become tough to meet. The right approach here should be not to plan too tight and leave some room if things go south or any part of the project takes longer than expected.

Deadlines should be realistic, attainable, and purposeful. You also need to effectively communicate those deadlines to your clients and explain to them why the project takes as long as it does. Explain why timelines too slim can cause chaos and compromise the project. 

3. Unclear outline of the functionalities and website workflow

A vague outline of the functionalities and workflow in your SoW leads to an unclear idea of what your final product looks like. 

Again, be as specific as possible. Understand the outline of the website design, the functionalities and workflow. The better you are acquainted with them, the faster will be the pace of the project. This way, you do not lose time and resources, trying to get in touch with the clients to understand the same things over and over again.

What leads to a poorly developed scope of work document?

Many things factor in when you create an SoW document, and getting them right, helps you effectively execute a project. Here are a few things that lead to a poorly developed SoW. 

1. Lack of proper communication

Communication can make or mar a project. If your client can rightly communicate their requirements, you will write a better scope of work. Similarly, if you can share your doubts and ideas, that can help you understand the project better. 

Communicate better, and get all the information you need to draft a thorough scope of work. 

2. Confused clients

This happens to the best of us. A client, when not sure about their requirements often leads to a poorly developed SoW. The confusion can be at any point, be it getting their colour preferences right to finalising images they want on their website. As a service provider, you can help them narrow their choices to something they like for a successful and hassle-free project. 

3. Making assumptions and not asking enough questions

We often tend to assume things based on our past experiences, but each client has different requirements and understanding them can only make your collaboration effective. The way to go about this would be asking questions, however little or easy they seem. They are your key to understanding the project. It also helps you gain the required clarity to keep the project on the right tackle. 

4. Unclear initial scope

There are two types of client that you can come across as a website designer:

  1. Those who are clear about what they want, right from the colour scheme to the font size. 
  2. Those who are confused about what they should know and consider before starting a project. 

You can help them out by educating them, informing them of their available choices and the necessary resources. This will not only help them visualise their website design, but it will also help you get a clear scope before starting the project. Trust me; you do not want to start over once you are halfway into the project because the client was not aware of their option or decided to take a different approach.

5. Lack of detailed scope

Most designers have a vague SoW lacking the necessary details, leading to confusion and misunderstandings during the project. I cannot emphasise enough on this point. Get into as many details as possible, so you have a thorough idea of what kind of design your client is looking for. This will also ensure you and your client are on the same page about the project.

6. Lack or delay in stakeholder involvement

In some situations, a person from the client company who communicates and coordinates with you about the project does not involve the stakeholders in the project’s key decision-making. After completing the project, when the product is ready, the stakeholders request something entirely different from what you worked on. 

This is a big setback for any project. It is important to regularly get the stakeholder’s approval for the project’s success. E.g., Run your timelines by them, ask for their vision for the designs, etc. This can save you endless resources and fastrack the project.

How to avoid creating a poorly developed SoW?

1. Clearly define the project

Ask these few questions to start off and then work your way to more specification:

  • What type of website are you building?

A landing page, an e-commerce website, a blog, what is your client looking for? This should be the first thing that you ask your client about the project. This question seems somewhat necessary, but it is a critical one. The type of website you will be designing will help you strategise, set deadlines, evaluate your resources, and decide the project time. 

  • Understanding the website’s target audience

What does a typical user of the website look like? What are their preferences? Why do they come onto the website? Understanding the target audience will help you put yourself in their shoe and design a website that is not only good to look at but also extremely functional.

  • What goals need to be achieved through the website?

With different goals come different strategies. What purpose does your client aim to achieve through this website? Do they want to get customers to buy their products, get people to read the blogs, or contact them for a consultation? By understanding this, you can use design tricks up your sleeve to help achieve those goals.

  • Discuss samples

This works best when your client is indecisive. By discussing some designs and colour schemes, you can understand what your client wants and does not want, so you can steer clear of their negatives and focus on what they approved. This way, you can save the time and resources that would otherwise create multiple sample designs.

2. Decide on samples and inspiration

Ask your client to look at various kinds of websites they like and understand the style they are looking for. Ask them which colours they like and which ones they don’t. Talk to them about the emotions of their brand and how they want to project themselves. This way, you can convey their vision through your designs. And ultimately help you develop a better SoW.

3. Keep in mind the negative scope

There are times when your project demands some resources or additions that were not initially discussed when you started. Let your client know about it before starting the project and factor them in your timelines as variables. This will make you and your client better prepared for the project and help you stay on schedule. It is an excellent practice to factor in negative scope in an SoW document.

4. Clearly define the technical requirements

You need to know what you are building, technically.

Ask your client technical details of the project, e.g., If the development platform matters? Would the website be a public-facing or a members-only platform? This helps dictate the website design flow, and getting them onto the SoW will be helpful.

Take away

  1. Be curious and interested to get a detailed SoW.
  2. Be careful with project timelines.
  3. Get your client to sign off on the SoW.
  4. Communicate well to avoid confusion.

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Originally Published September 17th, 2021, Updated September 27th, 2021
KK patel

KK patel is an experienced content marketer with a love for SaaS tech products. W3Dart being his brainchild, KK has always been a proactive problem solver. His tech prowess, combined with his leadership skills, led to the creation of this unique and powerful feedback tool. He KK patel loves exploring different forms of inbound marketing and taking on challenges.