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A Comprehensive Guide To Website Design, Web‑app, And Development Project Scoping

Introduction Introduction

Note for freelancersA note for Freelancers, New Agency Owners, and Small Teams:

If you are a one-person shop and act a business developer, project manager, designer, and developer, this is especially for you. Just replace any of those titles with the word “me” and you’re all set.
Small or new teams and people just starting out have the least experience and therefore have the greatest opportunity to benefit from the information in this document.

Whether you are just getting started on a new project, adding features to an existing system, or just talking to a prospective client about a new website, app, web-app, or software system, project planning is a crucial part of your process.

This is not a project management guide and does not fully align with PMP standards. This is a best practices document for scoping and building websites, mobile apps, web-apps, and some software systems.

A well-planned project is a smooth project. - Jason Long

Sure you could hop in the car and start heading westward at the drop of a hat and eventually you’ll make make it to Cali. But while the “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it” outlook can be appealing, it doesn’t do you any favors in business. If your road trip takes an extra week because of a few wrong turns, you had to fill up for gas 8 times more than you expected, and you actually end up in Seattle, you might chalk it up to all being part of the adventure.

In business on the other hand you have clients counting on you to think ahead, carefully planning your path and, staying on track, and arriving to your destination on time without emptying anyone’s pockets along the way. Not to mention the expectations of any passengers (ahem, employees) you may be bringing with you.

ProTip: I wish that a document like this had been around when I first started in 2002. It would have saved me countless lost dollars, stress, and probably years of my life. If you’re just getting going, do yourself a huge favor and read this thing. It may not solve all your problems, but if you do just most of what this document recommends, it will save you tons of time, prevent unnecessary stress, keep you from lawsuits, and generally just make your life better.

This planning guide will help you:

  • Sell the project and set the right expectations
  • Manage client or stakeholder expectations
  • Set up your contract
  • Avoid scope creep
  • Understand costs and timelines
  • Protect from loss of profit
  • Keep you and your clients happy
  • Keep your sanity

Who is this document for?

  • Digital agency or studio owners
  • Project managers working freelance or inside a company
  • Digital services business developers
  • Entrepreneurs wanting to build a web-based application or app
  • Freelance designers
  • Freelance developers
  • Freelance creatives
  • SCRUM Masters

What does this document cover?

  • The process of estimating and selling a project
  • Setting client expectations and boundaries
  • Writing the information architecture
  • Building a project plan
  • Notes on executing the project plan
Chapter 1

Understanding What You’re Selling & Building

Before we get started, let’s clarify what exactly we’re talking about. When you’re selling the build of a website, web-app, mobile app, or other software system you are selling time and expertise.

This is essentially the same thing as an attorney reviewing a contract or trying a case, an accountant doing your taxes, a plumber fixing your sink, or a contractor building a house. At the end of the day, they are all selling time and expertise, just like you. You can productize it and sell it as if it were a product, but keep in mind it is your time or the time of your team you are truly selling and managing.

Remember the old adage that time is money, and you and your team only have so many hours in a day. Time is limited, and if you’re going to make money building things, you can’t waste it. Fundamentally, that is why you need to scope your work, manage client expectations, effectively manage projects, and get done with work within the time you said you would. If you don’t have a clearly defined project scope and a full understanding of what goes into a project, how do you know what exactly is expected by the client or how long it is going to take you to do the job?

What is Scope? What Does This Mean?

A scope of work for a design or development project is a compilation of the following documents:

  • Creative Brief
  • Contract
  • Information Architecture
  • Project Flows & Wireframes
  • Project Plan

These documents are detailed below and serve to answer the following broad questions:

  1. Creative Brief - You need this to put together an estimate. A creative brief will help you and your client understand the project objectives and help guide your planning of the project in the right direction.
    • What are the goals of the project?
    • What is the value of the project?
    • What is being built?
    • Why are we building it?
    • Who will be using it?
    • Why will users be using it?
    • How, generally, will users be using it?
    • What is the tone and message of the project?
    • If the project is ongoing, what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will determine success of the project?
      • We will talk more about this in the Creative Brief section later.
  2. Contract - You need this to make sure everyone is one the same page and to protect yourself legally in case something goes wrong.
    • What are both parties agreeing to?
    • Who is responsible for what on both the build team and client sides?
    • How much is being paid?
    • When are payments due?
    • What happens if project deliverables are not met?
    • What are specific project deliverables?
    • Who are the decision makers?
      • Other legal issues are discussed in the You’ve got to know your contract! section of this document.
  3. Information architecture - This is like your blueprint. You need this to make sure everyone knows what is being built as well as how each part should function, and look and interact with other areas. This will serve as a way to sort out all the pieces to the puzzle. Some examples of those pieces include:
    • Features
    • Pages
    • Sections
    • Subsections
    • Views
    • Non-functional aspects
    • Plugins or Widgets
    • Development Platforms
    • Content Management System(s)
      • We will discuss this at length in the How to Build an Information Architecture section of this document
  4. Project Flows & Wireframes - This shows you and the client how the system works by demonstrating how a user flows from one place to the next using the system you’re building. Ease of use if key for any project and mapping out how all the moving part interact is an important step in planning for usability.
    • What are the general designs for the development of the system?
    • How pages and views flow from one to another and where are the connection points?
    • What are the different states of pages and views of the project?
      • Later, in the Design section, we will go into more detail on Project Flow and Wireframes.
  5. Project Plan - This sets expectations for the project. It tells everyone their tasks, deadlines, milestones, dependencies, etc. You need this to make sure the project gets done on time and within the budget.
    • Who is doing the work / on the project team?
    • What task or tasks is each person doing?
    • What are the deadlines for each person?
    • What are the milestones for the project (also covered in the contract)?
    • When will payments be due (also covered in the contract)?
    • What systems are being used to manage the project?
    • How often will meetings occur? If they are recurring, when will they be?
    • What is expected of each person or group for the project?
    • What tasks have to get done before other tasks can start?
    • What items must get done in order to determine the project is complete?

  6. This may seem like a lot, and you definitely don’t need all of this for every project. However, if you have a template for each document, you’ll find it is fairly fast to get it all on paper. But for most projects if you get started on development or design without knowing the answers to at least most of these questions, you’re setting yourself up for tough times ahead.

    Your Process

    Below is the full process of selling, building, launching, and managing a project. Once again, not every project needs all of this. This is just the full process laid out so we can break it apart later.

    1. Sales
    2. Architecture & Planning
    3. Wireframes and Flows
    4. Design
    5. Content Implementation
    6. Development
    7. Launch
    8. Social Media Management
    9. Support & Work Orders
    10. Continuous Marketing
      • Social Media
      • Content Marketing
      • A/B & Multivariate Testing
      • Outbound Marketing
      • PPC, Retargeting, & Other Advertising
      • Traditional Marketing & Advertising
      • Analytics & Reporting
    11. Continuous Integration Process - For ongoing projects

    You can see the entire process broken down in this document:

    Brainleaf process flow chart with steps.

    When looking at this document, we realize that project planning and the scope of work play a part in almost every aspect of this flow. In addition, you’ll notice that the project manager is involved in almost every step in the process.

    ProTip: Very often the role of the Project Manager (PM) is either mimized or not taken into consideration. When you look at the attached chart above and realize that every step involves the PM, you also realize that not recognizing the importance of, or minimizing the project manager’s job is the first step towards failure.

    In this document, we’re going to walk through every step of the process above and show the critical importance of the information architecture & project plan in different sized projects.

Chapter 2

Why Scope Your Project?

If you’re building any kind of software; web, mobile, or otherwise, and you’re not thoroughly scoping your work before you start, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

Building a software system, for most clients and stakeholders is a little bit like magic. They understand the goals of the system implementation, but often don’t have even a basic understanding of the logic that goes into the system or processes involved.

I often compare this to building a house. The buyer understands that they will live in the house and it will have the rooms they need. But the actual functionality of how a refrigerator hookup works or which light switches go where and what color they are supposed to be is generally outside of their usual thought process when planning the house. After all, that is what the contractor does.

I’ve used analogies such as this dozens of times throughout my career an as information architect to help my clients have a clearer understanding of exactly why they are paying me to scope and build their project. After all, if they knew exactly how to plan out and install the plumbing and electricity, they’d probably just do it themselves.

Why scope your project

As with a physical product, like a house, when you’re building a digital product, you are the contractor, and have to tell your client where everything should go and how it should be put together. You are the expert and your client is expecting you to think about everything they don’t.

If you don’t have a blueprint to show them what is going to go where, you’re going to get into hot water. You don’t want to be a contractor with the “Cross that bridge when we come to it” mentality, or you’re going to end up having to build rooms that you didn’t expect, and that is going to get expensive fast.

It is important for both you and your client to be on the same page about all details and features throughout the duration of your project. If you are not, countless issues can arise between you and your team, and you and your client.

Manage Expectations

Ever had that situation where you get to the end of a project and the client asks you “What about [some feature here] that we discussed?” If not, you’ve been very lucky because this happens quite frequently.

Really, all the time.

If you have every feature written down, planned out, signed off on, and a clause in your contract that says that if it’s not in the scope of work document, it isn’t required to be built, then you are in the clear. If not, let’s just hope this client doesn’t have his or her attorney on speed dial.

Project management for non-project managers

Without a Plan, How Do You Know When Your Project Is Complete?

A good scope document or project plan sets specifications for completion. This means you and your client need to agree that when the system meets certain requirements, it is completed.

Often clients, strategists, and developers realize the need for additional systems during the build of a project and add features. By itself this is fine, but if you don’t manage scope well, you can end up losing money or running into...

The Dreaded Scope Creep!!!

Scope creep is the continuous growing of a project once the work has begun and is a byproduct of mismanaged communications, poor project management, and/or a poorly thought out project. It affects projects of all sizes.

Scope creep can mean a minor hiccup, or a major set back. As the group developing a project, scope creep can end up fine in the short-run, if it is managed well and time is being compensated correctly. But remember, your clients or stakeholders are probably going to start getting upset after a while, and you need to keep that from happening.

Pro Tip: Remember, projects don’t start a month behind, they get behind ONE DAY AT A TIME!

What Does Scope Creep Look Like?

Storytime: A senior-level manager or C-level executive steps into a project meeting with you, the project manager and your client the marketing manager, to take a look at a project that 65% complete to “see how it’s going.” During their 20 minute review they start adding feature after feature after feature. You don’t have a good scope of work that was signed off on and don’t really know how to handle their requests. They don’t fit into your project plan, but you don’t really feel like you can disagree since there’s not that much in writing. The next day, the marketing manager at the company comes back with a list a mile long of “changes” to the project. Any one of these changes could be just a few minutes or an hour of work. But add them all together, and you’re looking at days or weeks of work.

Initially, you don’t want the client to be upset so you do some of the things for free or at a discount, and then charge for the rest. This time it goes alright, but then it happens again next week, then again the following week. It’s going alright until the initially planned deadline is approaching when the CEO comes in and demands the project meet its initial deadline, which is now impossible.

At this point, you’ve bent over backwards to make the client happy and you’re upset that they are making ridiculous demands, the marketing manager is upset because their job and livelihood are being threatened, and the CEO is now saying that they are never going to use your team again. In other words, everyone is upset, you’re stressed out, the project is late, you lost money, and your team is demoralized.

Sounds familiar?

If so, don’t worry, it happens to the best of us, and this article is going to teach you how to never let this happen again.

Some simple lessons here:

  • You can’t enforce or claim something you don’t have in writing.
  • Taking the time up front to write out the entire scope, then work through it with your team and client will help everyone understand their tasks.
  • Only after you have a complete SOW will you be able to give very accurate time estimates.
  • Only once you have time and costs clearly laid out, you, your team, and your client can understand exactly what it is they are getting themselves into.

ProTip: Planning a complex project is one of, if not the most important tasks in the build of the project. It also happens to be one of the most tedious. For that reason, very often the kinds of people that do design work avoid this step, which is their undoing. So, take the time, do it right, be a professional.

Chapter 3

Terminology Refresher

The following is a list of a few terms and how they are defined.

  • Scope of Work: A complete list of the items to be created.
  • Creative brief: A creative brief tells the story and explains why it's important to the audience. It serves as a guide for the creation of new materials. This document is created from the initial meetings and conversations with the client and helps you create the initial scope of work.
  • Information Architecture: This document defines the project in its entirety; every page, view, section, subsection, etc.
  • Project Plan: The process of establishing steps, defining the objectives and steps to obtain them. An important note here is that we define the project plan slightly different from the PMBOK. We are breaking this off from the scope of work for the project and just noting this the project plan the resources, steps, objectives, milestones, and tasks.
  • Project: A project is what you are contracted to do. It is comprised of a set of tasks that create or enable the creation of the finished system.
  • Wireframes: These are simplified designs that show where items go on the page. Wireframes can be complex, but are often just built in black and white and are more representative of layout and functionality than the final designs.
  • Composition Design or High Fidelity Artwork: This is the design work to create the look and feel of the project. This is often done in a system such as Sketch, Photoshop, Illustrator, or Firework. However, new systems are coming into use regularly.
  • Coding/Slicing: This term refers to turning high fidelity designs into coded HTML and CSS. This may or may not include doing front-end development work, depending on the company doing the work.
  • Programming or Development: Programming or development is a broad term that is used to describe many tasks involving the actual act of writing computer programs and setting up and editing databases. Although it can include a wide variety of other tasks in and around these general tasks.
  • Contract: A written or spoken agreement, especially one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law. Features vs pages: Pages of a program can be features, but features are rarely just pages. Features are specific functions of a project. Pages usually contain many features.
  • Project Manager: The project manager is in charge of making sure tasks are assigned to the right people, resources are allocated in order to best meet project expectations, produce reports for stakeholders on projects, lead and manage the project team, and generally make sure that the project is executed smoothly.
  • Account Manager: People often confuse the account manager and the project manager. These positions sometimes have overlapping responsibilities, but in general, the Account Manager is responsible for managing the client and thus client interactions with the company or team. This role if often a go between, but also plays a critical role in making sure that projects move along well.
  • Lead Developer: This is the developer in charge of the development team. The lead developer often is in charge of managing peer code reviews, reviewing and approving pull requests, being a resource for other developers on the team, and leading the development team.
  • Information Architect: The information architect is usually a person with design, development, and business growth experience. This role doesn’t have to know all the answers, just all the right questions to ask and who to ask. Although an experienced Information Architect will often know the answers themselves. The information architect is responsible for the development of the scope document. In my experience the information architect is often a UX designer with development experience, versus a developer with design experience. The reason for this is that designers start off working directly with the clients to think through the user flow through the system, which is often the first step in developing a thorough information architecture.
  • Strategist: The strategist is a position that requires a fair amount of business experience. This is a person who will look at the project from a business perspective as well as a tech perspective. They will help the client think about ways to make the project successful from a business perspective, not just get it done. It is helpful for the strategist to have an entrepreneurial character and digital marketing experience. This role sometimes also fills the Information Architect role.
  • Digital Marketer: The Digital Marketer role is focused on the marketing of a system using digital systems and methods. These are systems such as pay per click advertising, display network advertising, social platform marketing and advertising, content marketing, and SEO.
  • Creative Director: The Creative Director role leads the design team. This role sets the direction for design on the project that they are involved in. Very often, the Creative Director will assume one or more roles within the design team such as UX designer, graphic designer, copywriter, or even sometimes front end development. In larger teams the Creative Director often oversees all design team members, but in smaller teams may also take the position of the Art Director.
  • Resources: In this document we are referring to “Resources” using the Project Management terminology. Resources are required to carry out tasks. For the most part in this document that means people (ie. John the developer is a ‘resource’), but it can also mean equipment, money, office space, etc.
  • Standard Operating Procedure (SOP): This is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a written out list that describes how you do your tasks, usually the more complex ones. This can be in the form of an text document, powerpoint, video, or all sorts of other things. SOPs are also how you grow your company. ProTip: My favorite system for SOPs is definitely Confluence by Atlassian.
  • Prospect: Someone you have had minimal or no contact with yet that you think might be interested in doing business with you. This can be a person from a list that you created from research, someone you met at a trade show, or someone who hit your website that didn’t actually express interest in a purchase yet.
  • Lead: This is the next step after a prospect. This is someone who has shown interest in making a purchase from your company.
  • Contact: A person, usually at a company, that is one of your contact points there. Very often this is a company or person that is already doing business with you.
  • Client: So here is where things get a little confusing. You may refer to a person as the ‘client’ but you are doing business most of the time with the company. So really, the company is your client and the person is a contact at the company, even if it is a one-man shop. It doesn’t really matter, and different businesses refer to these interchangeably, but in this document, this is how it is defined.
  • CMS - Content Management System: This is the platform that enables you to manage content on your website. Some examples of this system are Wordpress, Drupal, CraftCMS, and Grav. These are all systems that enable you to add, edit, and delete content on your website from an administrative portal that requires a login to access.
  • Development Framework or Platform: A ‘development framework or platform’ is a fairly broad term. In this document this refers to a system of reusable code libraries developed for developers to build larger systems. This term is used to define backend and frontend systems. Some example development frameworks include: Laravel, Django, Symfony, jQuery, Bootstrap, Foundation by Zurb, and ActiveX. It’s not used in this way here, but also systems such as Wordpress could be considered a development platform.
  • Continuous Integration: Continuous Integration is the process of continuously adding to a system new features within a process that keeps the system working well, agile, and operational. This process is somewhat circular, following the steps of operate, measure, plan, code, build, test, release, deploy, then back to operate. These steps ensure the code is constantly monitored and improved.
  • Quality Assurance (QA): Quality Assurance, in software development, is the process of making sure your system doesn’t have too many bugs. With any reasonable sized system, you’re almost definitely going to have some bugs. QA is both a department (Oh, that’s not working? We’ll send that over to QA!) and a process (We’ll get some QA done on that!). The process changes based on the scope of the project and can range from very simple to very complex. On the very simple side, it can be just checking to see if a switch is working properly. On the complex side, it can be implementing things like unit testing.
Chapter 4

Client Acquisition

The first step in project planning is definitely DURING the acquisition phase. We’ll cover how to get clients coming to you in another blog post. The first step is in the acquisition phase because that is where the scope of work is initially discussed and expectations are set. This is also where digital agencies very often mess it up.

This next bit is not just the scoping side, but also some basics of sales for digital agencies.

Client Acquisition

What does your potential client or stakeholder want to know?

Want to get that sale that’s going to just blow up your company? What to do it fast? The first thing you need to understand is what your clients are really asking you, especially if you are a digital agency.

New Clients

What does your client want to know?

You don’t know this company, they don’t know you, or at least they don’t know you well enough to just give you the project without any questions. So you need to be able to answer the following questions they have for you:

  • Can you do this project?
  • Can you meet our budget?
  • Can you meet our timeline?
  • Are you going to be around long enough to support this project? In other words, you’re not going out of business any time soon.
  • Do we like you?

Protip: Remember buying decisions are very often made on emotion, even with very large dollar amounts!

Working without a pitch or with a very broad one

If you’re selling a productized service or the same services over and over to the same kind of clients, a pitch works great. Most of my sales over the years though were done on the fly with the “Selling Naked” and “Challenger Method” approaches. This means going into the sale with just your laptop, some business cards, and a notebook, then asking the right questions and letting the lead talk.

When you’re coming into a new sale like this, it’s your job to determine the following factors:

  • Is this a good client for you?
  • What does the client need done?
  • Can you do what they want done?
  • Does the client have any money, or at least enough to make this conversation worth the time?
  • Do you like this person enough to want to work with them?

Then you need to determine what is going on with the client’s business.

Protip: Before you go in to talk to almost any client, make sure you do your homework! Look over their company, know who they are, check out their online profiles, understand their needs, call some of their competitors, etc. Remember, if you’re not doing this, someone else is.

Don’t jump into project questions right away. This project is just another business tool, even if it is the business. Ask about the business first:

  • What are this year’s goals?
  • What are the goals for the project?
  • Do they have measurable goals for this project?
  • What do they want to get from doing this project that may not be quantifiable?
  • If not, what would some good ones be?
  • What is the monthly and yearly revenue for their company or this product or service?
  • Why are they doing this for a living?
  • How many people work at the company?
  • If not, how will they measure the success of this project?
  • How much is the sale of an item or service worth to them?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • How are they beating or not beating their competitors?
  • What are their target audiences and how specifically are they defined?
  • What marketing or advertising is currently being done?
  • Are there other comparable marketing efforts going on at the company that you need to be aware of?
  • What is their monthly spend on marketing?
  • What marketing has worked in the past?
  • What did not work?
  • What do or don’t they like about what is currently in place, if there is something there now?

After you’ve had the business conversation, then talk about the project. It will help you tremendously to get understand what you are building.

Now, talk about the project...

If you were getting a new garage added to your house or your car engine fixed, the first things you’re going to ask are:

  • How much is this going to cost me?
  • How long will it take?

So, you don’t want to walk out the meeting without giving the client at least some idea of what they are looking at. Most of the time, they want to know what range they are talking about; 5k, 50k, 500k, etc.

If you want to give them an answer on this, jump to the section below on figuring round number costs.

Protip: Are you in sales? Do you like to talk? That’s great, but while you’re meeting with your client, unless they ask you questions, ask them questions then shut your mouth and let the client talk. Really, stop explaining and just let them talk. So often, they will talk themselves into the project. But more than anything, they want to know that you’re listening. So ask open ended questions like the ones noted above and let them answer it completely before going to the next question. Ever been on a date with someone who won’t shut up about themselves? Don’t be that guy or girl.

Once you have all the information on what this client is selling, who they are selling it to, how they are selling it, and so forth, then you can start talking about what goes into building a system that will sell or market even better for them.

Before you finish up with that first meeting, make sure to ask the following questions:

  • What is your timeline for completion?
  • What is your budget?

Most clients won’t tell you their budget, but some will. If not, you can always tell them that you can provide an estimate for them, but getting their budget will really help you close that sale.

What Expectations Did You Set?

  1. Your brand new, soon-to-be client now knows that you are a pro because you asked them the right questions and let them answer.
  2. If possible, you gave them a somewhat accurate round number quote so they know if this is worth pursuing on their side. If they you don’t have the knowledge to get a round number on the project, you gave them a time when you could. Or, perhaps they needed help developing the SOW for this project as a whole, in that case you gave them a quote for a block of hours to help them determine the Scope of Work. This is also known as “Selling The Discovery,” and can lead to great projects.
  3. You got their timeline and gave them back some reasonable estimate on how long it is going to take to do the job, and you didn’t sugar coat it to get the sale because that would just be mismanaging expectations.
  4. You may have gotten their budget.
  5. You gave them a time when you are going to follow up with more information on the project if you needed any more research done.
  6. If this was a good project for you and for them, you made them an offer and asked them for the sale. You also told them that you would write up a rough creative brief based on your conversation and send it over to them.

You just set a lot of expectations about what is going to happen next, and how this project is going to run. This is the first step towards the project being scoped out and run right.

What are your next steps?

  1. Send a thank you email. Although personal thank you cards are the best; you know, the ones that show up in real paper at your doorstep.
  2. At or before the time you said you would reach back out to your lead, send an email with a reviewed quote on the project and ask for a meeting to go over it. It is rare that with development projects that you can get the whole thing ready to sell in one meeting.
  3. After you have a good number to work with, send out a contract.

Working with a Pitch

Let’s assume that you know all the stuff above and you’re pitching the client, not just meeting with them to see about building a project that you don’t know all that much about. A normal pitch has the following items. These are important because it sets up expectations up front.

  1. The client’s current situation - this shows you understand your client
  2. An alternative situation (what the client wants)
  3. How working with you will get them to this new position
  4. Summary of 1 through 3
  5. Your goal for this project
  6. What it’s worth to your client - how much are they going to make, save, or do?
  7. What you’re going to do to build this project - this shows that you know what you’re talking about.
  8. Examples of some of your work - it can be very general stuff if needs be, but obviously the more of that kind of industry you’ve done in the past, the better.
  9. The investment/cost. I like to call it an investment because that’s what it is.
  10. The timeline of the project
  11. About your company, team, or experience
  12. “The Ask.” Ask for the deal, right there, right on the paper. Tell them you want the job. Depending on the client, you may also want to add “The Offer.” This is where you add some scarcity. Give them a carrot to sign this week, or even today! It may sound cheesy, but creating scarcity works, and don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise.
  13. The “Thank you.” This is exactly what it sounds like. “Thanks for your time! We look forward to working with you!” or something like that.

Protip: Do your homework and know your client before you talk to them! If you don’t know how much this project is worth to them, who their clients are, how well they are doing, etc. before you talk to them, just know that your competition probably does.

So, why is the pitch important again?

READ THIS! Other than getting you the deal, that pitch is important because during item 7, you’re going to tell your brand new client that one of the first steps in your process is to create a scope of work document. This is part of the project, the client has to pay for it, and you NEED to do it.

Setting this expectation does a few things for you:

  1. It shows that you know what you’re talking about because professionals plan their work.
  2. It shows the client that both you and they are going to be held accountable to the project plan.
  3. It helps the client feel good about working with your team because with a thorough scope of work you can show a thorough project timeline.

Storytime: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come into a sales call with a thorough SOW from a previous project where I changed the name and done about an hour of work on the document, then come out looking about 10x better than my competition. The competition comes in with something like “Yeah… probably going to take a few months and be in the 20k - 50k range.” We come in and say “Here is a thorough scope doc and project plan all laid out and ready for you. We had the last one done in 3.2 months and it cost 34.25k. Yours will probably be about the same give or take 30%.” We said basically the same thing, but because we can show a really well thought out SOW, we look head and shoulders above the competition.

Existing Clients

You’ve delivered on your promises in the past and now you’ve got the same people coming back for more of a good thing. If you didn’t scope out that project last time, now’s the time to tell them about your new processes!

Chapter 5

How to Produce an Estimate on a Complex Project

Now we’re breaking projects into different sizes and types because different sized projects are generally handled differently. There are similarities, but a 1k project is handled differently than a 1 million dollar project, and a design only project has different steps than a development only project.

Project sizes are different for every company, so figuring what is the average small, medium, or large sized project was difficult. We finally decided to just base this on our company, JH Media Group. We included projects of all sizes we receive so you can see how we manage them.

How to Produce an Estimate on a Complex Project

Who needs to understand project size?

Understanding project size is very important, not just for your project managers and build team, but also for your sales people.

Protip: One of the biggest issues I’ve seen is a sales person quoting low on a project initially, then coming to the team to say, “I told them that this project was going to come in around X, so we need to find a way to make that happen.” From the business developer’s perspective, they want the deal, and it is their job to bring it in. They don’t have to build it, just sell it, and they figure that the team can build what is possible with the budget the client gives them. So knowing what range to initially estimate a deal at during the sale can be critically important.

How are projects sizes determined?

  • Estimated hours to complete based on number of features
  • Duration - just because you said it was simple doesn’t mean it needs to be done fast.
  • Complexity - as a function of interconnected features and debugging.
  • Number of necessary resources - how many people are going to be on this project team
  • Cost - how much this is costing you
  • Profit - how much you’re charging, minus your cost, equals your profit!

Estimated Hours:

This is the most fundamental piece of size estimation. Almost everything else plays into this. To calculate this, just break each task and feature down into it’s subsections and calculate how long it will take to do the tasks it takes to do each task. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?


Just because you can get it done in a week doesn’t mean you should or that you should tell the client that. In fact, when possible, double project timelines. It’s a balancing act since you still need to make payroll, but getting plenty of time on those projects can make life easier for everyone. Besides, you can always underpromise and over deliver. But doing the opposite isn’t advisable.

The reason that duration plays into the estimate is that if you have two projects of similar sizes, but one with a much longer or shorter timeline, this will sometimes determine how the project is quoted and planned.


The first two items look right in line, but why this third one? Because projects with custom development aspects grow in complexity exponentially. Technically speaking, it increases quadratically. But either way, it’s not linear. The reason for this is that as the number of features grow, so do the connections between them and additionally the time to test and debug those features and connections.

For example, if you have 2 features that interact with each other both ways (they send and receive data back and forth) you have 2 connections. But if you have 6 features that all send data back and forth, you have 28 connections. For each connection you have a greater chance of having bugs, and each time you have to debug, it takes substantially longer.

To make it straightforward, the more custom features that interact, the more connections, and thus the more debug time to fix those features and connections. For each new item, the system grows exponentially, as seen below:

how to use complexity in planning

You can also just do the math on this as 2-way connections = n x (n-1) So 10 features all connecting information back and forth will give you 90 connections, and 15 features all with information going back and forth will give you 210 connections.

You can also see it in a graph here going from 1 to 100 features:

Development Growth

Clearly not all features are going to send data back and forth, and not all systems are going to grow in complexity exponentially, BUT MOST DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS GROW EXACTLY LIKE THIS!!!!

How to use complexity in planning: When you’re planning out a project with moderate to high complexity, allot hours to development and debugging based on the number of connections, not the number of features, then add 30% or more time to pad. Some agency owners or project managers just take whatever their developers tell them and triple it. That actually works pretty well.

Number of Resources:

The number of people required for the project team increases the complexity of the project so it needs to be taken into consideration as well. Each person added is an additional person that needs to communicate with everyone else and whose time for both their work and communication needs to be included in your estimate.

The way to account for the number of resources is to make sure to account for EVERYONE’S meeting times. That is not just meetings with clients, but also meetings with other designers and developers. You can just add a ‘collaboration’ item into your scope of work that is an additional 10% of the entire project.

Cost (your cost to build the thing):

Also pretty straightforward, but surprisingly few agency owners really know the cost of each project. Now that you know you’re estimated hours with a complexity modifier, just calculate the number of hours each person has given you for each of their tasks times their rates, plus any software, photos, or other costs, and you’ve got a good round number cost for the project.

ProTip: If you have outsource developers, designers, and project managers, make them give you a flat fee for the project based on your scope and you will ALWAYS know your profit!

Price (how much you’re charging):

There are a few ways to calculate the price on development projects. You can still sell on a flat fee pricing system, but you need to know your profit margin based on hours x rate first. See the Pro Tip below for notes on selling on flat fee.

  • Hours x Rate - This means that you are taking the billable rate for each person you are billing for, multiplying it times their estimated hours, adding in anything else like software or photography, then posting this as your price. This method works fine when your projects are under 100k, but when you start getting in the 70k - 200k project size, you often run into pricing issues where you have clients of a certain size that have a good budget for the project, but not what it would cost to do it in a hours x rate costing method and meet their budgets. For that reason, we have…
  • Cost Plus Pricing - this means that you take your cost and you add a percentage on top of it. When you’re doing this, make sure to take into account a risk factor on top of just what you want to make or think the market will bear. What this means is to make sure to calculate what happens if someone messes up along the way, unless you are very sure this won’t happen. When doing cost plus pricing, always know that if you have a major loss on the project, you’re still going to come out in the black!

Hours x Rate or Cost Plus can both be calculated and sold as either task based which can change based on the number of hours being sold or flat fee projects that are often sold where the buyer is purchasing a ‘product’ not a service. Task/person based projects can be calculated in the following ways:

  • Project hourly rate - everything in the project always costs a certain amount per hour.
  • Task hourly rate - each task has a certain rate. Add up the hours per rate and you’ve got a total.
  • Person hourly rate - A lot of consulting companies use this method. It is generally set up for teams where experience is highly valued. A senior partner may bill at $500/hr, whereas an associate may be billed at $120/hr.

Even though you calculate a project on a task based method, you can still sell it on flat fee.

SUPER IMPORTANT PRO TIP!!! If you are selling on flat-fee, sell on value! That means that you are selling the value of what you are providing, not the time it takes to build it. If you are selling hours, it means that you are selling a service and the buyer almost always understands that buying hours means that they always have to pay for something when they call you. But if you sell on value, you are selling based on the value it brings to the company you are selling it to. The reason this is important is that you can sell for a lot more when selling on value, but you are essentially providing a finished product. In the mind of the buyer they are buying something that works perfectly and won’t have to be fixed all the time, so it is going to take a lot more effort to make it work like that, especially if it is a custom development project. Even if you have a great business developer that sets up a great support agreement, you can often set yourself up for failure by selling on flat fee for very large projects unless the scope of that initial project is very, very clearly laid out. For more on selling on value, I highly recommend reading the book “Breaking the Time Barrier” by Mike McDerment, the CEO of Freshbooks.

Determining Project Size:

Now that we’ve covered all the determining factors in project size, let’s throw a wrench in the system and point out that if you’ve been doing this for any reasonable amount of time, very often project size is based on your gut feeling, because whomever is making the decision to work on the project is generally comparing the project to work they’ve done in the past.

Problems arise when someone who is used to doing 5k projects suddenly gets a 50k project, or when someone used to doing 50k projects suddenly gets a 500k project. If you know where you stand day to day, the formula below probably isn’t that useful, but if you suddenly get a big project, take a look and see how it compares to everything else and for the sake of your own sanity, make sure to pad tons of time if for larger complexity projects.

Or, even if you’ve been doing this for a long time, if you’re losing money and can’t figure out why, maybe you need to take a hard, hard look at the formulas and steps above.

ProTip: I highly recommend reading through the PMBOK or just taking a look here for more information on how a PMP certified project manager would do estimates. There is a ton of great knowledge on how to build project plans at the PMI website, but very often it isn’t cost effective for the size of projects that many smaller teams are doing to make it worth doing all of that. That’s why we’ve got a faster way for you here.

Some things to take into consideration about those size variables:

  • Estimated hours - If it’s a big project, you may want to wait for other projects to finish up to get started.
  • Duration - If it’s going to take a long time, make sure that the amount of money coming in is going to support the people you’ve got working on it.
  • Complexity - If you like not suffering from stress-induced heart attack, use the recommendations above for calculating cost based on complexity, not just number of pages or features.
  • Cost - If it’s going to cost a lot of money, make sure you can plan for the ups and downs. You may not get all the money during one pay period, so make sure can account for this.
  • Profit - If you’re going to make a lot of money, you may want to prioritize this project over others.

Step by Step to Figuring Round Number Project Size:

To review, the reason you need to know a rough estimate of the size is so you can tell your potential client a range on the project size.

In the end, project size is determined by the number of hours and resources used, and every company is different. Additionally, there are a ton of different ways to estimate costs.

Here is our basic step-by-step on how to do this:

  1. Open up your favorite spreadsheet program
  2. Make a list of the major features and tasks within a project.
  3. For each item, make an estimate of how long it’s going to take to do the item in days and half days.
  4. Multiply your hours times your rate
  5. Add 20% for project management as a whole, if you haven’t already.
  6. Add 25% - 35% for all the stuff you forgot to account for
  7. Add an additional 20% for padding
  8. Make a new section for software and other costs and add up your costs there.
  9. Add up your labor and materials costs and you’ve got your total.

Take a look at this example if you need some assistance

Now remember, this isn’t your scope document, it is just your estimate!

Protip: If your business developer doesn’t have the experience to know basically what features go into a system, then they need to report back to whomever can make these decisions before giving the client any numbers.

Project Sizes:

Digital agencies and in-house design & development departments call different size projects different things from a number system to a color system. There are, of course, in-betweens, but the system below is a good rubric to start with. I used this rubric because this is where we are at JH Media Group right now.

  • < 1k - This is usually a work order or support ticket.
  • 1k - 10k - Usually a larger work order or small theme-based website
  • 10k - 50k - Custom designed website, small app or web-app
  • 50k - 100k - Larger custom designed website, app, or web-app
  • 100k - 200k - Large custom website with several custom features, higher level app or web-app
  • 200k+ - Usually an enterprise wanting a custom application or intranet system.

Projects can go up from 200k easily. For us, these are often larger web-based applications, but obviously it depends on the company as to how ‘big’ a 200k project is for them.

Project Types

Projects pretty much always fall into one of these three categories:

  • New Project: This will take the most initial time with your client because you really want to understand every need and want of theirs as well as be able to anticipate problems and effective solutions for them. By taking the time to learn all of your client’s needs, you will have an easier and quicker time when you are actually producing their scope document and information architecture.
  • Work Order/Change Order: A work order usually comprises building or editing a feature on an existing project. Work orders are miniature new projects and should be scoped and performed in the same way as a new project. This is crucial if you did not create the system which you are editing.
  • Support Ticket: Fixing bugs from a previous project, performing small configuration changes, or changing/updating and existing feature in a project. This type of work usually lasts for the life of the client, but should still be billed, and unless it is just a few minutes to fix, scoped as well to maintain client expectations and satisfaction ongoing.
Chapter 6

Selling the Project

Alright! Now that you have or know:

  • Some good ideas about what you’re going to be building, why you’re building it, and how it will help your soon to be or new customer
  • A list of the general features that need to be included in the project
  • Your client’s timeline and maybe their budget
  • An estimate on hours, cost, and price of the project

At this point you’re just following up with the client, making sure you stay top of mind, and being in front of him or her when they are ready to make a buying decision. Of course, huge volumes have been written on how to sell, so if you’re interested in that, I recommend starting with Spin Selling by Neil Rackham. There are also tons of great methods to nurturing leads using a variety of systems. All of these are important to creating a successful business.

For selling this kind of project, there are a few things that you probably need to have:

A Proposal - maybe

Not everyone uses proposals, so you it isn’t absolutely necessary. But it is nice to have. My recommendation is to get a subscription to Envato Elements ($30/mo at the time of writing), find a proposal that works for you, then customize it to your company.

Protip: We use proposals about a quarter of the time. The rest of the time we’re just working out a SOW with the client. It cuts down on time and keeps the focus on the project not on the image. We do have a general proposal that just has everyone’s picture, about the company, our processes, etc. But the guts of the project are in our Scope of Work document, not in the proposal. We use the proposal docs when we’re pitching a big client or when we really need to show off our previous work on paper instead of just sending people to our website for case studies.

A SOW, discovery sale option, or full Scope of Work.

You can either sell the discovery, have some estimate based on what you put together so far, or have a full SOW (covered later in this document). You also need to have some idea about those timelines. They don’t have to go into the contract, but you need to be able to at least say close to when you’re going to be done.

Protip: Some clients want a full SOW before they will do a contract with you. Sometimes it’s worth working with them to do this, but that is a risk. You have a few options here, either make them sign a contract that says that they agree to pay for your work should they use it with another company, just do it for free and take the risk, or get them to pay you a smaller amount to do the SOW for them. The last is definitely my favorite. We have charged as little as a few hundred dollars for a few hours of time up to tens of thousands of dollars for large projects. The trick on this is to make them pay for a block of hours. Tell the client that they can pay for a block of 10 hours at a cost of 10% less than your hourly rate and you expect that if they they get you everything on time and have all the info for you, the project should take X-number blocks of hours. Inevitably, they are going to take longer, add more stuff, change tons of things around, and want to meet with you a ton. As long as you let them know when you hit 50%, 80%, and 90% of each block of hours and give a brief, or thorough, report on what you did with your time and their money, you will keep getting paid to do the discovery.

A Contract

You need this. Really. Really, really. Don’t do business without it. Make sure it’s good. I’m so serious about this that there is an entire section in this document on how to write up a contract and how that impacts your scope of work.

Protip: Here is a link to one of my favorite videos about contracts and getting paid by Mike Monteiro. It’s not necessarily safe for work, but well worth watching.

Want to know how to pay sales people at a digital agency? Find out now!

Simple Sales Process

A lot of people don’t know how to close a sale. So I put this part together for you:

Recorded teleconference meeting between you, your project manager - Jane, and Mrs. Soandso - the client.

You: Hey Mrs. Soandso, good to see you! Here’s all that stuff we talked about. (digitally sends over the contract and the SOW)

You: I also have my project manager here on the call and wanted to introduce her. This is Jane, she is amazing and keeps everything on track all the time. She is going to be walking you through the entire project step by step.

Mrs. Soandso: Hey [your name here], good to see you again, and great to meet you Jane!

Jane: Nice to meet you as well. I look forward to working with you on this project.

You: We would like take you through the contract and the final scope of work one more time before we get thing everything started.

Mrs. Soandso: Great. Let’s get started!

(The two of you go through the full scope and contract)

You: Everything look good?

Mrs. Soandso: Yep, all good.

You: I’ll send you over a digital contract to sign via [HelloSign, Docusign, BrainLeaf, etc.] right now and your first invoice.

Mrs. Soandso: Sounds great! I’ll get it signed now and send out the first check as soon as we get the invoice.

Jane: I will get our team kicked off and will send you out an email with some dates and times for our first meeting. In the meantime, I will get the project management system set up where all communication will be managed, all your files entered, deadlines input, and people added. Whenever we send you messages it will come through this system, this way everyone always has every communication centralized. You should get an email from [Asana, Basecamp, Teamwork, JIRA, etc.] in just a bit inviting you to the project. I will also get you a final list of all your milestones, payments, and other timelines as soon as the system is set up in a couple days.

Mrs. Soandso: Sounds great. I will get back to you as soon as I get that email.

You: Thank you! We will get started as soon as we receive that contract and the first payment. We look forward to working with you!

Mrs. Soandso: And us as well!

You: Talk soon.

Mrs. Soandso: Chao!

What Expectations You Set In The Sale

That is obviously a pretty abbreviated version of a contract signing meeting. But the important expectations you set or reconfirmed are:

  • The project manager is now in charge.
  • The contract is or will be signed.
  • Everyone has read through the entire scope and contract together and agrees to it all.
  • The project can’t start till the first payment and contract are received.
  • Communications will be centralized via your PM system.
  • You are excited to get the project started.

Protip: People love changing things at the last minute. It happens regularly. But what doesn’t happen is everyone remembering what happened in the middle of a contract meeting. So record this meeting. It’s an easy step and holds everyone accountable.

Chapter 7

Everyone Loves Contracts!

If you’re thinking to yourself, this is a legal thing, it’s not really a scope thing, you’re wrong. The contract is absolutely part of your scope of work. It sets up tons of agreements, and often sets your SOW as part of the contract. I’m going to take you through every part of my contract so you can see every clause and why you need it.

Protip: Getting an attorney is like getting a mechanic, you really need to trust them, or at least trust that they’re not going to screw you. Don’t be afraid to shop around for attorneys, and make sure that whomever you get understands you business. It took me years to find the right attorney, but she has saved my butt numerous times now. Also, just to clear up a common misconception, attorney’s work a lot like you. You don’t have to have a retainer for some contract work. If they tell you otherwise, find your way to the door and walk out.

There is so much to be said about contracts. I could literally write volumes on contracts to go through everything. Heck, you could go to school for 4 years just to learn everything you need to know.

Fortunately, we’ve already done it for you!

Chapter 8

You’ve got to know your contract!

Your contract sets up what you and your clients are responsible for. It is a giant plate of steel armor for you and your business.

If you have a poorly written contract, or no contract at all, you’re rolling the dice with every client, and eventually your luck will run out. When you find yourself in a worst case scenario, the first thing your attorney will say is, “What does the contract say?”

Fortunately, there are tons of organizations that have done the work for you when it comes to contracts. We took the AIGA contract and mixed it with aspects of Andy Clarke’s “Killer Contract” to get the contract used by a number of different design and development companies.

It took us 16 years to get our contract to where it is today and still it changes frequently. Writing a contract is rarely a once and done event, rather it’s an ongoing process as are so many aspects of business.


We’re not lawyers. We’re not giving you legal advice. You’re not paying for legal advice when using our systems. Make sure to get your own attorney to review this or any other contract BEFORE you use it.

Protip: I’m going to fill you in on a few little secrets about attorneys and what they’re really there for. A good attorney can save your butt from some big problems by thinking about all the stuff that you’re not thinking about. That is what they’re trained to do. An even better attorney can get you out of a problem you’re already in… sometimes. There are two lesser known thing things about attorneys you need to know though. 1) Most attorneys are shitty at business. They are good at their craft, but don’t let them think for you through your business decisions. They know they law, but sometimes by asking the right questions you can use their knowledge better than they can, especially for your business that they probably don’t understand. 2) Attorneys are a TRANSFER OF LIABILITY. That means that if an attorney sets up your contract incorrectly and you get sued for something stupid, you can counter sue that attorney to make up for your losses. One of the reasons these guys are expensive is that they understand the risk they are taking when giving legal advice.

It’s not written in stone

If your client asks for changes, don’t worry or be upset. This happens all the time, and you too can make changes; which is why it is so important you read and understand your own contract. Changes should always be discussed before the contract is signed. Remember, you do your negotiating before the contract is signed, afterwards is too late.

The longer you do business, the more things are going to happen that will make you think “I need to add this to my contract so this never happens again.” Don’t be afraid to do that.

Our goal is to help take some of the confusion out of contract writing and to help you avoid the trouble a poorly written contract can get you into. This is just one of the contracts we use. Your requirements may differ and your projects may require unique provisions.

Breaking down the web development, work for hire contract

Here we will break this contract down paragraph by paragraph to explain everything in detail. Please feel free to add or subtract from it to make it your own.

Summary: You [CUSTOMER_NAME] to be referred to as the “Client” within this contract, located at [CUSTOMER_ADDRESS], are hiring us, [BUSINESS_NAME], to design and develop web-based applications, modules, interfaces, websites and/or all of the aforementioned items for price(s) outlined in a separate Scope of Work (SOW) document for each Project under this Agreement. The parties therefore agree as follows:

This one is easy. Who are you contracting with? Maybe it’s a company, maybe it’s an individual. In any event, list the name of the person or the company who is responsible for the contract. We have added that we have the Scope Of Work. This document, attached to the contract, stipulates exactly what we are building. It needs to be very detailed. There should be no misunderstanding as to exactly what we intend to build. There should be no room for “it should do this” or “it should do that”. The project will do what we have outlined it will do. Any changes to the “it should” requires a change order or a new contract.

Set expectations before the contract is signed. We are setting the tone for the business transaction. Everyone needs to understand what we and what they, the client, is responsible for.

Terms and Conditions 1. DEFINITIONS As used herein and throughout this Agreement: We are giving an explanation of some of the terms in the contract. There should be no misunderstanding as to what they mean to us in relation to our work. Let’s go over each one individually. 1.1 Agreement means the entire content of this Basic Terms and Conditions document, the Scope of Work document(s), Schedule A, together with any other Supplements designated below, together with any exhibits, schedules or attachments hereto.

This statement lets the client know that this contract includes our Scope Of Work as well as any other relevant details to be added to the contract. Just do not neglect to add the important items. They are suddenly unimportant if they are not added to the contract before signing. You can not add anything after the contract is signed. Remember, you do your negotiating before the contract is signed, not afterwards.

1.2 Client Content means all materials, information, photography, writings and other creative content provided by Client for use in the preparation of and/or incorporation in the Deliverables.

Now we all know what client content includes. It is not media we have purchased from outside sources and added to the project. However it is media or materials that the client may have taken from the internet and perhaps not paid for nor told us where it came from. As far as we are concerned, it belongs to the client as he gave them to us to use for the project. We are not responsible to find out where these items came from. We are safe to assume that they are his and we are free to use them in the final project.

1.3 Copyrights means the property rights in original works of authorship, expressed in a tangible medium of expression, as defined and enforceable under U.S. Copyright Law.

There should be no misunderstanding that the project and items used for it must follow US Copyright Law. If it falls under the copyright law, we, and the client, must abide by what the law states.

1.4 Deliverables means the services and work product specified in the Scope of Work to be delivered by [BUSINESS_NAME] to Client, in the form and media specified in the Scope of Work.

Deliverables are specified in the contract. We promise to deliver what we have agreed to do. The client can and will expect to receive their project as promised.

1.5 Designer Tools means all design tools developed and/or utilized by [BUSINESS_NAME] in performing the Services, including without limitation pre-existing and newly developed software including source code, Web authoring tools, type fonts, and application tools, together with any other software, or other inventions whether or not patentable, and general non-copyrightable concepts such as website design, architecture, layout, navigational and functional elements.

We are informing the client that we use other tools in our development. This comes as no surprise but it needs to be mentioned.

1.6 Final Art means all creative content developed or created by [BUSINESS_NAME], or commissioned by [BUSINESS_NAME], exclusively for the Project and incorporated into and delivered as part of the Final Deliverables, including and by way of example, not limitation, any and all visual designs, visual elements, graphic design, illustration, photography, animation, sounds, typographic treatments and text, modifications to Client Content, and [BUSINESS_NAME]’s selection, arrangement and coordination of such elements together with Client Content and/or Third Party Materials.

1.7 Final Deliverables means the final versions of Deliverables provided by [BUSINESS_NAME] and accepted by Client.

The final art delivered to the client is what we have developed with the tools we use. It is part of the deliverables to our client.

1.8 Preliminary Works means all artwork including, but not limited to, concepts, sketches, visual presentations, or other alternate or preliminary designs and documents developed by [BUSINESS_NAME] and which may or may not be shown and or delivered to Client for consideration.

This is important to define as eventually all these works will belong to the client. They are paying for it so it belongs to them. We are simply defining what these items entail so they will know what they are purchasing.

1.9 Project means the scope and purpose of the Client’s requested work product as described in the Scope of Work (SOW).

The project they are hiring us for and the project we will deliver is detailed in the Scope Of Work. It only includes those items specified and not what they think the project should or could do.

1.10 Services means all services and the work product to be provided to Client by [BUSINESS_NAME] as described and otherwise further defined in the Scope of Work.

This contract covers items in the Scope of Work only. Additional items are NOT included in this contract.

1.11 Third Party Materials means proprietary third party materials which are incorporated into the Final Deliverables, including without limitation stock photography or illustration.

1.12 Trademarks means trade names, words, symbols, designs, logos or other devices or designs used in the Final Deliverables to designate the origin or source of the goods or services of Client.

These paragraphs inform our client that third party materials may be proprietary and we must adhere to the standards set for them. Trademarks should be noted as they do not belong to us nor to the client.

2. Scope of Work The terms of the Scope of Work shall be effective for 30 days after presentation to Client. In the event this Agreement is not executed by Client within the time identified, the Scope of Work, together with any related terms and conditions and deliverables, may be subject to amendment, change or substitution.

We have a due date or a drop dead time outlined in our Scope Of Work. In this manner the client can not come to us weeks, months, or even years after the Scope of Work was presented and expect the work for the same amount of money. Things change quickly on the internet. The contract includes not only the cost of our work but the cost of our employees and subcontractors. We can not determine the final cost of a contract if it is to be performed in the future. We are informing our clients that there is a final acceptance date for this particular contract. If they accept the contract after the drop dead date, we have to option of changing the contract. It happens.

3. FEES AND CHARGES 3.1 Fees. In consideration of the Services to be performed by [BUSINESS_NAME], Client shall pay to [BUSINESS_NAME] fees in the amounts and according to the payment schedule set forth below in the Payments section, and all applicable sales, use or value added taxes, even if calculated or assessed subsequent to the payment schedule.

Payment for the contract is always of importance. Remember the video. We did the work, we expect to be paid the negotiated price. Everyone is on notice that we expect payment according to the agreed upon schedule. Do not forget to add the schedule!

Your client is now legally on the hook for the payment as long as you live up to your part of the bargain. If you have to go to court, this paragraph shows that your client agreed to pay you.

3.2 Additional Costs. The Project pricing includes [BUSINESS_NAME]’s in addition to any and all outside costs including, but not limited to, integrated software, 3rd party systems, equipment rental, photographer’s costs and fees, photography and/or artwork licenses, prototype production costs, talent fees, music licenses and online access or hosting fees, will be billed to Client unless specifically otherwise provided for in the Scope of Work.

3.3 Invoices. All invoices are payable within 30 days of receipt. A monthly service charge of 1.5% [or the greatest amount allowed by state law] is payable on all overdue balances. Payments will be credited first to late payment charges and next to the unpaid balance. Client shall be responsible for all collection or legal fees necessitated by lateness or default in payment. [BUSINESS_NAME] reserves the right to withhold delivery and any transfer of ownership of any current work if accounts are not current or overdue invoices are not paid in full. All grants of any license to use or transfer of ownership of any intellectual property rights under this Agreement are conditioned upon receipt of payment in full which shall be inclusive of any and all outstanding Fees, Additional Costs, Taxes, or the costs of Changes.

The client is being warned that we expect payment as agreed. We are also informing them that we may withhold deliverables if payment is not made. We do not have to transfer ownership until they are current on their payments. No one, especially us, wants or can afford to work for free. The payment includes change orders that may have been accepted for the project. Note that we have included “collection and legal fees necessitated by lateness or default.” The client is told that we expect and they agree to payment for any legal fees due to lateness or default.

Also we do not have to give them delivery until their account is current. This is an important sentence. How many times have you felt obligated to make delivery and then hope you get paid. It is easier to cite a section and subsection of your contract and tell the client it is the policy of your company to receive payment first and unfortunately there is nothing you can do about it. You have forestalled any argument as they agreed to this at the beginning of the negotiations. There is little they can do or say at this point but pay you. In addition, it is some other department or person’s fault as you have told them there is nothing you can do. This makes it easier and you are not the bad guy. More often than not they send payment.

4. CHANGES Who has ever completed a large project that did not include changes? It is the nature of the business. 4.1 Changes. Unless otherwise provided in the Scope of Work, and except as otherwise provided for herein, Unless the Parties otherwise agree, Client shall pay additional charges for changes requested by Client which are outside the scope of the Services on a time and materials basis, at [BUSINESS_NAME]’s standard hourly rate noted in the SOW. Such charges shall be in addition to all other amounts payable under the Scope of Work, despite any maximum budget, contract price or final price identified therein. [BUSINESS_NAME] may extend or modify any delivery schedule or deadlines in the Scope of Work and Deliverables as may be required by such Changes. 4.2 Change Orders. Agreed Changes as described in Section 4.1 shall be captured in a written Change Order and no work will be initiated until the related Change Order is approved by the Client.

Often a scope of work will allow the client to make a certain amount of changes to the final product. Sometimes they are easy to accommodate and sometimes they are not. Just be sure that you have the change order and the extra charges listed out and approved at the time they are requested. The client does not realize the time and effort to accommodate them for changes. They need to be educated as to this matter and this paragraph informs them there is an additional cost to changes.

4.3 Timing. [BUSINESS_NAME] will prioritize performance of the Services as may be necessary or as identified in the Scope of Work, and will undertake commercially reasonable efforts to perform the Services within the time(s) identified in the Scope of Work. Client agrees to review Deliverables within the time identified for such reviews and to promptly either, (i) approve the Deliverables in writing or (ii) provide written comments and/or corrections sufficient to identify the Client’s concerns, objections or corrections to [BUSINESS_NAME]. [BUSINESS_NAME] shall be entitled to request written clarification of any concern, objection or correction. Client acknowledges and agrees that [BUSINESS_NAME]’s ability to meet any and all schedules is dependent upon Client’s prompt performance of its obligations to provide materials and written approvals and/or instructions pursuant to the Scope of Work and that any delays in Client’s performance or Changes in the Services or Deliverables requested by Client may delay delivery of the Deliverables. Any such delay caused by Client shall not constitute a breach of any term, condition or [BUSINESS_NAME]’s obligations under this Agreement.

Changes to the Scope Of Work changes everything in our schedule. The client is unaware of those problems. They need to be reminded that every change affects the project, some more than others.

If they do not respond in a timely manner, we can not continue our work. It is amazing how many clients just want you to make all decisions and then they are unhappy with the final product. Remember to keep a record of the dates feedback was requested and the date it was given. It will come back to haunt you if you do not have a written record. A client’s memory is short when it involves their money or their timeline.

4.4 Testing and Acceptance. [BUSINESS_NAME] will exercise commercially reasonable efforts to test Deliverables requiring testing and to make all necessary corrections prior to providing Deliverables to Client. [BUSINESS_NAME] will provide effective, efficient testing services and will strive diligently to thoroughly test the system. Client and [BUSINESS_NAME] understand and agree that Client faces tradeoffs between its needs for high product quality, timely project completion, and limited development cost. [BUSINESS_NAME] and Client will work together to determine the extent and depth of testing that can reasonably be achieved in light of Client's other constraints and the system’s design and reliability.

You have informed the client that more testing costs more money. The decision is a joint effort and both parties participate in the final decision. If they want to pay for more testing we will be happy to oblige. But this process takes time and therefore money.

5. CLIENT RESPONSIBILITIES Client acknowledges that it shall be responsible for performing the following in a reasonable and timely manner: (a) coordination of any decision-making with parties other than the [BUSINESS_NAME]; (b) provision of Client Content in a form suitable for reproduction or incorporation into the Deliverables without further preparation, unless otherwise expressly provided in the Scope of Work; and (c) final proofreading.

This informs the client that it is their responsibility and not ours to coordinate with third parties who may be performing work for the project. We are aware that many times we are the ones who have to deal with third parties and it often is better if we talk to them directly. However, ultimately, it is the client’s responsibility just as it is their money, and not ours, paying the third party.

The onus is on the client as well as on us for final testing and proofreading. We all know that even if we test for a long period of time, something will get by us and by the client. They need to understand that this is not an exact science.

Further, [BUSINESS_NAME] is helping guide us to success and obligated to inform us when our requests depart from best practices or our best interest, but, at the end of the day, [BUSINESS_NAME] is working at our direction. Client understands that [BUSINESS_NAME] is helping us get Projects done and done right but is not ultimately responsible for the long-term success or scalability of the project. Client further acknowledges that [BUSINESS_NAME] is helping us complete Projects and working at our direction. Many clients do not understand that a website is only another tool in their arsenal to help their business succeed. We need to put them on notice that we will give recommendations but if they are adamant in what they want, and we give it to them, we are not responsible if it does not perform the way they expect it to. We have agreed to work at their discretion. This is why we request constant feedback.

7. CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION Each party acknowledges that in connection with this Agreement it may receive certain confidential or proprietary technical and business information and materials of the other party (“Confidential Information”). Each party, its agents and employees shall hold and maintain in strict confidence all Confidential Information, shall not disclose Confidential Information to any third party, and shall not use any Confidential Information except as may be necessary to perform its obligations under the Scope of Work except as may be required by a court or governmental authority. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Confidential Information shall not include any information that is in the public domain or becomes publicly known through no fault of the receiving party, or is otherwise properly received from a third party without an obligation of confidentiality. These confidentiality obligations shall survive the termination of this Agreement. Confidential information is important to both parties. We are giving the client assurances just as they are giving us assurances concerning confidential information.

8. RELATIONSHIP OF THE PARTIES 8.1 Independent Contractor. [BUSINESS_NAME] is an independent contractor, not an employee of Client or any company affiliated with Client. [BUSINESS_NAME] shall provide the Services under the general direction of Client, but [BUSINESS_NAME] shall determine, in [BUSINESS_NAME]’s sole discretion, the manner and means by which the Services are accomplished. This Agreement does not create a partnership or joint venture and neither party is authorized to act as agent or bind the other party except as expressly stated in this Agreement. All rights granted to Client are contractual in nature and are wholly defined by the express written agreement of the parties and the various terms and conditions of this Agreement. All work undertaken hereunder by [BUSINESS_NAME] is understood to be, and shall be deemed to be, work made for hire.

This is all legalese. It just says that we are not employees and we need the client as well as the government (if it ever comes up) to know that we are independent contractors.

8.2 [BUSINESS_NAME] Agents. [BUSINESS_NAME] shall be permitted to engage and/or use third party designers or other service providers as independent contractors in connection with the Services (“Design Agents”). Notwithstanding, [BUSINESS_NAME] shall remain fully responsible for such Design Agents’ compliance with the various terms and conditions of this Agreement.

We are informing our client that we may use subcontractors at our discretion and that we are responsible for their actions. We guarantee that if we use subcontractors, their work will be as if we had prepared the work ourselves, and our subcontractors will comply with all terms and conditions of the contract, in the same manner as if we had prepared the work.

8.3 No Solicitation. During the term of this Agreement, and for a period of twelve (12) months after expiration or termination of this Agreement, the Parties agree not to solicit, recruit, engage or otherwise employ or retain, on a full-time, part-time, consulting, work-for-hire or any other kind of basis, any employee of the other party, whether or not said person has been assigned to perform tasks under this Agreement.

The last thing we want is for our client to hire our employees. They agree not to hire our employees and we agree not to hire their employees. You can talk to your client if you want to hire someone just as they can talk to you about your employees. If you both agree, you can write a letter to each other exempting this paragraph. However, if you do not agree, this paragraph prevails.

Storytime: In 2008, we landed what was at the time a big client for us. It was great. Really, really great. That is, until they made an offer to every person on their project team to come work at their company. I didn’t have this in my contract or in my contract with my teammates. The amount of money that they were being offered was almost twice what I was paying and when my teammates informed me of their offers, I told them that they should take the money. It was really a sweet deal for them and they weren’t likely to get a deal like that again. For me though, overnight I lost almost my entire team. It was devastating to the business. I warned the client that the team worked well because they are a part of the greater group and that without the leadership, guidance, etc. they received at the business that hiring all of teammates was not going to work out. And of course, it was a very unethical move, which I sternly delivered to the client. In this case I was right. About three months after they left, every team member had come back. An unethical leadership can kill any team, especially ones that value ethics. He worked them too hard, didn’t appreciate them, and generally treated them terribly. So of course they came back. But when they came back, they also found this added to their employment contracts, as did every new client we’ve worked with since then.

8.4 No Exclusivity. The parties expressly acknowledge that this Agreement does not create an exclusive relationship between the parties. Client is free to engage others to perform services of the same or similar nature to those provided by [BUSINESS_NAME], and, subject to its non-disclosure obligations under this Agreement, [BUSINESS_NAME] shall be entitled to offer and provide design services to others, solicit other clients and otherwise advertise the services offered by [BUSINESS_NAME].

We must be free to offer our services to all who we want to do work for. This paragraph means that your client can not come back later and tell you that you can or can not do work for a certain company. However, your confidentiality paragraph remains in effect and you must honor it. In addition, you can not use work that you prepared for other clients for this client. The other client paid for it and it belongs to them. Common sense must prevail. Certain paragraphs of this contract survive the project and we must honor them.

ProTip: Don’t waiver on this one one unless you are 100% sure you will never need to do this kind of work again. It is also important to inform certain clients about this up front. If a client is having you build a SaaS or some custom software that they are going to resell, you may have to sign something saying you won’t rebuild it. If that is the case, make sure that 1) you are charging a lot of money and 2) there is an expiration on this. A year or two is usually what is done for the expiration.

9.WARRANTIES AND REPRESENTATIONS 9.1 By Client. Client represents, warrants and covenants to [BUSINESS_NAME] that (a) Client owns all right, title, and interest in, or otherwise has full right and authority to permit the use of the Client Content, (b) to the best of Client’s knowledge, the Client Content does not infringe the rights of any third party, and use of the Client Content as well as any Trademarks in connection with the Project does not and will not violate the rights of any third parties, and (c) Client shall comply with the terms and conditions of any licensing agreements which govern the use of Third Party Materials.

Our client is reassuring us that he owns all of the work he has given us to use on the site. Remember 1.4 and 1.6. In addition he guarantees that he will comply with all third party materials requirements. In some circumstances we need to inform our client what they are as he will not know. Putting this information in writing is the best method. This way there is no misunderstanding and it can not come back to haunt us.

Storytime: This is important! I once had a client give me pictures he had taken from a Google. About six months later, he received an invoice from Getty Images informing him that he could either pay the thousand or so dollars or face a lawsuit. He immediately sent me a bill for the 1k! We pointed out that he had given us the image but he threw it back at us and said that it was our job and our responsibility. Fortunately, we had this clause in our contract. So we sent him a copy of the signed contract with this section circled. We never heard anything about it again.

9.2 By [BUSINESS_NAME] (a) [BUSINESS_NAME] hereby represents, warrants and covenants to Client that [BUSINESS_NAME] will provide the Services identified in the Agreement in a professional and workmanlike manner and in accordance with all reasonable professional standards for such services. (b) [BUSINESS_NAME] further represents, warrants and covenants to Client that (i) except for Third Party Materials and Client Content, the Final Deliverables shall be the original work of [BUSINESS_NAME] and/or its independent contractors, (ii) in the event that the Final Deliverables include the work of independent contractors commissioned for the Project by [BUSINESS_NAME], [BUSINESS_NAME] shall have secure agreements from such contractors granting all necessary rights, title, and interest in and to the Final Deliverables sufficient for [BUSINESS_NAME] to grant the intellectual property rights provided in this Agreement, and that (iii) the Final Art provided by [BUSINESS_NAME] and [BUSINESS_NAME]’s subcontractors does not infringe the rights of any party, and use of same in connection with the Project will not violate the rights of any third parties (c) Except for the express representations and warranties stated in this agreement, [BUSINESS_NAME] makes no warranties whatsoever, [BUSINESS_NAME] explicitly disclaims any other warranties of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose or compliance with laws or government rules or regulations applicable to the project.

Now it is our turn. We warrant that we will use generally accepted standards in our production. We are guaranteeing that the work is original and we have the ability and authority to grant rights to the client.

We do not, however, guarantee that our work will perform the way we hope it will. What the client does with our work after payment and delivery is out of our hands. They are responsible to make sure the final product is fit for a purpose and complies with all laws. This goes back to #5, client responsibilities. We are working under their direction.

ProTip: If you are building an app that is not going to be sold or distributed on the app stores, then the client comes back and tries to do this but portions of the app break app store terms, without this clause you could be in trouble. It is your responsibility to let them know as soon as you find out that something isn’t going to work, but if they request this, then it is their responsibility. Really, it’s their responsibility either way.

10. INDEMNIFICATION/LIABILITY 10.1 By Client. Client agrees to indemnify, save and hold harmless [BUSINESS_NAME] from any and all damages, liabilities, costs, losses or expenses arising out of any claim, demand, or action by a third party arising out of any breach of Client’s representations or warranties under Section 9.1(a) of this Agreement. Under such circumstances [BUSINESS_NAME] shall promptly notify Client in writing of any claim or suit; (a) Client has sole control of the defense and all related settlement negotiations; and (b) [BUSINESS_NAME] provides Client with commercially reasonable assistance, information and authority necessary to perform Client’s obligations under this section.

The client is responsible for legal issues arising out of his breach of his representations and warranties. If he gave us a picture that did not belong to him representing that it was his work, he is liable for all damages relating to it. We can not be pulled into this dispute. If we are, the client has agreed to take liability for it.

ProTip: If you are doing business with a US-based pseudo-government or government entity, they will always take out the indemnification clause. They won’t ever agree to it because they can’t. Talk to your attorney about how to deal with this.

10.2 By [BUSINESS_NAME]. Subject to the terms, conditions, express representations and warranties provided in this Agreement, [BUSINESS_NAME] agrees to indemnify, save and hold harmless Client from any and all damages, liabilities, costs, losses or expenses arising out of any claim, cost, loss, expense, fee, charge, fine, penalty or other cost arising out of any failure of [BUSINESS_NAME] to perform with respect to its obligations and responsibilities hereunder or any breach of its representations and warranties made herein, except in the event any such claims, damages, liabilities, costs, losses or expenses arise directly and solely as a result of gross negligence or misconduct of Client provided that (a) Client promptly notifies [BUSINESS_NAME] in writing of the claim; (b) [BUSINESS_NAME] shall have sole control of the defense and all related settlement negotiations; and (c) Client shall provide [BUSINESS_NAME] with the assistance, information and authority necessary to perform [BUSINESS_NAME]’s obligations under this section. Notwithstanding the foregoing, [BUSINESS_NAME] shall have no obligation to defend or otherwise indemnify Client for any claim or adverse finding of fact arising out of or due to Client Content, any unauthorized content, improper or illegal use, or the failure to update or maintain any Deliverables provided by [BUSINESS_NAME].

Now it is our turn to indemnify the client if we breach any of our representations or warranties. The exception to this is if the client has committed gross negligence or misconduct. And we are never liable due to any of their content that is used on the site. We are not responsible for their errors just as they are not responsible for our errors.

10.3 Limitation of Liability. In all circumstances, the maximum liability of [BUSINESS_NAME], its directors, officers, employees, design agents and affiliates ("[BUSINESS_NAME] Parties"), to client for damages for any and all causes whatsoever, and client's maximum remedy, regardless of the form of action, whether in contract, tort or otherwise, shall be limited to the cumulative lifetime payments made by Client to [BUSINESS_NAME] under this agreement. In no event shall [BUSINESS_NAME] be liable for any lost data or content, lost profits, business interruption or for any indirect, incidental, special, consequential, exemplary or punitive damages arising out of or relating to the materials or the services provided by [BUSINESS_NAME], even if [BUSINESS_NAME] has been advised of the possibility of such damages, and notwithstanding the failure of essential purpose of any limited remedy.

This section treats us even better. Our maximum liability is the amount that the client has paid us under this agreement. Consequently if they paid us $25,000 for this project, that is the most we will ever have to pay for any liability on our part. This is even for any lost data or content, lost profits, business interruption or for any indirect, incidental, special, consequential, exemplary or punitive damages. We are sitting pretty good with this section.

11. TERM AND TERMINATION 11.1 This Agreement shall commence upon the Effective Date and shall remain effective until the Services are completed and delivered. Common sense for sure. However, putting it in writing for all to understand is important. 11.2 This Agreement may be terminated at any time by either party effective immediately upon notice, or the mutual agreement of the parties, or if any party: (a) becomes insolvent, files a petition in bankruptcy, makes an assignment for the benefit of its creditors; or (b) breaches any of its material responsibilities or obligations under this Agreement, which breach is not remedied within 10 days from receipt of written notice of such breach.

You can fire your client and he can fire you, even if it is not mutual. If your client no longer wants to work with you, I cannot understand anyone who would insist upon continuing the contract. The important item is in the next section. You still get paid for the work you performed to date.

11.3 In the event of termination, [BUSINESS_NAME] shall be compensated for the Services performed through the date of termination; including, a pro rata portion of the fees then due and any Additional Costs billable under the SOW and already incurred through and up to the date of cancellation. In the event the sum of any advance payment(s) exceed such amount, any excess shall be reimbursed to Client.

You get paid for the work to date. You performed the work and are entitled to payment and now the client knows he has to pay. No, he can not request a refund of the monies paid to date (unless no work has been performed) and he has to pay all monies earned. In the same respect if the amount you have collected is more than the amount due for your work, you have to refund the difference. A fair situation.

How many times have you had a signed contract and before the work begins the person you were dealing with is promoted, demoted, or fired. If you have not started work on the contract and are notified that they do not want the work, you are out of luck. The contract is no longer of meaning. However, if you have spent money on the contract, you are entitled to payment for your costs or your work.

11.4 In the event of termination by Client and upon full payment of compensation as provided herein, [BUSINESS_NAME] grants to Client such right and title as provided for in Schedule A of this Agreement with respect to those Deliverables provided to Client as of the date of termination. 11.5 Upon expiration or termination of this Agreement: (a) each party shall return or, at the disclosing party’s request, destroy the Confidential Information of the other party, and (b) other than as provided herein, all rights and obligations of each party under this Agreement, exclusive of the Services, shall survive.

As long as you are paid for your work to date, you must deliver it to the client. They paid for it so it belongs to them. There are some provisions of this contract that do not terminate and even though the contract was cancelled, those provisions are still in effect. Naturally we give them back their confidential information just as we get ours returned.

12. GENERAL 12.1 Modification/Waiver. This Agreement may be modified by the parties. Any modification of this Agreement must be in writing, except that [BUSINESS_NAME]’s invoices may include, and Client shall pay, expenses or costs that Client authorizes by electronic mail in cases of extreme time sensitivity. Failure by either party to enforce any right or seek to remedy any breach under this Agreement shall not be construed as a waiver of such rights nor shall a waiver by either party of default in one or more instances be construed as constituting a continuing waiver or as a waiver of any other breach.

More changes. It is inevitable. However, they must be in writing and we still get paid for our work to date. Many times we have informed clients that they do not need what we have been requested to delivery. Often we have put in substantial time and money into the project before they agree that it is not what they need. Nevertheless, they signed the contract so we still get paid for our work to date. It is best when our arguments about the relevance and need of the project have been in writing but we still get paid.

12.2 Notices. All notices to be given hereunder shall be transmitted in writing either by facsimile or electronic mail with return confirmation of receipt or by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, and shall be sent to the addresses identified below, unless notification of change of address is given in writing. Notice shall be effective upon receipt or in the case of fax or email, upon confirmation of receipt.

All notices, by either party, MUST be in writing. You can notify them and they can notify you verbally but it is only legal and binding if it is in writing.

12.3 No Assignment. Neither party may assign, whether in writing or orally, or encumber its rights or obligations under this Agreement or permit the same to be transferred, assigned or encumbered by operation of law or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the other party, which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld; provided, however, that Client is hereby expressly permitted to sell, transfer, assign, license, sublicense, or otherwise permit any party to use the Deliverables hereunder to the fullest extent of Client’s right, title, or interest in same.

They are hiring us and we may agree to work for another party if they request it, but sometimes it is better to end the contract and start another one. In the same respect they hired us and not someone else. We can not give the contract to a different company. Not to say we can not subcontract the work to a company, but the client contracted us and has the right to expect to deal with us.

12.4 Force Majeure. [BUSINESS_NAME] shall not be deemed in breach of this Agreement if [BUSINESS_NAME] is unable to complete the Services or any portion thereof by reason of fire, earthquake, labor dispute, act of God or public enemy, death, illness or incapacity of [BUSINESS_NAME] or any local, state, federal, national or international law, governmental order or regulation or any other event beyond [BUSINESS_NAME]’s control (collectively, “Force Majeure Event”). Upon occurrence of any Force Majeure Event, [BUSINESS_NAME] shall give notice to Client of its inability to perform or of delay in completing the Services and shall propose revisions to the schedule for completion of the Services.

Force Majeure is defined as “unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.” It is important to have this paragraph in your contract. What if there is an event that could not be predetermined and therefore you can not fulfill the contract. This has nothing to do with unknowns or unknown unknowns. However, in the case of an earthquake or war, this will rescue you in a court of law.

12.5 Governing Law and Dispute Resolution. The formation, construction, performance and enforcement of this Agreement shall be in accordance with the laws of the United States and the state of Georgia without regard to its conflict of law provisions or the conflict of law provisions of any other jurisdiction. In the event of a dispute arising out of this Agreement, the parties agree to attempt to resolve any dispute by negotiation between the parties. If they are unable to resolve the dispute, either party may commence mediation and/or binding arbitration through the American Arbitration Association, or other forum mutually agreed to by the parties. The prevailing party in any dispute resolved by binding arbitration or litigation shall be entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees and costs. In all other circumstances, the parties specifically consent to the local, state and federal courts located in the state of Georgia. The parties hereby waive any jurisdictional or venue defenses available to them and further consent to service of process by mail.

Our contract stipulates the state of Georgia. If you are in a different state then you need to change this. We want to be sure that if we have to defend any contract it is in our state. Many times this may help to avoid a lawsuit. This means that your client has to press charges in your state. They may have to travel, we never want to. Furthermore, you may stipulate the county that you prefer in order to prevent yourself from having to travel to other parts of your state to deal with a lawsuit.

In addition, you may prefer to change the sentence about who pays for attorney fees. We never say the winner has to pay the loser’s fees. We feel that this may inhibit a company from filing against us. We have no proof for this theory but we prefer it.

ProTip: We have had it happen several times over the years that clients will threaten a lawsuit. This has almost exclusively happened when dealing with clients who are attorneys that don’t understand what they are getting or what they agreed to (they didn’t read their contracts). Threatening a lawsuit is like throwing a grenade into the room. When this has happened to me, that client’s project is basically over. If someone threatens this, I immediately stop talking to them and only communicate via my attorney. This will keep you from getting into trouble and show the client that you are serious. We’ve never been successfully sued by a client, but we have had to fight it out. I highly recommend keeping the arbitration clause in your contract for that reason. If you did what you said you would do and you go to arbitration, you’ll usually walk away without losing your whole company.

12.6 Severability. Whenever possible, each provision of this Agreement shall be interpreted in such manner as to be effective and valid under applicable law, but if any provision of this Agreement is held invalid or unenforceable, the remainder of this Agreement shall nevertheless remain in full force and effect and the invalid or unenforceable provision shall be replaced by a valid or enforceable provision.

This should go without saying but it bears repeating. Some provisions of the contract survive the ending date of the contract.

12.7 Headings. The numbering and captions of the various sections are solely for convenience and reference only and shall not affect the scope, meaning, intent or interpretation of the provisions of this Agreement nor shall such headings otherwise be given any legal effect.

Another paragraph that goes without saying but we need to say it.

12.8 Integration. This Agreement comprises the entire understanding of the parties hereto on the subject matter herein contained, and supersedes and merges all prior and contemporaneous agreements, understandings and discussions between the parties relating to the subject matter of this Agreement. In the event of a conflict between the Scope of Work and any other Agreement documents, the terms of the Scope of Work shall control. This Agreement comprises this Basic Terms and Conditions document, the Scope of Work, Schedule A below, and Interactive-Specific Terms and Conditions.

Everyone should be on the same page. We are all agreeing to the signed contract. Oral declarations and it “should” do not matter. We only agree to what is in writing in the signed contract. If there is a later contract it can contradict this one and it may be binding but barring another written contract, we agree to this one.

By their execution, the parties hereto have agreed to all of the terms and conditions of this Agreement effective as of the last date of signature, and each signatory represents that it has the full authority to enter into this Agreement and to bind her/his respective party to all of the terms and conditions herein.
All parties agree to this contract and agree that they have the authority to bind their respective company.

Not yet finished!

Remember that Schedule A that was mentioned in section 1.1? Now you need to add that document as an integral part of the contract.

Schedule A: Intellectual Property Provisions 1. RIGHTS 1.1 Client Content. Client Content, including all pre-existing Trademarks, shall remain the sole property of Client or its respective suppliers, and Client or its suppliers shall be the sole owner of all rights in connection therewith. Client hereby grants to [BUSINESS_NAME] a nonexclusive, nontransferable license to use, reproduce, modify, display and publish the Client Content solely in connection with [BUSINESS_NAME]’s performance of the Services in this Agreement.

You can only use the content the client supplies for this project. If you want to use it on or for any other site, you need to get permission to do so.

1.2 Third Party Materials. All Third Party Materials are the exclusive property of their respective owners. [BUSINESS_NAME] shall inform Client in advance of all Third Party Materials that may be required to perform the Services or otherwise integrated into the Final Art. Under such circumstances [BUSINESS_NAME] shall inform Client of any need to license, at Client’s expense, and unless otherwise provided for by Client, Client shall obtain the license(s) necessary to permit Client’s use of the Third Party Materials consistent with the usage rights granted herein. In the event Client fails to properly secure or otherwise arrange for any necessary licenses or instructs the use of Third Party Materials, Client hereby indemnifies, saves and holds harmless [BUSINESS_NAME] from any and all damages, liabilities, costs, losses or expenses arising out of any claim, demand, or action by a third party arising out of Client’s failure to obtain copyright, trademark, publicity, privacy, defamation or other releases or permissions with respect to materials included in the Final Art.

Client is responsible to properly pay for and license all third party material. However, if we do not inform our client of any prerequisites that we are aware of, they will not know about them. Make sure all information given is in writing. More often than not we are the ones who secure and arrange for the information. That does not allow the client to relinquish their responsibility. Be aware that it is also our moral responsibility to tell them what they need to do.

1.3 Works. [BUSINESS_NAME] hereby exclusively sells, transfers, and assigns to Client all exclusive and unrestricted right, title and interest, including without limitation copyright and other intellectual property rights, in and to all Preliminary Works, Deliverables, Final Deliverables, and Final Art; including, but not limited to, rights to use, modify, sell and resell, license and sublicense, to the extent delivered and paid, as and when paid.

The client paid for it so it is theirs.

1.4 Original Artwork. Upon final payment, [BUSINESS_NAME] will deliver all right and title in and to any original artwork comprising Final Art, including all rights to display or sell such artwork to Client.

Again, the client paid for it so it belongs to him.

1.5 Trademarks. Upon completion of the Services and expressly conditioned upon full payment of all fees, costs and out-of- pocket expenses due, [BUSINESS_NAME] assigns to Client all ownership rights, including any copyrights, in and to any artworks or designs comprising the works created by [BUSINESS_NAME] for use by Client as a Trademark. [BUSINESS_NAME] shall cooperate with Client and shall execute any additional documents reasonably requested by Client to evidence such assignment. Client shall have sole responsibility for ensuring that any proposed trademarks or Final Deliverables intended to be a Trademark are available for use in commerce and federal registration and do not otherwise infringe the rights of any third party. Client hereby indemnifies, saves and holds harmless [BUSINESS_NAME] from any and all damages, liabilities, costs, losses or expenses arising out of any claim, demand, or action by any third party alleging any infringement arising out of Client’s use and/or failure to obtain rights to use or use of the Trademark.

Again, the client paid for the work performed so it belongs to him. We do, however, agree to do whatever is requested of us by the client to prove his right to the documents. The final responsibility still lies with the client to be sure that all proper registrations are obtained.

Still you are not yet finished.
Remember Section 1.1 and its definition about additional items to be included in the contract? Specifically “other relevant details added to the contract.”

Supplement 2 is very specific to web and app development. It is important to have this area if you are doing this kind of work. This was taken from Andy Clarke’s “Killer Contract.” It is what our attorney calls “folksy,” but I like it a lot as it i gets the points across in easy to understand language. This is really important to clients since this is a lot of the technical stuff that is hard enough as is.

Supplement 2: Interactive-specific Terms and Conditions

This is where we inform the client about our policies and work. Please read it carefully and make changes to be in line with the policies of your company. If you prefer, it might be worth considering your company adopting some of the following as your own policies.

Design We create look-and-feel designs, and flexible layouts that adapt to the capabilities of many devices and screen sizes. We create designs iteratively and use predominantly HTML and CSS so we won’t waste time mocking up every template as a static visual. We may use static visuals to indicate a look-and-feel direction (color, texture and typography.) We call that ‘design atmosphere.’

You’ll have two or more weekly opportunities to review our work and provide feedback. If, at any stage, you’re not happy with the direction our work is taking, you’ll pay us in full for everything we’ve produced until that point and cancel this contract.

We are informing the client that they will be able to review our work. We want, need, and expect feedback.

Text content We’re not responsible for writing or inputting any text copy. If you’d like us to write new content or input text for you, we can provide a separate estimate for that.

Sometimes we write content for clients, other times we don’t. For us, it is always done in a separate contract. However you do it, just make sure that your client is aware of this. Clients do not realize how time consuming and yet how important this is. It is a part of the project that they must complete.

If your project includes content writing, be sure to say it.

Photographs You should supply graphic files in an editable, vector digital format. You should supply photographs in a high resolution digital format. If you choose to buy stock photographs, we can suggest stock libraries. If you’d like us to search for photographs for you, we can provide a separate estimate for that.

The client rarely understands the time it takes to find suitable photographs. If they supply them to us then we can and will use them. However, if we have to search for media, the time is billable. You can add a certain amount of time to search for media and if the photos are not acceptable, then time must be added to the contract or they can find them and send us a link for the photos. Don’t forget to add or include monies for the purchase of media. The dollars will add up.

HTML, CSS and Javascript We deliver templates developed from HTML markup, CSS2.1 + 3 stylesheets for styling and unobtrusive Javascript for feature detection, poly-fills and behaviours.

Now everyone knows the format of the deliverables. If a different format is desired, we need to know about it now.

Browser testing Browser testing no longer means attempting to make a website look the same in browsers of different capabilities or on devices with different size screens. It does mean ensuring that a person’s experience of a design should be appropriate to the capabilities of a browser or device.

We understand the difference in browsers and now our client does also.

Desktop browser testing We test our work in current versions of major desktop browsers including those made by Apple (Safari), Google (Chrome), Microsoft (Internet Explorer), and Mozilla Firefox. If you need an enhanced design for an older browser, we can provide a separate estimate for that.

If the client wants a different browser, now is the time to find out. Our contract only includes testing in these browsers.

Mobile browser testing Testing popular small-screen devices is essential in ensuring that a person’s experience of a design is appropriate to the capabilities of the device they’re using. We test our work in: iOS: Safari & Google Chrome Android 7.x: Google Chrome Android 6.x: Browser & Google Chrome We currently don’t test Blackberry OS or Blackberry QNX, Opera Mobile, Symbian or other mobile browsers. If you need us to test using these, we can provide a separate estimate for that.

Just to inform the client.

Technical support We’re not a website hosting company so we don’t offer support for website hosting, email or other services relating to hosting. You may already have professional hosting and you might even manage that hosting in-house; if you do, great. If you don’t, we can set up an account for you at one of our preferred hosting providers. We can set up your site on a server, plus any statistics software such as Google Analytics and we can provide a separate estimate for that. Then, the updates to, and management of that server will be up to you.

The client needs to be informed that we can take care of these issues but it is not included in this contract. If you do include hosting, be sure to add a hosting clause here. Note what you will and will not be responsible for.

ProTip: Do you like your time with family during the winter holidays? How about a night out for new years? Maybe just your Thanksgiving dinner? If you like these things and want to keep them from being interrupted, you NEED to put together what will and will not go into a hosting clause and when a client can call you. This usually goes into a Service Level Agreement (SLA), which the client NEEDS to pay to be a part of. If you’re going to answer the phone after hours, they better be paying for it, or that is going to get real old, real fast.

Project Sign-Off Once the Project has been completed and handed over to the you, the Client, a sign-off will be requested. This is your period of time to do your due diligence and double check everything in the application. Once you have either given us a final approval that the Final Deliverables are clear of bugs or 4 weeks have gone by without a valid bug request, meaning the bug submitted is actually a bug and not an improvement, task or other item on the initial scope of work, whichever is first, we will consider the project to be completed. We will inform you when we initially request the sign-off of this time limit. After the site has been signed off, any bugs, changes, upgrades, modifications, and any work at all done relating to this project will be billed at our hourly rate. As noted below and above, any changes to the initial scope of work will result in a change order which may incur additional cost and will always increase the timeline. After the final sign off we consider the project completed. We have had clients come back to us months and in some case years after the project is completed and expect us to fix any problem with the site if it no longer works the way it did when first completed.

We know that the internet changes every day and if something worked some time in the past, it may not work that way today. Sure, we are glad to fix any problems but it comes at a cost.

ProTip: This is one of those ‘save your butt’ clauses. DON’T TAKE THIS OUT WITHOUT REPLACING IT WITH SOMETHING ABOUT EQUAL!! You need to have a time when the contract is ‘done’. For us, that is either when they give approval or after a few weeks of no bugs have gone by. If you don’t have this, you’re going to end up supporting software forever. Don’t get into this situation!

Changes and revisions We know from experience that fixed-price contracts are beneficial to you, as they enable you to always know your costs. However, we don’t want to limit your ability to change your mind. The price at the beginning of this contract is based on the length of time we estimate we’ll need to accomplish everything you’ve told us you want to achieve, but we’re happy to be flexible. If you want to change your mind or add anything new, that won’t be a problem as we’ll provide a separate estimate for that.

This has been said in the past but it bears repeating.

No matter how many times you have met with the client, there is often something that has been misunderstood. It is their final responsibility to be sure the project is correct. We are not mind readers, even though we often wish we were.

Contract Wrapup:

Each time you read through the contract, it gets easier and easier. After a while it’s easy. If you’re going to be selling design and development services, you HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THIS STUFF. Take some time, get it down, make the changes you see fit, talk to an attorney, and make sure you have the protections you need and are setting the right expectations so your projects run well!


Please remember that the contract information as provided in this document is no substitute for your own due diligence. It is imperative that you seek the advice of your attorney prior to presenting any contract or information to your client. The above is the contract we use but that does not mean it is the best contract in your own situation.

Want to get the full contract? Download it here!
Chapter 9

How to Build an Information Architecture

Ohhhhh!!!! I bet you’re excited! I know I am! This is my favorite part of the whole thing!

In this step we take the entire project apart piece by piece, section by section, feature by feature, and explain the entire thing in a way that there can be no misconceptions about what is being built.

How to Build an Information Architecture

Quick review of why you need an information architecture for your web, mobile, or software project:

  • It is a blueprint for what you are building
  • Sets expectations for the project for you and your client and/or stakeholders
  • Allows you to accurately estimate your time
  • Helps you understand and measure what aspects of your process are profit centers and loss leaders
  • Gives client a document to check their requests against
  • Gives PMs easy to understand items to check against
  • Sets project managers up to easily build their project plan
  • Enables you to know when a project or aspect of a project is complete
  • Enables UX designers to complete their work substantially faster
  • Holds you accountable to what you said you would do
  • Holds your client accountable to initially requested content
  • Holds your client accountable when requesting the addition of new items to the scope
  • Gives you leverage to quote and/or invoice for newly added features
  • Empowers client by informing them of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to show forthcoming steps in the project
  • Document helps close sale by validating spend and breaks down hours
  • Helps you close deals by making you look more professional
  • Protects you from loss

That is a lot of good reasons, and this single document can be your biggest life saver in a project.

Who is involved in this part of the project?

Team members for this aspect often include:

  • Business Development - If a Business Developer sold this system, they need to be involved in the architecture writing to make sure that the system being designed covers all the requirements for the client. This will also help the business developer close future deals because inevitably as the team comes together to write the architecture, new ideas will arise that can be pitched to the client.
  • Information Architect - usually this is the person with experience in design, development, and business strategy.
  • Lead Developer - If the system includes custom development aspects, the lead developer should review the scope for places it can be improved and to answer questions.
  • UX Designer or Lead Designer - Whomever is doing the design on this project, should review the scope before the final document is presented to the client to discuss ideas and note any issues.
  • Project Manager - The Project Manager needs to be involved at this point because they need to review and understand everything that has been written to make sure to cover any missed items.
  • Client or Stakeholders - The major stakeholders in this project will need to be presented the final scope document for clarification and approval prior to the initiation of design and development or marketing.

Scope of work development process

  1. Write out all the areas you are building and everything that goes into them - That’s what this area is about, so just see below on how to do this in detail.
  2. Add time for teammates (resources) - Add hours for each person that is working. This can be done by an architect or strategist, but is best done by the actual workers. This way you can hold people accountable to what they said that they would do, not what someone else said they would do.
  3. Review hours with lead dev and lead design - Just because a contract worker said something was going to take a certain amount of time, doesn’t mean it’s correct. Always double check with your teammates!
  4. Review with sales & PM - Review the scope with the business developer and the project manager to make sure that the PM understands what is going to be done and that there are no big holes in the scope from the sales perspective.
  5. Review with development and design - Depending on the size of the scope of work, this may or may not be necessary. If it is a big project, it is absolutely necessary. But for a small work order, probably not.
  6. Present to client - Everyone has signed off on the scope, now it’s time to go through it with your client!

Parts of an Information Architecture:

The information architecture should cover most aspects of the project. These areas include the following items.

This may look like a big list, but items don’t have to be complex. If you maintain the same kinds of processes across most projects, which most companies do, then you can simply modify the template we provide for you and reuse it for each new project.

Additionally, the list below is a full architecture document, which is needed only for new projects. Multiple or aspects of this list are not necessary for support tickets, small work orders, and sometimes even new projects.

Different kinds of architectures:

This is a list of all the different kinds of architectures in relation to the size and your familiarity of project you may be working on:

  1. Support ticket
  2. No prior experience work order or support ticket - this is a complete or in-process project that you are coming into
  3. Work order - small project
  4. Work order - large project
  5. Small project
  6. Medium project
  7. Medium-Large project
  8. Large project

Parts of the information architecture include:

  1. Project Goals - taken from Creative Brief
  2. Project Notes
    1. Links to other documents
      1. Creative Brief
      2. Project Plan
      3. Other relevant documents
    2. Where items are located
      1. Testing/development environment
      2. Live environments
      3. Passwords
  3. Project Team
  4. Project Wide Items
    1. Notes
      1. Functional and Non-Functional Notes
    2. System planning & IA development
      1. System general description
      2. System build methodology
    3. Systems setup
      1. Code Repository
      2. Hosting
      3. Management systems
      4. CMS system / Dev Platform
        1. Plugins
        2. Extensions
    4. Project Management
    5. Testing and Debugging
    6. Mobile design & development notes
    7. System checks / SOPs
  5. Design Expectations
    1. Benchmarks
    2. Design notes
    3. Wireframing
    4. User Flows
    5. Concept Design
  6. Marketing Expectations & Notes
    1. Content
    2. SEO
    3. SEM
    4. Other aspects of marketing involved in the project
      1. Social media marketing
      2. PPC
      3. Content marketing
      4. etc.
  7. Architecture - Note: even though this is the smallest area here, it is the most complex and time consuming part.
    1. Header & Footer
    2. Navigation
    3. Pages, Features, & Views
    4. Elements
    5. Lists
    6. Other Standard Items

Information Architecture By Section Examples & Explanations:

Project Goals

The project goals are a duplicate of the project goals noted in the Creative Brief. This area may also have specific notes on goals for different parts of the system in relation to functionality.

For example:

  • Load Speed
  • Ranking Goals
  • Notes on marketing and how the functionality will impact the marketing efforts
  • KPIs within the system
  • Ease of use in certain areas for users as well as administrators
  • Security


These are general notes on the project and links to other areas. This area is at the very top of the document because it makes it easy for people to find the links this way. This can include items such as:

  • Links to other documents such as the:
    • Creative Brief
    • Project Plan
    • Other relevant documents
  • Where items are located such as
    • Testing environment - url, ip, or system
    • Development environment - url, ip, or system
    • Live environments - url, ip, or system
    • Passwords - what system is being used to manage passwords.

The project notes area is also often a holding area for items that don’t have a place elsewhere but are important items.

Project Team

This area answers the questions: Who is on the project? What are their roles? What is their contact info? Since all of our project team information is stated in our project management system, we don’t use project team within this area, but it is helpful for some teams.

Project Wide Items

This area has all items that are outside of the specific structural information for the system. This area has system setup information and time estimates for items that impact fundamental aspects of the system.

For companies focusing heavily on the design aspect of the project, or that do not have a development aspect, the design portion may be broken out into a completely separate area with more information on processes and expectations than what is noted here.

In this list, we have broken the separate areas from their nested sections for the sake of readability here, but if you look above at the bulleted list you can see how they are nested within other areas.


This is a list of researched or client noted projects that have similarities to the project you are building.

For example, the client may come back with “We like the way this website’s navigation is done” or “This home page promo looks good.”This area sometimes also includes links to or subsections for mood boards, Pinterest boards, style guides, etc.

ProTip: Finding good benchmarks and discussing them with the client can make projects substantially faster to complete and keep expectations aligned with clients. Some companies are hesitant to display other companies’ work, but I would encourage you to do this if you don’t already. You can’t have built everything and you need to show what something is going to look like. Showing off other people’s work doesn’t degrade yours, it just makes you look more confident in your own work. Finally, in almost 20 years in this industry, I have never seen a client be shown work from another team during a pitch then reach out to that team. If you end up losing the sale, it won’t be because of that.

Functional and Non-Functional Notes

These are notes on how the system should work in ways that are not completely structural. The best example of this is speed. Sometimes parts of a system need to hit loading or use-speed requirements. It is good to note these items at the top of the document as well as in that systems structural notes. This is so that everyone on the team will know when first reading the document that these are important items. These kinds of items can impact conversation on the initial setup of the system, so it is worth having them noted twice.

Storytime: A good example I’ve got of this was a manufacturing software system we built. The system was going to have a lot of concurrent users doing complex tasks. As soon as the Lead Developer read this part of the scope document written by the Information Architect he flipped down the systems setup area and asked if the plan was to build the system on Apache. The Information Architect and Project Manager told him that was what the client currently had in place and they hadn’t made recommendations to change it. The developer then asked if the system could be moved to Nginx. In the end, using Nginx instead of Apache turned out to be the best path for the system. But it could have been easily overlooked had the notes on the functionality been noted deep within the scope document.

System planning & IA development

This is a description of what is being built. For example, “this is a public facing marketing website,” “a corporate intranet system,” “this is a change to the home page of the website to add more product lists,” “this is a healthcare app that helps patients comply with prescribed doses,” or “this is a dating web-app that helps users find potential partners they are attracted to.”

This area can be broad or very specific, depending on need. The more specific the better. But sometimes that isn’t necessary. If the project is just a simple change to an existing system that is worked on normally, something simple here will suffice.

If this is a new project, it can also be useful to include a note on the the system build method for future review by project managers. The reason this is useful is because there may have been conversations with the client about having this be the first phase of many in an Agile build method, rather than a waterfall build method project. But the project ends up ending after the first phase, then much later questions may arise about what the plan had been for this project. So having this area can clarify questions from future Project Managers and new or old stakeholders.

Systems setup

The systems setup area starts getting into the actual build of the system and starts including time estimates. The setup area also includes broad categories such as Project Management and Testing and Debugging. These sections may be put here or as part of individual features and sections in in the scope, depending on need as noted below.

ProTip: Systems setup is one of the most commonly misrepresented portions of web and app projects. Developers often do not take into consideration how much time it takes to get the project going. So adding time for each one of the system setup items, over the course of a year, can make a difference.

Items that are often noted in this area include the following and answer these questions:

  • Code Repository - which code repository are you using and how long will it take to set it up and inform the team about this?
  • Hosting - where is the site being hosted? Who is responsible for this aspect of the project (company or client)?
  • Management systems - This area may or may not be useful, depending on the company and project. This area notes which project management system or systems are in use for this project. This is useful for companies that utilize multiple systems.
  • CMS system / Dev Platform - What Content Management System (s) or Development Platform(s) is being used for this project?
    • Plugins - what plugins do you know or suspect will be used for this project? What are the costs for these items?
    • Systems Extensions - are there areas that you know will need to be extended for this project?

Project Management

Project Management is an important item to add to the scope document. As noted above, it can be added globally as part of the setup, or as part of individual features. Additionally, this area can be broken out in to Project Management and Account Management.

ProTip: For large projects with multiple phases on large feature sets, we will break the project management time into those different phases or into the features themselves. But for smaller projects, just a flat 20% onto the total amount of the project our standard amount of time for a Project Manager. As projects grow, DO NOT decrease this time. The larger the project, the more project management time is required, and this grows quadratically as noted in the system complexity, not linearly.

Testing and Debugging

Just like Project Management above, Testing and Debugging can be broken out into the different features and areas or added as a flat amount to the total cost of the project.

Some general rules of thumb for calculating testing and debugging time and how to apply it are:

  • Public facing website - use a flat 10 - 15% on top of the project.
  • Project has custom features - add 20% on top of the project
  • Development heavy project - add testing and debugging to each individual feature based on the size of that feature and number of connections that feature has to other features.
  • If a project is going to be added into a continuous integration system after the build, as is normal in the development of SaaS systems, make sure to account for the addition of automated testing protocols. This item should be broken apart into its own item in the scope of work and calculated based on the number of automations being created.

testing and debugging

Mobile design & development notes

This is an important item to add, especially for systems that have mobile and non-mobile responsive aspects or phases. A good example of this is a web-app with a public facing website and an app area that is PC-only. The reason for this kind of setup would be that it could be cost prohibitive for mobile or unusable on a smaller display. So it is important to note what aspects of the mobile design are and ARE NOT being produced in this project. Noting clearly what items are not being done here can be a life-saver and clarify expectations with the client before big issues arise.


Maybe your team knows a lot about security, maybe it doesn’t. But one way or another you’re going to have to deal with it at some point. In the very least, adding some time for security checks into your scope document can be very helpful. Just an hour or two up front can end up saving you days of work in the future!

This is also a great place to add in any SSL certificates that need to be purchased and installed.

Take a look:


System checks / SOPs

Having what system checks are going to be done on a system is a great way to keep your development team accountable and meet Quality Assurance (QA) specifications. Not all teams put this information into their architecture, but I like to do this because it keeps everyone accountable.

System Checks include items such as:

  • Check pages against architecture - this is for the PM to make sure all the pages have been built. It sounds like a simple task, but when you start looking at multi-hundred or thousand page projects, it becomes a lot of work. It’s also important to do on small projects as sometimes people just miss things.
  • Mobile responsiveness checked on mobile devices for both Android and iOS. - Just because your project looks good on a small version of your browser in Chrome, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work on an iPhone. Better check.
  • Cross browser compatibility checks - See the contracts section for more information on how to set up what browsers’ compatibility are required or should be required.
  • Google Console added - If this is already set up, no problem. But if this is a new web-based project you probably need this.
  • Sitemap added - Same as above.
  • Google Analytics setup and added - same as above
  • Robots.txt set to searchable - So many times we have been called to take a look at a site that is not ranking well just to find out that whomever built it forgot to set the Robots.txt to allow the site to be indexed by search engines. This is a common mistake, especially for Wordpress websites, and I highly recommend keeping this check for those kinds of projects.
  • SEO checks for speed & accessibility - Remember, Google will ping you for slow speeds and sometimes for accessibility issues. Use the google webmaster tools to check for issues pre-launch.


Depending on the company, importance of this item, and the number of steps in this item for the particular company, this may be taken out of the project-wide items and made into its own section.

The reason it’s important to add a design item to the architecture is that it sets up a centralized place where expectations can be managed and enforces processes. In small projects, this step can be as simple as a note that design will be needed with half an hour of design time, or with larger projects this can be a multi-step process involving the following items, which are themselves multi-step items:

  • Wireframing
  • User Flows
  • Concept Design / High Fidelity Artwork


Wireframing helps the client understand the layout of the page. Wireframes can be done very simply or with a lot of complexity. The more work put into the the wireframes, the better the system flows will be and the more understanding the client will have of the overall project.

Show simple and complex wireframes

User Flows

The user flows or “flows” are short for the UX flow charts that show the path of a user from one page to another. The flows utilize the wireframes or standardized wireframes to show the client how a user in the system will flow from one page to another. These often represent the different states of items on the page as well.

User Flow:

Concept Design / High Fidelity Artwork

This item represents the artwork that will be used within the system. A lot of different systems are used these days to create this artwork. The reason it’s good to have this step in the system is that it gives you a chance to note again how many revisions or what steps will be taken in this process.

If this step is not managed well, it can crush a young design or development company or freelancer. There are two general ways to manage this step, by process or by hours. By hours means that in your scope of work, it can be stated that there will be x-number of hours put towards step or steps within this process, and after that number of hours is used, any additional hours will come at an additional cost.

Additionally, this can be managed by process. That means that within this area it can be stated that the client will receive a certain number of initial draft. Then, a certain number of revision sets. After the revision sets are completed, additional revision sets can be done for an additional cost. You can always break the rules you set forth here, but if you don’t have rules, you don’t have anything to hold your client accountable to.

Below are example concept design statements and processes that can be used. Don’t forget that these NEED TO GO INTO YOUR CONTRACT AS WELL!

Add examples here

Marketing Notes

When it comes to marketing, it is very important to say what you are and are not going to be doing as part of the contract, especially for a brochureware or public facing website project. For the most part, clients know little to nothing about SEO, so clarifying expectations can be of critical importance in keeping expectations managed.

Since different companies offer a huge variety of marketing services from nothing at all to full service SEO and SEM, we have covered notes a few common aspects of these items:

  • On-site SEO - For on-site SEO, put in place what aspects of this you are going to be doing and the expected times for each of these items. Since pretty much none of your clients are going to understand what you’re doing with SEO, showing what you are doing and how much time was spent can go a long way. I also recommend breaking out Keyword Research into its own separate item rather than including it in on-site SEO. Content Marketing - If your team is going to be writing articles ongoing for a client, be sure to state the number per month, average number of words per article, expected results, and what happens if goals aren’t met. Just as in the note above, be sure to separate out keyword research into its own separate item.
  • Social media marketing - for social media, be sure to note which platforms you’ll be working on and approximately how many posts you’ll be responsible for. Finally, make sure to note your goals!
  • PPC - Pay Per Click (PPC) is a little different in pricing for us. We charge $800/mo or 20% of spend, whichever is greater. Explaining what you are doing is fairly straightforward on this item, but there are always questions about how to charge, and now you know!
  • Display network marketing and remarketing - We generally charge on display network marketing in a similar fashion to PPC, but with additional time put towards designing the ads.

Header & Footer

So long as the header and footer are going to be generally static and either of these sections does not change drastically based on the section of the system the user is looking at, it is fine to keep them together.

Header and Footer

There are certainly situations where breaking these apart can be a good idea. A good example of this is a custom admin portal for managing an app. The admin area is usually completely different from the rest of the system. For this kind of setup, we would break this area out completely and just have a separate header and footer for this item that is separate from the rest of the system.

The Header & Footer contain items such as the:

  • Logo
  • Main Navigation and drop down navigation
  • Secondary or tertiary navigations such as shopping cart buttons, login/logout, and perhaps support or help links
  • Navigation items that change based on user types
  • Header functionality, such as a ‘sticky header’.
  • A full site navigation that may be available from the footer of the system.
  • Copyright information and other legal links

Noting these items helps designers and developers to keep from forgetting items that may be more obscure but requested by the client and keep the site overview in their heads.


This part is easy but important. Whatever set or sets of navigation go into the site should be noted here. You don’t necessarily need a full breakdown of every page and sitemap here, just an overview and a list of items that will be used as the main navigation and any relevant sub-navigation items.


Pages, Features, & Views

This part can get a little fuzzy, and is really dependent on how you want to do it.

  • Features can be on or include one or more pages, and be managed through many different pages or views.
  • Views are the different states or views of a single page or set of data.
  • Pages usually represent a single page and the items on that page.

If it is a brochureware website, just call them pages. But if you’ve got an app, it’s probably going to be views.

Pages include things like:

  • A products page
  • The home page
  • The about page
  • The history page
  • The contact page

Whereas features are things like:

  • A blog
  • A product management system
  • A color editor
  • A link generator
  • An image loader

The list goes on, for a long, long time. But you get the point.

ProTip: Because features often include multiple pages, states, and views, it is important to note all the items when planning the project. During the UX phase of the project, designers often find better ways to do something than what an architect has come up with, and you can always modify. But they also often add a ton of stuff that wasn’t planned initially. So if you don’t have a set scope for them to work around sometimes they can get you into trouble real fast. If you have the scope that the client already signed off on, the designer can come up with all the “good ideas” they want, but the actual implementation will just have to wait till the next phase.


Elements in this case are going to be elements on the page or view. This is in contrast to an HTML Element which is an individual component of a HTML file. If you for some reason get these confused, it’s fine to call it something else.

Example elements include singular items such as:

  • A promo box
  • A block of text
  • A picture or image
  • A button

Example Element From a Recent Project:

Web elements


Lists are probably the biggest item used in design and development, and sometimes they can get really complex. A list can be just a list of titles with links, but it can also be a lot more complex, like say a blog list. This has a title, image, truncated text block, and most items are also links. Additionally, this list can be searched, sorted, and filtered in a variety of different ways. When working with lists, it is very important to note in what ways the system will search, sort, and filter these items.

Some common lists include:

  • Your facebook posts
  • Your Google Drive files
  • Your list of contacts in Skype
  • Slack Posts

Or something more simple like:

  • A list of services
  • A list of products
  • A list of cute kittens

Either way, when you’re planning a list you need to think about all the ways people will want to see that list, and list those things out.

Some common sea functionalities that lists have:

  • Sort by date
  • Filter by date
  • A to Z
  • Lowest to highest price
  • Filter by category
  • Filtered by person
  • Filtered by letter
  • Filtered by cost
  • And don’t forget the pagination feature!

Other Standard Items

Some other standard items used in scope of work documents that explain the architecture of the page include:

  • Database
  • Email
  • File
  • Form
  • Map
  • Modal
  • Picture
  • Plugin
  • Process
  • Section
  • Social Link
  • Process
  • Step
  • Tab
  • Task
  • Template
  • Test
  • Video

Putting it all together

The real trick in getting these done fast is having a template to start with. Fortunately, BrainLeaf has exactly that, and enables you to save your own!

So let’s look at a few different examples. I’ll take you through them one piece at a time:

  • Support Ticket
  • Small Work Order
  • Large Work Order
  • Ten Page Wordpress Website
  • Web-app

Support Ticket Example

The number one thing to remember when writing up a support ticket is that even if your team gets in done in 5 minutes, it still took at least 30 minutes to:

  1. Get the email from the client
  2. Request someone do the work
  3. Check to make sure it was done correctly
  4. Let them know if there were issues
  5. Check it again
  6. Let the client know it is done
  7. Send the bill
  8. Collect the payment

It just does. That’s just the way it goes. So if you’re doing support ticket for a client, always quote at least 30 minutes for your time. Perhaps you have some other setup, or are on some kind of retainer with this client. But it still takes more time than you expect, so bill for it.

All that being said, you don’t need to tell the client everything that you’re billing them for. So for the most part, when we are doing a work order, it looks something like this:

ProTip: We have a policy where if something is going to take less than an hour, we just tell the client that it will probably take less than an hour and have them agree on the phone to one hour or less of work. We also tell them that if we get started and it is clear that it is going to take more than an hour, we’ll put together a quote for them. Most of the time this works just fine.