Tag: Timeline

01 Mar 2019
5 Basics Everyone Needs to Create a Website

5 Website Basics Everyone Needs

Website basics, if you know these it’ll make your life easier! If you are thinking of creating a website yourself or wondering what basic items designers will use to create a website for you, this is for you. There are 5 main items that every website needs to have in order to be a true marketing asset. Whether you work with a design firm, a freelancer, or you create these aspects yourself, you will want to make sure this checklist is covered before you launch your new website. While this isn’t a comprehensive list (different websites might have additional things they need) this covers the basics everyone needs.

Goals. What is the goal of the website, your company, sales, etc. You don’t have to have a ton of goals (I do, but I’m an overachiever), but you should have at least a couple. Know what you are trying to achieve with the website and how it applies and helps your business and it’s goals. Is it sharing your story? Attracting tons of traffic? Selling lots of widgets? Answering peoples questions? Providing services? Setting the goals will help you get the right website made, even if it’s just you doing it.

Brand and Content. You need a brand, even if it’s just a color, a font, and a logo. Most graphic designers would cringe hearing this, but with my design background I also understand entrepreneurs and the start-up process. Now that you have a brand (or the start of one) you’ll also need your written content!

Product, Service, or Both. It doesn’t matter what combination you have here, you need to know what you are are providing to your visitors. It doesn’t have to be paid, it could be free, but what is your product or service? What does it do, how does it help the visitor? Make sure these things are at least loosely defined before creating a website. If you end up adjusting and editing during the process, don’t worry that happens. Should it happen, just make sure you know the basics of what you are providing to your visitors. Being clear about you are offering, be it products or services. The choice can determine if you need an ecommerce website or not. Knowing this is very important as the complexity can change quite a bit when you add ecommerce to your website.

Target Market. Who’s this site for? Tall people, short people, sick people healthy people? This matters because it will help define the content and also tells you about how the content should be made, the type of content, where you’ll want to get your website listed, etc. A good place to start if you don’t have a target already is to define one. I suggest starting with a niche, which I talked about in Defining Your Niche – Why it Matters

Budget and Timeline. So, even if you are doing this yourself, you need a budget and a timeline. We’ve talked about these before in 3 Must Haves When Creating a Project Timeline and Time, Budgets & Luxury Any project without a timeline is a project destined to never get done, or at least not this year. Budget zero? Well, it’ll be really hard to get a website up, but there are some places you can create a free site. These options will make it super apparent that you are using the free one because you don’t have a domain and their company branding is all over your website. Because of this it can be a good start, but you’ll want to move on quickly. Budget and timeline become even more important when working with professionals. The benefit is they will help you determine what kind of help you can get and in what time-frame.

If you have these five basics planned when you start creating your website you will be setting yourself up for success. I like success and I’m sure you do to, so make sure to spend the time putting some basic info together for each of these. Even if you are just wanting a quote, any designer giving you a good quote will need these items and possibly a few more details specific to your site in order to publish it completely. 

25 Nov 2017

9 Great Points on Scope Creep

Some of you may have heard of the terrible thing we call Scope Creep, and others may not have. As a quick over-view, Scope Creep is what happens when you have a well-defined Scope of Work, a set timeline, things are going great, and little by little extra things are added in to the project. The client asks nicely, the designer willingly does the extra work, and then BAM, the designer is angry with the client, the client doesn’t like the new bill, and what seemed to be a great project has now turned into a burning pile of ash. What happened? Scope Creep. Now, some could argue that Scope Creep benefits the client because they are getting more for their money, and the only loser is really the designer. This would be a poor argument. Here are 3 reasons why Scope Creep is bad for everyone, not just the designer.

  • The Timeline. We’ve talked about how to set a timeline here, but what happens to your timeline when you add more stuff to a scope? The project gets longer. This affects everyone, and not in a good way. Expectations are no longer met for either party, and when expectations are broken, relationships break down. Keeping the relationship between client and designer defined and working smoothly means the project can proceed smoothly.
  • Loss of Focus. Having a Scope of Work in the first place is what defines the project and tells everyone what should be focused on. When you start messing with that, without taking a pause to look at the entire picture, you can easily derail a project and get to a point where it will end up costing everyone more time and money to get back on track.
  • Costs. With good designers, many of us protect ourselves and companies from scope creep with clauses that state work outside of the scope document will be charged extra, and we’re always clear when something is going to cost extra. Some designers are not as up front about this, and will happily keep doing extra work, then send a final bill to the client who now is paying possibly thousands of dollars more than agreed upon. This of course causes problems all over.

In the end, Scope Creep costs both parties time, money, or both in the form of delays or extra billings. The easiest way to deal with changes is to make sure an official change order is created, which requires both parties to discuss what the change is, and possible effects it may have to a design.
There are several ways you can handle possible scope creep situations. Designers each have their own ways of handling it, but for us, it’s about 3 things:

  • Expectations. These are guided start to finish, starting with explaining the process to a client, start to finish. Expectations are the biggest component of starting any relationship, and keeping it. Understanding what is expected of both the client and the designer is very important.
  • Scope of Work. This is required for every project we take on, and discussed here. Not only does it help expectations, it lays out specific deliverables, and sets a timeline. I cannot over emphasize the necessity of having such a document.
  • Clear Communication. Communication is important with anything. When scope creep starts to show up, the only way to effectively stop it and keep things moving smoothly is communication. Sometimes things are not understood at the beginning of a project, and there needs to be a conversation to go over what was decided at the beginning of the project. Without effective communication, no relationship will last.

While these all happen when using a good designer, here are a couple of things you can do to help make sure scope creep doesn’t happen.

  • Know What You Want. It sounds simple, but we’ve spoken with many people who didn’t know exactly what they wanted from their project. Knowing what success looks like to you and what you want and even how you’d like to feel at the end of the project makes it easier for a project roadmap to be made in the form of a scope of work.
  • Ask Questions. And ask them at the very beginning. You should understand the process, how your designer works, fees, expectations, timeline, and deliverables before you sign a proposal or start the project fully. We’ve run into a lot of situations where a client didn’t ask a question early on, for one reason or another, and that one question helped them understand something that changed the entire process.
  • Value Your Time. Every time you want to change the scope, add something, or in some way begin to start Scope Creep, whether you know it or not, costs everyone time, including you.

 Keeping these things in mind, and making sure your designer does too, is a great starting point to getting the most out of your project and your designer.

22 Nov 2017

3 Must Haves When Creating a Project Timeline

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.

11 Nov 2017

The 4 Things Your Scope of Work Should Have

Every project that involves more than one person should have a scope of work, or SOW. Even very small projects, say under $500, benefit from having one. A good scope of work is a tool that will provide the designer, client, and anyone else involved with a clear vision of what is and should be done and how. A SOW can be simple or complex, depending on who writes it and the project. Here are 4 key parts that should be in every SOW, and 4 things to watch out for.
Brief – This is simply a short summery describing what the project is. It should be detailed but concise. A good Brief will give anyone a clear picture of what the project is about.
Deliverables – This is what the designer will hand you when the project is complete. Some examples would be concept sketches, manufacturing documentation, 3D models, or renders. For the job to be complete, everything listed here must be provided.
Requirements – Technical requirements, specifications, product features, manufacturing considerations, costing, and other related details all are included here. Only quantifiable things should be here. “Looking nice” isn’t a requirement you can quantify while “Water proof” is. This is also where specific tasks can be outlined, depending on the project.
Timeline – The timeline is always important to have as it makes it clear what the expectations are exactly. You could say, I’d like this soon, but that means different things to different people, maybe soon is a day, maybe it’s 6 months. This is a subject for another post, but the basics are you need a timeline, period. It can be estimated or exact, we know life happens but keep things realistic. Also, be weary of timelines that come from designers that seem too good to be true, this either means they are super heroes, they don’t understand the project fully, or don’t have experience in your industry.
These areas cover what is commonly considered a SOW. In addition to this, some include admin/management information, such as payment, change request process, legal information, points of contact, etc. At our firm, we put everything together into a single document that covers legal, finance, and SOW. There are many ways to do this, and each firm/designer has their own way of writing up the entire starting packet of documents.
While designers love when a client comes to them with a clear SOW, great designers can also work with clients to develop a clear SOW through a process we call a discovery phase. We realize many people developing new products may need help, and a good designer will be able to gather this information and write a comprehensive SOW for you.

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