During my last year and a half of managing website projects, I’ve come to realize there are two basic approaches agencies take when developing a website project’s scope of work: Site-Specific and Goal-Specific.
An agency that uses a site-specific approach will want to determine details of the project up front. The Discovery phase, during which the web team researches and interviews the client for project details, concludes prior to project kick-off and is often encompassed in one very structured conversation. This discussion covers a number of topics, including information architecture, special site functionality, use of stock images, and color preferences. These elements are decided upon before a scope of work can be developed. The result is a proposal from the agency that’s very granular, often outlining a sitemap with all features and functionality finalized. Most details of the website are signed off on before the project is actually underway.
A different way to go about planning for a web project is keeping things high level, focusing on big picture end goals instead of the details. With this approach, much time and many conversations are part of the Discovery phase. The agency typically is more interested in the potential client’s long-term business and marketing objectives - and how the new website will fit into those objectives - than in the project itself. According to a goal-specific method, only by truly understanding a business, its challenges, its target market, and its competitive landscape can an appropriate scope of work for a website project be developed. A proposal following this format will likely be more flexible and general, as the agency often plans to recommend project details only after much research and further discovery has been done.
Which One is Better?
Neither ... and both, of course.
A site-specific scope could be beneficial if the website is intended to primarily serve aesthetic purposes. In other words, if the website user’s attention is supposed to be on visual aspects of the site, and the potential site owner knows exactly what those aspects should look like, ironing out the details of the site right off the bat makes sense. Perhaps an artist or photographer looking to showcase his / her work would be comfortable with this approach.
Alternatively, if the site should function as part of a marketing plan, a goal-specific scope of work would likely be a better fit. The flexibility of this approach allows for the project details to develop as more extensive research is conducted and objectives are defined. Long-term goals are the focus here. Another benefit of using this approach is a reduced chance of incurring change order costs, given that the likelihood of work falling out of scope is much less likely with a broader plan.
Project planning can quickly become a cart-before-the-horse situation, and it’s easy to start going down the wrong path and focusing on the wrong things. If you need help sorting your thoughts, schedule a chat with one of our team members. We’d love to help you “scope” out your web needs!