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7 top tips to scope and estimate your UX project

Bruno Vilches

March 22nd, 2016
  • UX


Last week we hosted a webinar examining best practices for scoping and estimating your UX project. In this blog post I want to highlight the 7 top tips which emerged from the discussion.

  1. Remember that product scope, project scope, and estimates are separate things.

You as a client ultimately own product scope —that is, the determination of what is to be delivered. Clients and agencies work together to agree on what work each will do to get there, which is project scope. The agency owns the estimate of how long their part of the work will take and how much it will cost. Each of these elements exists in relationship with the others, and they must be created and adapted in tandem as the project proceeds.

  1. Drive toward a comprehensive understanding of scope as early as possible, whatever that takes.

It is calculated that a 30%-50% in risk and 10%-25% percent savings in final project cost can be achieved by spending the time and money to do early and aggressive scoping. This doesn’t mean scope is set in stone at that point, but it’s important to have everyone in sync on a clear initial plan and its underlying assumptions, so that the team can successfully iterate on it going forward.

  1. Make sure everyone understands the scope.

Speaking of having everyone in sync, sometimes some players get ahead of what others on a team can follow, leading to confusion and missed requirements. Especially with UX that is a somehow new world. Avoid “dumping” or accepting a big pile of documentation to communicate scope, since it loses up to 80% of its information between disciplines, and many people won’t read or fully understand it. If you end up approving a big document because you are just too lazy to read it or you don’t have time, can create a false sense of security for an agency. Ultimately, for everyone to win, you as the client must be happy with the end result, whatever paperwork may have passed back and forth.

  1. Involve key stakeholders, including the delivery team and those at your company who will approve and operate the end product, in scoping.

When scoping is a collaborative, transparent activity, everyone involved can see problems early and make decisions together for the good of the project. Otherwise, there’s a risk of ending up in an adversarial relationship where each party suspects the other is trying shake them down for extra money or output.

  1. Ask for an estimate that breaks the work down into a detailed list of tasks.

Trying to “shortcut” an estimate by using a number based on a gut feeling, counting features and then using a multiplier, or comparing to past projects that seem similar, results in estimates that don’t properly account for the unique challenges of a given project. Instead, make a detailed list of tasks that need to be completed and estimate each.

  1. Expect some uncertainty levels but ask them in estimates.

UX projects are complex and not everything can be devised early one, so allow for some uncertainty and expect the agency to add padded risk. However, raise your hand if you see something like “400 hours”. Ask for a range, like “300 – 500 hours.” Each item in the work breakdown should potentially have a different range based on the level of uncertainty around it; larger ranges usually indicate areas of risk that should be top priorities for deeper upfront exploration.

  1. Iterate on product scope, project scope, and estimates at every project phase.

To set scope and estimates once at the start of a project, and never revisit them, is asking for trouble. Waterfall approach has been dead for nearly 10 years. It’s the agile era, so you should frame your project into an iterative, agile fashion.  “Scope” and “estimate” should be verbs, processes that a project team engages in on a regular basis.

Successfully estimating and scoping your UX project is not the most glamorous or fun part of the job, but it is critical in understanding how much budget and time you will need, as well as for setting expectations with stakeholders. Do you have any tips that you have found helpful for successfully estimating? I’d love to hear them, so please leave a comment below!

Remember, next week we will examine the key design principles to improve your UX. Register for free here!

If you want to find out more about Belatrix’s UX services, and how we can help you create powerful customer experiences click here.


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