Timelines. We all need them, but even the best of us don’t get them right every time. How do we create realistic timelines that don’t sound outrageous? Well, it all depends on who is looking at them. Experienced designers can usually look at a project and have a pretty good idea on how long a project might take to design with barely any thought and be right. For a non-designer to make that same estimate is nearly impossible, I’ve trained sales people on how to sell Industrial Design, and it took a lot of training to get someone unfamiliar with this process to be able to accurately quote a timeframe for a project.
There is no magic formula that lets anyone estimate a project as well as a seasoned designer, I’ve looked. And almost any schedule is possible, if you have the funds to pay for it. There are a few things that you should always make sure are known before discussing a timeline. If a designer gives you a timeline and is missing one of these elements, then their estimate will probably be off.
- Fully Defined Scope of Work. We’ve gone over this previously here, but it really is very important that before you get a timeline from a designer, or before you begin to create your own, you know exactly everything that is going to go into and come out of the project.
- Response Time from You, the Client. Any good designer can estimate how long they will take to respond, but did they specify how quickly they expect a response from you? When they wrote the timeline, they might have assumed you would be responding within two days, but maybe you have such a busy schedule that it will take at least a week or more before you can review a design that was sent to you. This expectation is very important, and can derail a timeline quickly.
- Project Hours. This is how long the designer says they are going to take to make the project happen. This gives you the number of hours that will be worked, but not over what duration. This number is also something that unless you have design experience that matches the designer you are hiring, is not a point that is very arguable.
If you and your designer have these three items, then a viable timeline can be created by the designer. It’s always good to give them your gut feeling on this, we prefer our clients give us an idea of what they think it should take. Remember, everything is negotiable as long as you only choose two of the iron triangle to be fixed. Time, Quality, and Cost make up the iron triangle. You can have a fast and high-quality project, but the cost will not be controllable. So, choose wisely which two you care about the most.
Our experience with delays is that a lot of time is lost in getting responses from clients on a revision. While a project may have started out with a one week response time for each revision, when that gets pushed to one and a half weeks, and there are a total of 10 revision points through different phases of a project, that’s an extra 5 weeks on a project that should have only taken say 15 weeks to complete, which makes for a 30% increase in your timeline. No one likes that kind of increase.