Scope creep: These two words strike fear in any agency team working on a website redesign. Scope creep not only leads to reduced profit margins and delayed launches, but also unhappy clients and employees.

So how do agencies successfully protect against scope creep when redesigning client websites?

Here are seven proven methods for keeping project delivery on time and under budget. 

7 Ways to Prevent Scope Creep

1) Work to prevent scope creep from the beginning.

Protecting against scope creep on web design projects starts in the sales process where it’s critical for the sales team to set proper expectations and gain commitment from the prospect.

During the sales process, your team must explain your agency's process and get the prospect bought in and committed to following it. This includes a commitment on how much time the prospect should plan to invest in the process, when she must be available work with your team, the number of revisions included in the contract, and what actually constitutes a “revision.”

Your sales team should also have an honest conversation with the prospect on the common scenarios that cause delays or projects to go out of scope. After explaining each scenario, get feedback from the prospect on which ones they anticipate running into, and form an action plan for how to deal with if each were to occur. This conversation can also happen in the beginning of the service implementation; however, the earlier you have this conversation, the better. This is also the time to outline how you handle out-of-scope project requests, including costs. 

Lastly, at the end of the sales process, make it very clear what services and deliverables are included and what is not included. Explaining what is not included is equally important to remove any possible confusion.

2) Bring experts into the sales process.

A website redesign can be a complex project with many interdependencies and considerations. This can make it hard for a salesperson to properly dig into all the details required to fully scope a website redesign.

After you’ve qualified the prospect and you move into the goals and planning stage of the sales process, bring in one of your strategists, account managers, or project managers to assist in the scoping process.

The strategist will uncover the needs of the prospect and develop a game plan to solve those needs and achieve the client's goals. Additionally, the strategist can also bring in other team members, such as designers or developers, to take a deeper look at more technical challenges and provide input in the scoping process.

Another benefit to incorporating your services team into the web design sales process is that the prospect will feel like she is your most important prospect. She'll value the face-to-face time with multiple experts who can offer advice on how to improve her digital presence. 

This can also help the client to see how your team collaborates, experience the culture, and begin to develop trust and chemistry -- important things when you are pitching against other agencies.

3) Develop a smart process that continuously improves.

One of the ways traditional web design is broken is the fact that both the client and the agency are under pressure to make sure the website is perfect before it launches. This is because in a traditional web design and build, once a site launches, people rarely go back to make any impactful updates.

This “set it and forget it” mentality leads to unnecessary team and client pressure, scope creep, and unsuccessful redesigns.

The solution is to adopt a web design methodology that acknowledges the fact that a website shouldn't be completely perfect -- it should be continuously improved upon based on new information and data from user testing. This methodology, known as growth-driven design, drives better client results through continuous learning about users and improvement. It also works for agencies as it's a retainer-based web design model.

Growth-driven design solves the pressure that the website needs to be perfect upon initial launch and uses an agile process that protects against scope creep.

Learn more about growth-driven design and become a growth-driven design certified agency by clicking here. 

4) Remove potential potholes in advance.

As a website redesign engagement gets underway, there are many new challenges, ideas, and roadblocks that happen as you start working through the process. You learn new things as you move forward in the process.

To remove roadblocks and solve issues before they become major problems, schedule a 30-minute reflection meeting at the end of each week. In this meeting, the team should reflect on what went well that week and what challenges they faced.

If you see consistent challenges occurring, brainstorm a way for the team to avoid those problems in your next project by making updates to your web design process, scoping, or project management.

After reflecting on that week’s tasks, move to discussing tasks for the upcoming week. Talk about any of the possible client or internal roadblocks or potholes the team may hit and determine a plan for preventing or solving these in advance. 

5) Open the lines of communication.

One common cause of scope creep is the lack of communication between the team and the client. Misunderstandings and longer gaps between communication can cause work to be done incorrectly or ideas around the scope to change, which leads to additional revisions.

Before the engagement starts, get the client to commit to meeting on a weekly basis to review the work that’s been completed since the last meeting and to discuss what will be done before the next meeting.

Additionally, define how your team and the client will collaborate through online methods, such as using a project management tool, a messaging app, or a design collaboration tool such as InVision. 


Giving your clients full transparency on projects and communicating with them as if they are part of the team will keep everyone on the same page and eliminate wasted work and confusion.

6) Create padding in pricing and scheduling.

Even after implementing all the strategies in this article, it is inevitable that scope creep will happen, and that is OK. Having some level of flexibility in your work is essential to ensure project success and to keep the client happy.

In the sales process, after your services team has put together a scope of the engagement, consider adding an additional 5-10% on both the price and timeline. The larger website, the more padding you should add into the quote as there are more unknowns and variables.

It is also smart to give at least two days of padding between the launch of a website and the start of your next project. This will give your team some room in case there are issues with the launch of the website, and it will provide team members with a much deserved day to catch up on other smaller tasks they've put off.

7) Complete the strategy and then quote.

The last recommended method for fighting scope creep is to break the strategy and implementation into two stand-alone phases. In the quote you create, price the strategy phase with an exact dollar amount, then simply give a ballpark range for the implementation. You'll price this second phase after you know more about the project as a result of the strategy phase. 

Starting with the strategy/planning as a separate project will allow your account services and creative team to get a much better understanding of the client’s personas, current website performance, and what it will take for a successful redesign to happen. This will allow you create a more accurate scope of work and price for the implementation phase.

Prospects often like this approach as well because treating strategy as its own stand-alone project is less of a commitment and allows both you and them to see how each other works before committing to a complete website redesign.


Originally published May 6, 2016 7:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017


Website Redesign