Dear Designer: Are You A Scope Creep Sucker?

Dear Designer: Are You A Scope Creep Sucker?

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a design project that seems to go on AND on, with no real milestones met and deadlines constantly extended?

Have you ever found yourself in a revising loop, tweaking and altering the tiniest details over and over again before you get the seal of approval from a client?

If you answered either of those questions with an affirmative nod of your head, you’ve dealt with some level of scope creep.

What Is Scope Creep?

According to Wikipedia:

“Scope creep (also called requirement creep, function creep and feature creep) in project management refers to uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered harmful.

If budget, resources, and schedule are increased along with the scope, the change is usually considered an acceptable addition to the project, and the term “scope creep” is not used.”

Scope Creep Is Subversive

When scope creep begins its advance, it is often subtle, something you can easily choose to ignore.

Your client asks if you can add a little extra functionality to their website, or asks you to throw in a quick letterhead design to go along with their new logo. It won’t take much time and it will add a little extra something significant to your portfolio or case study right?

It’s right and it’s wrong. And here’s why.  While any design project is a collaboration with your client, when it comes to meeting your design brief and project deadline you’re the foreman, the manager, the boss on board. And if you allow yourself to be manipulated into tacking on additional work, you run the risk of losing your position of authority and becoming a do-boy or girl.

Eventually, unchecked, scope creep can derail design projects and erodes your standing as the expert in charge.

You don’t want your client pulling your strings like you’re a marionette, do you?

But, It’s Just A Little Change!

Sure, the little extra something the client wants might not seem like a big deal. It won’t take long. It’s well within your skill-set and area of expertise. But, was it factored into the scope of the project, the design brief, the contract your delivered and your client signed?

But when you say yes to that one little change, without mentioning that it actually changes and broadens the scope of the project, you let the client know you’re not going to stand firm on the design brief upon with you both agreed.

So it becomes all the easier for your client to request further tweaks, revisions and redesigns. Any of which can delay the project and decrease your bottom line.

Why Are You Charging Me For These Changes?

If you allow scope creep to enter into your agreement, it’s going to be all the harder to request additional fees when you finally realize you can’t continue to work for free.

If you’ve made five revisions, even though the contract stipulated you’d only make three, your client isn’t going to understand why you’re trying to charge for the sixth.

Stand Your Ground & Keep Clients Happy?

It can be done. A signed contract or a delivered design brief don’t mean you can’t compromise. Scope creep isn’t a foregone conclusion.

The key is to keep detailed records of each revision, each change request and each compromise. Be detailed and thorough. Let them know when you’ve padded the agreement in their favor. You don’t have to be supercilious or smarmy about it, just make sure it’s documented and understood.

I don’t think the majority of design clients are out to get you, let me make that clear.

That being said, it’s no one’s fault but your own if you don’t set standards for how and when the work will get done, how and when you’ll make revisions, and the proper procedure for any additions.

Otherwise you just might find yourself strung up like a sucker. Remember, either you control the project or the project will control you.

SHOCKER: Your Business Website IS About YOU!

SHOCKER: Your Business Website IS About YOU!

Do a quick hashtag search, on Twitter, for #webdesign and you’ll see quite a few article links, portfolio links, questions for designers, calls for designer recommendations, and a lot more.

You’ll also see many a blanket statement discussing for whom, exactly, a given website is designed. Almost daily I see another blog post about web design being all about your audience. I disagree with that statement and that’s what I’m going to dive into in this read.

Know, Like & Trust

Another phrase we see over and over again, and one that I stand behind, is this:

People do business with companies/brands they know, like and trust.

If a site is all about the consumer viewing it, and not at all about the people and personalities behind the company, how the heck is any consumer going to deem that company likeable and trustworthy?

If science fiction movies have taught us anything, it’s that robots, more often than not, can’t be trusted.

Unique Selling Proposition and Unique Voice

If a blog is part of your web design plan, you’ve probably spent some time researching that topic, too. And you’ve probably come across the USP. Concept.

USP stands for “unique selling proposition.” The concept requires the site owner or content marketer to consider this question.

What makes you stand out from the rest of the content marketing crowd?

Your unique voice and your brand’s personality, of course!

But, without plenty of Y-O-U in your website, it’s going to be hard to showcase your unique voice.

If You Don’t Like Your Site …

Consider this. You’re going to be spending a LOT of time in and around your website as you continue to market your products and/or services to your targeted audience.

You’ll be crafting killer content and the branded featured images that go along with it. You’ll be sharing pages, posts, embedded graphics and more across social channels.

Your website is your digital office space. If you don’t like the vibe, don’t enjoy spending time in the space, it’s going to be very hard for you to put in the proper time and effort. I’m know I’m less productive in a space that I don’t enjoy.

Can you get excited about creating opt-ins and savvy sales pages when you don’t like the digital home on which these elements will reside? It’s certainly something to consider.

Of Course You Must Consider Your Customer!

I’m not saying, for even a second, that you shouldn’t keep your ideal customer in mind when you’re planning your website. Of course you must create an experience that suits the needs and drives the purpose of your prospects.

But those prospects want to do business with your brand, your company, your people, your culture. Not with your website.

Yes, your website is a tool that allows your prospects to more carefully consider your value to them. If there’s none of you in that site, how are they supposed to get a feel for the culture you’ve created? They can’t.

Generic sites create generic experiences. Sites with designed with the vigor, vitality and voice of a “brandtastic” brand will draw them in, then the smart functionality will allow for the easy transaction.

It’s About Balance Between You And User

I’m a big believer in balance. When we balance the needs of all involved in any project we have a much better chance of reaching an outcome that suits the majority rather then a small minority.

The same goes for your website and your online presence. If the real you can’t shine through, in a smart and professional way, it’s going to be hard going to make the effort to effectively market that presence.

Love for our business and the brands we’ve built is a big part of the entrepreneur experience. Your website plays a huge role in that love affair. So you’ve gotta love that website. And that means that website is absolutely about Y-O-U!

 

Web Design Wonderful: Pretty Is As Pretty Does!

Web Design Wonderful: Pretty Is As Pretty Does!

A.K.A. Balance Form & Function You Must …

Note: You HAVE TO channel Yoda and read that subtitle out loud!

It’s Wednesday! And that means it’s time for another round of my new weekly series, Web Design Wonderful. In the second installment of this series, I’m going to take a look at web design and development as a balanced approach between form and function, or pretty and performance.

Pretty Has A Place In Web Design

In the fast paced and ever growing and changing digital marketing space, we seek to measure everything. It’s a compulsion. ROI must be recorded, every click accounted for.

Where does pretty or appearance fit into ROI and measured performance? You might be surprised.

No, I can’t provide you with a case study or any carefully calculated numbers, but word of mouth research and response has shown that “well designed” sites keep visitors around.

You have only so much time to make a great first impression. Seconds really. What do people notice in those few first seconds? Color, I’d say. The overall aesthetic and layout, I’d also guess. It’s what I notice.

Functional elements are what they’ll see after the first impression tells them whether to bounce or settle in for a longer looky-loo.  And if those functional elements are lacking, they’re likely to leave. But first your site has to pass the “professional” first test.

Professional = Pretty?

Yes and no.

If, like me, you’re using pretty as a short and sweet term to describe the appearance and design aesthetic of a site, then, YES.

If pretty, instead, means pink and princessy, fluffy and flirtatious, not so much.

I’ve stated previously that what one designer considers “good design,” another might dislike and despair. Personal preference, and even personal experience, plays a large role in what our eyes behold has pretty or professional.

Yet, websites and web design are not new concepts and we’ve all seen plenty of iterations over the years. Our eyes readily rack-up what we consider outdated and old school.

Clashing colors, lack of white space, illegible type selections … all make an immediate impact, though a negative one.

Pretty & Performance Must Balance

Once your site passes the initial pretty/professional test is when performance and function must step up to the plate.

Can site visitors easily get to the good stuff or do they feel lost after a few clicks? Are they bombarded with a new and different pop-up every time they scroll or click? Are they offered opportunities to dig a little deeper into who you are and what you do?

Performance is about getting site visitors to take action, and by taking action getting them to:

  1. Subscribe/Sign-up
  2. Speak up (leave a comment or fill out a form)
  3. Part with their $$$

With those three actions in mind, it’s important to consider your CTAs (calls to action). Are they carefully crafted (words), well designed (eye-catching and memorable) and well developed (actually leading your visitor and prompting them to take action)?

And I haven’t even mentioned mobile, yet. Does your web design sell and succeed on the smaller screen?

Performance, Not Pretty, Drives Interaction

Your website is your digital storefront or office space. What a prospect would expect to do in person, face to face, your website should also allow and make easy and intuitive.

Functionality works with form to make this happen. That carefully selected font draws the eye and allows readers to skim when correctly set-up in your headers.

Buttons, arrows and other visual elements, while eye-catching, won’t convert if they don’t correctly deliver data or drive the next interaction.

The prettiest custom-designed social sharing buttons don’t help at all if they’re not properly formatted for the specific social media platform.

Pretty Alone Is Not Enough

Like the nettles in this article’s imagery, pretty without performance can be painful.

While the blue hue is lovely and the shape enticing, a quick touch is not so pleasant.  If your site leaves prospects and peers uncomfortable and in pain (because they can’t do what they expected to do), despite its lovely appearance, the balance is off and the site isn’t benefiting your business.

The pretty/performance ratio isn’t always going to settle at 50:50. You must carefully consider the intent and purpose of your site and the actions you would like visitors to take in order to create the balance that best suits your brand and business.

Web Design Wonderful: Make It Legible, Please!

Web Design Wonderful: Make It Legible, Please!

Last week it was my absolute pleasure to share my smarts (and some of my snarks) with the savvy band of social smarties that make up the #BizHeroes crew. I had a BLAST taking part in the Twitter chat, which takes place once a week (you should TOTALLY check it out).

While many find keeping up with the fast and furious sharing of ideas during a these chats on Twitter a little daunting, I find them fabulous. The fast, dare I say frantic, nature means people have to put their thoughts out there, and they do. I get so many article ideas from these chats, even when I’m not the “special guest.”

Web Design Wonderful: My New Wednesday Article Series

My Twitter chat topic was to be:

Website Wonderful? Starts With Well-Planned!

Of course, before we even launched the chat the topic was tweaked a bit and we focused on both planning and what makes a website “good.” Of course “good design” is a subjective term and what’s beautiful to one set of eyes might be a visual marketing monstrosity in the eyes of another.

While I’m not a fan of blanket statements, and I do not believe in one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to web design, I think there are some almost universally appreciated (note I didn’t say accepted, there’s a difference) design DOs that can and should be applied in almost any web design project.

Let’s Laud Legible!

You know I love to visit dictionary.com when I get feisty!

[lej-uh-buh l]
adjective

1. capable of being read or deciphered, especially with ease, as writing or printing; easily readable.

2. capable of being discerned or distinguished.

Stop Making Me Squint!

My eyesight is still good enough that I don’t require reading glasses, until … I come to a website that’s got tons of copy, possibly even GREAT copy, but it’s so ding-danged small I’m forced to squint.

Don’t force your site visitors to grab a set of binoculars or a magnifying glass in order to see what your site says!

Bump up that type size. 10 and 12 pixels won’t cut it anymore. I’m considering bumping mine up another notch, honestly, and I’m already embracing 17 px!

Stop making me squint! Web design that's wonderful? It's legible!Click To Tweet

 

Get In Line!

Go ahead and add some space between the lines, too, party peeps. Give your content a little room to breathe. It’s one of the first things I check when I’m asked to audit a site, and it’s often the most overlooked little bit of customization that can really rock your visitor experience.

My line spacing is pretty aggressive, at 1.8. Most of the time it’s left at the default, which is anything from 1.1 to 1.3, depending on the theme used or the custom CSS set up by the developer.

I say bump it up a notch. Crowded content can make your site appear cluttered and hard to scan.

Use Your Headers!

Speaking of scanning, a lot of your site visitors will skim quickly, dipping their toe into the pool of your site experience, before settling in for a good swim.

If you’ve been reading this article, and not scanning or skimming, you’ll note that I shared two definitions for legible. The second definition had to do with being able to discern.

When a site visitor is scanning your copy or one of your article, you want to help them discern that the topic is valuable and meets their needs. One great way to do so is to make use of your headers. Sized properly, and with a little color for pop, a carefully crafted set of headers within your longer body copy allow those with less time to decide if your full read is worthy of a few extra minutes.

The longer you can keep them on your site, the more likely that visitor is to take some sort of action, be it adding your site to their RSS feed, signing on for regular updates, or possibly taking you up on your latest offer.

Your Turn!

Of course, there’s another side to legibility, and that has to do with typeface (font) selection. But we’ll leave that for a future Wednesday!

It seems such a small thing, but a couple quick fixes to enhance legibility can really enhance the experience of your site visitors. Bumping up the font size and line spacing, and carefully crafting a few headers doesn’t require mad coding and development skills either. It’s web design DIY that could add to ROI.

It’s all about the experience. Can you afford not to make the small changes that make or break the experience of your site visitors?

Website Personality: Does Your Business Site Have Any?

Website Personality: Does Your Business Site Have Any?

If you spend any time interacting with social media and digital marketing experts and enthusiasts online, you’ll soon suss out that there’s an awful lot of personality bouncing around in their social media circles.

From intelligent introverts to effervescent extroverts, personalities abound across the social space.

So, I find it rather funny when I come across the websites of some positively peachy personalities – in any business, and find them antiseptic and almost clinical.

Website Personality: Does Your Site Have Any To Speak Of?

Recently saw this posted on Facebook, and immediately put on my devil’s advocate blogging hat:

A business website is all business. Your blog is where you can show the human side of your business.

While I do agree that your business website needs to put a professional foot forward, I don’t think that doing so to the extent that you completely lack personality is the smartest decision you can make.

While your website is the online premises of your business, it’s still the reflection of your brand and your brand is bolstered by your personality.

Design With The REAL You In Mind!

One of my topical categories on this blog is “Real You, Real Biz.”

Are you antiseptic, clinical, lacking color? Of course not. You’re so much more!

Are you warm and easily approachable? If so, why is your website color scheme cool and clinical? Why is the layout boxy with a lot of hard edges? Can you see how there’s a bit of disparity on display?

Forcing your personality to fit within specific boxes isn’t very genuine. Prospects and leads can smell disingenuous like something nasty on the bottom of their shoe.

Personality Beyond Your Blog!

If you only let your personality shine on your blog pages it’s potentially hidden from many site visitors. They don’t all click through to your articles.

Consider where your site visitors land? Is it your about page? Your FAQ? Your product/services page? Once you’ve figured out the point of entry you can consider how to add some professional, but still REAL you, personality.

Your bio, your about section, doesn’t have to read like a resume. While you want to showcase your expertise and your accomplishment, you can do so without boring your audience to tears.

You can share the REAL you with a photo of the REAL you. Professional head shots will always have their place, but they might not leave that prospect feeling warm and fuzzy. Absolutely use that ultra-professional image where it’s best suited, but a photo that shows who you really are as a person can absolutely have a place on your business website.

Consider Your Ideal Clients & Share What They’ll Want!

Of course you have to consider your industry and your ideal client. If your research deduces they want buttoned-up and extremely formal, then that’s absolutely the direction your site design should take.

But if your research shows that your ideal clients prefer engaging in business that shows a softer, warmer, funnier or more hands-on personality, then you need to embrace that mindset.

Professionalism doesn’t preclude personality.

Know, Like & Trust

It’s been said over and over again, by large sites like Inc. and Copyblogger, as well as the small fries like me: people want to do business with other people/businesses they know, like and trust.

Your professionalism, of course, adds to that trust. But knowing and liking you is directly tied into your brand and your business actually sharing a bit of the REAL you.

Do we tend to like those that are perfunctory, clinical, and always all about business? With the exception of the quirky and lovable Sheldon Cooper, not so much.

A little shared personality can go a long way toward creation a relationship based on prospects and clients liking the time they spend working with you, because you have allowed them to get to know you as a real person.

How’s Your Site Personality?

Do you think your site showcases the real you and gives your visitors a real idea of what it’s like to work with you, your team, your brand?

If the answer is no, how do you think you can remedy that lack of personality and create a better relationship with those looking to employ you? I’m always up for some discussion, so let’s do so via the comments.