By: Greg Smith – Bayshore Solutions Project Management Team
In the fast-paced and ever-changing world of interactive web design and development it’s easy to get caught up in the tendency to rush things. Clients often want their website built ‘yesterday’ and firms are more than happy to accommodate them, taking on a project before they have a true understanding of what it is and, more importantly, how their knowledge and experience can ultimately benefit the client. The problem with this approach, especially as it relates to larger and more complex websites is that the true details of the site don’t get thought through until well after the contract is signed and the design or development has started. This inevitably leads to confusion and frustration on behalf of both parties and often causes the dreaded ‘change order’ phrase to get tossed around. The client feels as though they are being taken advantage of and the web firm is put in the difficult position of having to decide whether to push back against the new requirements that have arisen, providing a website that doesn’t fully meet the client’s needs, or biting the bullet and taking on the added work at no additional cost.
While this situation may not be as prevalent on a smaller site where the functional elements are minimal, it can play a huge part on more complex projects such as eCommerce sites. If both parties don’t have due diligence in the scoping phase and are too quick to provide a generalized proposal, it won’t be until much later in the process that everyone realizes there are unique needs for the site, which had not been previously discussed or accounted for. Maybe there are recurring products. Maybe there is unique information that needs to be captured during the checkout process or unusual shipping options that need to be made available to customers meeting certain criteria. Most of these are things that could easily be overlooked in initial discussions but are nonetheless items that a standard eCommerce cart won’t do, meaning custom web development is needed. While any one of these items may not individually be a huge undertaking, the collective workload involved in providing this type of functionality is likely to be well beyond the original scope of work. So, how can firms work with prospective clients to ensure that they have a solid understanding of the desired solution without greatly extending the sales cycle? Web design wireframes.
Website wireframes provide a simple way of visually representing the site from both a design and functional standpoint. Long before a designer starts work or before a developer writes their first line of code, creating wireframes will help everyone gain a clear understanding of how things will look and, more importantly, how they will work. The web design wireframe phase is absolutely critical in determining the true scope of the site and setting everyone’s expectations early on in the project.
Depending on how the web firm works, wireframes may be included as part of the sales process. Other times, it may be part of an initial project consulting phase designed to make sure that the proposed scope of work is, in fact, in line with what the true deliverables will be. Some firms may choose to wireframe every single page of the site and others might only opt for the overly complex ones. Whatever the process though, the value of having the scope of work visually represented goes far beyond what can often be lost or overlooked with the simple written word. While a proposal may stipulate the there will be a ‘form on the page’, wireframes actually show what that form will look like, how many fields it will have, what they will be called, which are required, and should even note what will happen when a user fills out the information and submits it.
Designing a wireframe and making adjustments to get everyone’s buy off is only a matter of minutes whereas coming to the realization that it’s incorrect after the form is designed and built may mean hours of additional work. Multiply that by the various functional elements on a site can you can immediately see the benefit. OnExtraPixel has put together a comprehensive list of different wireframe tools and resources to help with designing wireframes but there are countless others out there. Whatever the tool, the idea remains the same… taking the extra time to fully understand the details before beginning work is critical, leading to happy clients and successful projects.