What if I told you there was a way to save yourself the headache of explaining to a client why their project doesn’t work exactly the way they’d envisioned? When you fail to properly scope your work you create expectation management issues: where your vision and budget may not align with the needs and desires of your client. Scoping can save you money and time simply by explaining up front to your client the work you plan to complete.

24wwiq1sokWe all know the knock of expectation management issues on the proverbial door…something like “hey, your project was great…for another company… but we need it to look totally different”. Okay, maybe things didn’t go quite that poorly, but, the idea is still the same! You’ve created something that you think is so wonderful and exactly what they need! It’s just within their budget, too, but they are a different person with different experiences and a different way of presenting ideas. Now scope comes into the play: since the project wasn’t laid out clearly from the start, you’ve used the budget on something that wasn’t perfect for them. You probably feel some responsibility to cater to your client’s requests because it was your job to lay things out clearly in the beginning.

Scoping helps you avoid this problem entirely by explaining clearly what you plan to build!


This isn’t really a word that “should” exist in the vocabulary of developers and clients, but since it does, let’s address it. There is really no “should” in terms of development – something either works the way the client wants it to or it does not. The best thing for you to do is explain to your client exactly how the system works, what each feature will do, and the time it takes to build. This hopefully eliminates any “shoulds” from the client’s end… – like, you “should be making EVERYTHING LOOK LIKE FACEBOOK BECAUSE FACEBOOK IS GREAT AND MARK ZUCKERBERG IS A MILLIONAIRE”. Okay, again…maybe clients aren’t that crazy, but you are preparing for the worst here. No one wants to be stuck making above a hundred-thousand dollar feature with a 3k budget. Thanks, but no thanks.

Scope Creep

“Hey, this one page you did is great but I need you to add ten more. By tomorrow. Within this budget. Thanks!” – If you’ve ever dealt with a client who had unrealistic expectations of your work, a scope is a must for you. We’re not advocating for an inability to adapt to your clients expectations, but, we are advocating payment for that flexibility. Setting a scope of work means that you’ll be paid accordingly when the scope extends past your already-set parameters. It’s not that there aren’t times the rules bend or break, but it’s impossible to enforce any rules you haven’t actually set.

Scope creep is more noticeable with larger clients, it can be difficult to prioritize scoping every part of the work when the project is changed often, but not doing so can endanger the relationship. It benefits both you and the client to have a clear, easily accessed document that states what they are paying for and the time in which they can expect to see the project finished.

Simple Scopes

csikyfed44There are probably some industries in which a scope can be simple, but in interactive development there are so many variables that it’s most beneficial to have your clients see and sign off on every aspect of the work before you start. The client needs to know what you’re proposing and what you plan to build for them, because unless they see your plan clearly laid out you are, at least in their eyes, on the hook for the work they wanted from the start. I’m not saying there isn’t room for agile development, but you need a place to start. In any case, and in any industry, the more clearly you write out what you plan to do, the better off both you and your clients will be.

“I’m a Designer!”

THAT’S SO TRUE, you designer, you. Or you have some other job that you don’t think should have “writing a scope” in the description. You are, however, still being paid. When you chose to take on this job, you chose to take care of the client’s needs. So regardless of whether or not you feel like you should be writing a scope, the most professional thing to do is make sure your client knows exactly what they’re getting. You know what you plan to build, but they do not. So be a professional and do the right thing before money ever changes hands.

The Most Important Part of Your Project

I get it, no one wants to scope. It’s time consuming and complicated, but it gets easier, I promise. The aforementioned challenges are the reason we built BrainLeaf, a system that is fast and easy to use, allowing us to build and reuse complex scopes of work and information architectures for multiple clients. After far more work than we imagined, we have a system that works well and is as clear for clients as it is for us. We hope you’ll find it as useful as we have.