7 steps to eliminating scope creep on your next project

How do we deal with constant emails from clients requesting changes to the project? This is a question that comes up often in the web design community. People love being a part of the design process. We get that, it’s exciting! But at what point do you let the client know they need to trust your expertise? And how?

After a decade of client work, we’ve finely tuned our process so clients still feel involved without slowing down the project.

1. Learn to vet and say no to clients

It seems strange, but managing scope creep should begin prior to starting new project. Before you take on a new client make sure they’re a good fit.  Projects that don’t mesh well with your skill set and seem demanding from the get-go are doomed from the start. Learn to sniff these out ahead of time and save yourself the headache.

2. Be strategic when showing completed work

It’s important to update the client often throughout the design and development process. It’s okay to just send a quick email explaining what’s done so far without showing them any work. When it comes time to share the designs, make sure there’s enough there for the client to really visualize the project. Be prepared with specific questions, never ask open troublesome open-ended questions like “What do you think?”.

3. Preface the feedback process

Before we send over a deliverable, make sure the client knows what type of feedback you’re looking for. For example, we often tell clients that we won’t make design decisions based on taste alone. Taste is subjective. Going back and forth on a design with regards to taste might help them feel better, but ultimately won’t help your client accomplish their goals. We also like to tell the client they don’t have to change anything. It’s totally okay to not have any feedback and trust the many important decisions we made on the design.

4. Have a system for requests

Email is the worst way to get client feedback, but it the de-facto default form of communication. Having a basic system will eliminate a lot of headaches.

Of course, we use SureFeedback! Not only does this help the client visualize all the changes they’ve requested but also helps clarify what exactly they want done.

5. Ask why

When a client suggests a change that you might not necessarily agree with – ask them why (politely, of course!) Often times, it’s not actually about the specific suggestion, but more about the problem they are trying to solve. So what problem are they trying to solve with the change? We’ve noticed what they’re trying to accomplish and what they want to change don’t always line up. Ultimately a different course of action might better reach their goal, and it’s our job to solve the problem in the best manner.

6. Be upfront about how changes will affect the invoice

When we invoice our clients we line-item everything. Every. Single. Thing. Anything that’s requested during the project that doesn’t fall under a line-item needs to have project scope and budget brought back into the conversation. Budget and scope should be a part of every conversation.

7. Remind the client there’s always version 1.1 or version 2

It’s easy to get carried away with features and add-ons. Clients geek out about the endless possibilities just as much as we do. Often, we need to remind the client of the original deadlines for the project. We use “done is better than perfect” and “let’s save that for phase two” a lot when this happens.  Many times, we’ll notice after launch that important feature they requested is no longer needed by looking at user data. It also helps to create a shared list of the requested additions and changes, so they don’t feel as though you’re brushing off their ideas.

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