The importance of a specification and a budget!

Just had an interesting email exchange with a perspective client who wanted us to work on an unfinished WordPress website abandoned by the previous website developer… It appears that there is no brief or specification document to be found and no idea on budget, yet he was quite willing to have a chat and see if we could come up with quote…

Needless to say we declined. A few things about this did not make sense:

  1. Someone was working on a website without a brief or specification document??? How do they know when they are finished? What is the ‘done’ state? Also how do you know they did what they claimed they did if you have nothing to measure it against???
  2. The website developer abandoned the website – this sets off big alarm bells, either they didn’t get along or the developer has left a royal mess of website and got out before it fell in on itself.

When working with new clients we always ask two questions up front, even before we call them:

  • Do you have briefing or specification document?
  • What is your budget?

Failure to answer both is a big red flag to us – it indicates something is a miss in the process – either the client does not know what they want or they are hiding something. Look at it from our perspective, without an idea of what needs doing and the money available to do it with we cannot plan how to approach the project nor estimate costs and effort. It’s a bit like asking a builder to build a house with no plan or budget, you would not get very far and rightly so.

Now there are some cases where no brief or budget is okay, this is usually for those projects we have a very good understanding in of ourselves what is needed and how long it will take – typically this is with existing clients whose technology we have in depth understanding of – so we have high confidence of getting our analysis right. We will not quote blind with new clients, it does us no good and it does the client no good either.

What should be in a briefing document?

The briefing document or specification need not be a ‘War & Peace’ type document, for most projects its 4 to 5 pages long and covers things like:

  • What is the expected deliverable and in what time frame?
  • What are the key content or design elements of what you want done?
  • Where will the content and copy come from?
  • Any special features or services required?
  • Who is the intended audience for the deliverable?
  • Any particular technologies involved?

Usually this sort of information often falls right out of a business or marketing/design plan without too much difficultly. To us the briefing document is a good indication that the client is serious about wanting the project to succeed as they have set things up to maximize success.

Conclusion

If you are looking to engage us, please do your homework first and have a briefing document and an outline budget in mind. This indicates to us that you want to engage with us in a professional way and want to work with us to get a successful outcome. This is in both our interests.

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