How your agency can keep clients on track during website builds

Author: Joe Stanton | Date Posted: Mar 21, 2019

Why do some client projects exceed the initial requirements? Do you find yourself stressed out and asking yourself the following questions?

  • Why does the client think this should be included?
  • What did I get myself into?
  • Why is this client scope creeping us?

We have all experienced it. It’s stressful, frustrating and can cause friction between you and your client and it is not a good way to start a relationship with a new client.

First let’s look at why this happens. The primary reasons usually are:

1. Poor Communication with the client.
Sometimes clients don’t know what they want and it’s our job as developers, designers and project managers to help the client through the early discovery phase of the project.

Are you asking the right questions? Are you setting clear expectations with the client based on their budget? Are you communicating the limitations to them?

2. Project Organization.
Not having the entire process outlined and extremely organized can lead to scope creeping. The process doesn’t always need to be formal, but it needs to be understood and followed.

3. Undefined contracts.
Spending a good amount of time on the contract and having the client involved in this process is huge. This is where most agencies fall short. We’ve certainly had to learn this lesson the hard way. You want the client to feel involved and that they helped create the scope of work.

So how do we fix it?

Expectations

Set your expectations from the start with the client.  Under promise, over deliver. Set expectations on exactly what the client is going to get, when they are going to receive it, etc. These expectations need to be discussed very early in the project and also need to be documented in your contract.

Clear phases

Breaking your project into phases and setting agreed timelines with the client is crucial. The details of these phases are very in-depth, we’ll leave that for another blog post but some of these phases may included.

  • Discovery Phase to determine the scope of work
  • A solid scope that outlines all the phases, payments, timelines, etc. This signed legal document is your life line.
  • Design Discovery Phase
  • Design Mockups
  • Design Approval
  • Development
  • QA
  • Client Revisions
  • Set an allowance

It’s always a good idea to leave a little room in your quotes for some changes. No one wants to push back if your client wants to make a couple minor edits. If you quote it right, this shouldn’t effect you that much. It’s the large changes that break us, not the minor ones but with that being said, be careful because a collection of a bunch of minor changes can add up.

Get design sign off

What has helped us is getting the client to sign off on design. We’ve noticed when asking the client for an official sign off of design is crucial. This official signed document goes much further than “this looks good right? we’re going to move this into the development phase”.

Stress to the client that the time to speak up is now and changes to a PSD are quick and we want you to be 100% happy with the design because once it goes to development, any changes at that point will be billed separately. Your agency is much better off having this sometimes difficult conversation early in the web design phase, compared to after developers have built the site.

Completion dates

Another common downfall that we’ve seen is setting one competition date. Your completions dates should be based on the phases you outlined. You can’t control the client, but you can keep your promises and hit the deadlines your team agreed upon.

If you allocate 2 weeks for the design approval phase but the client takes 4 weeks to approve it, the client needs to know that now the entire project has now been pushed back 2 weeks. This happens quite often and it’s really not a big deal because we don’t want to rush the client during the design phase.

It’s very important to give them a quality product that they are excited about but when the site launches 2 weeks later than anticipated, you want the client to know why there was a delay and that your agency met all the deadlines that was promised the client.

Evaluate every project and find ways to Improve

A great idea is to evaluate every project after launch. What did your team do well? What could you have done better? There is always room for improvement. Hopefully some of these tactics will help keep your agency keep website builds on track and most importantly keep the client happy during the entire process.

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