Whether you call it mission creep, scope creep or something else altogether, it’s something you’d do well to avoid. Mission creep can be a project-killer whether you’re a client commissioning a website build or a design agency delivering one.

Here’s our take on it, and why it’s far better for everyone concerned to stick to a well-thought-through plan during the web design process.

Why it’s best to avoid scope creep

A creeping scope doesn’t always come with a creeping budget. As a designer you can end up doing a lot more for the agreed budget than you’d expected, actually working for nothing.

From a client perspective, scope creep means the due date of your new site launch never actually arrives, continually being put off. It’s far better to achieve launch as planned then – if necessary – add extra functionality, content or whatever in the second tranche of work, with its budget.

10 ways to avoid site design mission creep

If you’re a client, bear in mind that scope creeps plays hell with deadlines. And, as you can imagine, it can result in tensions between you and your agency as they battle to get all your extra bits and bobs done without any additional budget. In simple terms, it isn’t fair. And we’re great believers in a fair deal for everyone concerned.

If you’re a website design agency or independent web designer, here are ten tips to help you head scope creep off at the pass.

  1. It helps to pick the right clients in the first place, so trust your gut instincts. Some people will try to exploit a budget no matter what, and these are the ones you want to avoid. Be prepared to walk away from a client who doesn’t respect your time, your fees or your process
  2. Create a detailed contract including what you’ll do if a project starts to creep
  3. Never be scared to say ‘no’, but say it in the right way. It’s entirely possible to transform every negative message into a positive – use the rock solid arguments we’ve posted above to convince your client that mission creep isn’t in their interests
  4. Screen all the extra requests you get for common sense. If it doesn’t come from a clear desire to improve things, don’t just accept the offer. Do your best to understand your client’s point of view and come up with the best and most workable solution
  5. It helps when you genuinely understand your customer’s business and them way they think. Once you’ve established the right kind of relationship based on this knowledge, mission creep should be much less likely
  6. You could always decide to treat creep as an opportunity to win more trust and, ultimately, make more money. Never say yes when it is, not a good idea, never say no when your client’s request could mean they get a much better website. The more open and honest you are, the better
  7. Don’t gold plate. It’s tempting to over-deliver but when you do your time soon gets maxed out, which makes any subsequent creep so much more stressful. It’s perfectly acceptable to meet people’s expectations every time. There is no need to force yourself to exceed their expectations time and time again. That way madness lies! Plus there’s human nature to take into account – if you’re asked for three things but deliver ten, that’s what your clients will expect next time, leaving you well and truly hoist by your own petard
  8. Put in place clear, simple processes and procedures designed to keep everything nicely on track throughout
  9. Plan, plan and then plan some more. You really can’t prepare enough. The adage goes like this: 2 minutes on paper, 2 hours in Photoshop and two days in development. Plan all your design projects collaboratively and resist diving to deep into designs before your client gives their approval and it’ll help you prevent creep
  10. Looks are important. But they’re not everything. Far from it. Don’t unveil things for the first time right at the end of the process and expect to wow your clients into accepting a design based on kerb appeal alone. Be practical. Ask the right questions up front, involve your client to the right level without letting them take over the design process, and you’ll stand less chance of falling foul of creeping briefs
  11. Value your own time. Your time is not free; you’re a professional. Keep telling yourself that, and remind yourself of it every time mission creep tries to raise its head, and you’re tempted to do extra work for nothing

Any questions about how we make sure every web design project stays on track, delivered to budget and on deadline? Feel free to contact us – you can either call for a chat or send us an email.