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.

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.

Social Design: Your Brand Presence On Social Media

Social Design: Your Brand Presence On Social Media

When we think about design, numerous phrases come to mind: interior, graphic, web, etc. But when I say the words “social design”, I often get quizzical looks. Then the questions start.

Oh, you mean my logo?

Oh, are you talking about my Facebook cover?

Oh, okay! We’re discussing my blog header, right?

Yes, but there’s so much more! Sure, your colors, fonts, taglines, avatars and identity images (logos and headshots) play a huge role in social design. Of course you want your brand to be represented. But your brand is a whole lot more than the tangible, visual elements I just listed.

Your brand also has a personality and tone. This personality and tone must be reinforced in a variety of post types across a multitude of social media platforms. Your brand must shine in short form bursts on Twitter, as well as the  longer posts, questions and discussion – often with images – you share on Facebook,  AND the still longer discussions and sharing of ideas  when you publish via your blog.

The content your create and share (because we all know we can’t create it all) is also part of your well designed social business presence. Carefully reading and vetting the content of the authors with whom we are connected, we then must carefully choose the articles and ideas based on ideas, outlooks and concepts that are similar to our own. The connections we make and build with others influence the future connections we will make, and, thus, the future content we’ll share.

So, social design has to be fluid – as we will all continue to connect and build new relationships as we grow our own presence.

How does one maintain a focused brand identity with the constant change and flux that is social business? It’s a topic we’ll be digging into in future articles and discussions. While there are purely visual elements of your brand, and it’s very important to keep them focused and cohesive across platforms, as we stated above there’s much, much more.

Your brand is the foundation, the bricks and mortar behind your business. It’s made up of so very many elements, from your logo to the people you hire or with whom you choose to collaborate. We look forward to digging a little deeper and sharing many thoughts and ideas that will help you solidify and strengthen your brand across your varied digital marketing hubs.

Please share what comes to mind when you hear the phrase “social design.”

No, We Can’t Design A Logo For $50!

No, We Can't Design A Logo For $50!

A.K.A. Why Are Your Services So Expensive

Mr. Hart and I often find we’re asked why our design services “cost so much?”

Especially when it comes to logos. It’s time to explain why OH why we can’t knock out your logo for tens of dollars!

A logo is just one small part of your brand. It’s not a brand in entirety, but we believe that most entrepreneurs would admit that a logo is one key element when it comes to branding, marketing and recognition. We consider your logo a “foundation” piece in your overall branding, messaging and marketing plan. It plays a huge role in both print and digital applications, requiring differing file types, permutations and more. When we deliver a logo, we factor in all of those permutations. Meaning? It’s not a one file fits all delivery.

You might need a logo in limited colors for certain print applications. We make sure that’s a possibility. Need it to work in black and white? Factored in. Need both portrait and landscape iterations? No worries. Need it to be scalable for a variety of digital and print applications from business cards to billboards? We make it happen.

As you can see, it’s not an easy 1-2-3 and done, simple design solution. But there’s even more.

Want that tagline used with the logo? Has to be legible doesn’t it? We have to factor in kerning, line spacing, readability and more. Using a script font? Will it work in all sizes? We have to check, some don’t flow as well the bigger they get. Want it bold or ALL CAPPED for specific purposes? The font has to allow for that.

The smart logo designer has to understand typography, color theory, color connotation, scalability, digital and print application and so much more.

So, no – we can’t design your logo for $50.00. Hopefully, you now understand why.