Building a website takes a lot of time and effort. Only the team that works on the project can realize how much work goes into it. If you don’t properly set expectations and price things accordingly up front, inevitably there will be scope creep. The client usually keeps requesting things that weren’t scoped for during the proposal process. The client will also continue to put in requests long after the website has launched, which again, if not scoped for up front, will lead to some uncomfortable conversations.
Here are a few reasons why it’s so tough to estimate costs for website development projects:
A quote is probably the most important piece of any project, both for client and vendor. The estimate, when performed correctly, will deepen the understanding of the scope of project, as well as provide a ground for deadlines, milestones, and resource allocation. An estimate is the foundation of trust that is established between a client and a vendor, and allows planning of expenses and revenue.
The key to a quality estimate lies in a deep and thorough understanding of the problem. Once the foundation has been prepared, working on the quote is a breeze.
This stage introduces the upcoming project to the vendor for the first time. Therefore, it doesn’t have to be too detailed in nature. The most important aspects of the problem are revealed at this stage. These can be discussed in a meeting, on the phone, or via electronic communication. We prefer to have a meeting to discuss their answers in hand. Bringing in designers, developers, and business managers in the meeting results in great ideas and an expanded specification document.
Once preliminary requirements have been gathered, the analyst needs to process them in order to organize them and develop missing pieces. Use Cases help document functional requirements in the form of stick figures and arrows representing interactions with the system. The system itself is treated as a black box in this case.
Based on the Use Case diagrams, an Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD) is created. At this point it’s a conceptual diagram that represents a general, yet important, idea of what objects in the project will have what relations. The essential information in an ERD should contain is all planned entities.
A mind map is a graphical representation of information and ideas around a single term (concept, project, etc.). Major categories of items are attached to the main node, and then each of the categories is itemized until the diagram contains all important information in the shape of a giant spider. It’s important to find a balance between the level of details and the simplicity of the graph, as too-detailed structures lose clarity and become less graphic.
Mind maps are extremely helpful in gathering important requirements from different sources, like RFP, use-cases, ERDs, email strings, phone calls and meetings, task management services, and so on.
Once the requirement documents are ready, the analyst can move on to the estimate itself. The proper way to build an estimate is to split the scope of work into categories and let representatives of each department work on their own parts of the estimate. The single scope of work, supported by initial documents with requirements, keeps everyone on the team on the same page. This helps minimize discrepancies in the final document. The analyst reviews the final estimate and adds time needed for Q/A, project management, and other supporting activities.
Most web sites/applications use similar components (login and signup forms, user management, mailing, etc.), which allows the analyst to reuse estimations for certain tasks from past projects. It’s important, however, to compare actual vs. estimated effort at the end of the project to make sure the evaluation is accurate and can be reused again in future projects.
An estimate shouldn’t contain any 15 or 30-minute intervals. It’s an evaluation, and it can’t be that precise. This method decreases the chance of inaccuracy in an estimate since the estimate itself isn’t meant to be accurate down to the minute or half hour.
Some features can be estimated by adding layers of complexity to a base feature.
Not a single project goes 100% according to plan because software engineering is an evolutionary process.
A good technique that can help define the scope without a full commitment to the project is wireframing. Once the initial estimate is ready, the vendor proceeds to the wireframing stage. Because graphic representation of the scope is really detailed, and can be interpreted by all teams working on the project, it lets the analyst re-evaluate the estimate if needed and decrease the variance up to 15-25%. The percentage might be different depending of the number of well-defined and known components in the system. The produced wireframes can be used as a foundation for the functional specification.
Wireframing allows the vendor to address changes requested by the client at a very early stage in the project. As a result, the number of scope changes during other stages of project implementation is decreased. Change requests are inevitable, and should be estimated and tracked separately. At the end of the project all of these evaluations are added to the upper boundary of the estimate.
How many times have you been completely confused at how that ‘small’ project turned into such a big one costing double and taking three times the length you estimated? You will say estimating time for web projects accurately is an oxymoron, but by applying AHS effective techniques it’s possible to dramatically increase the accuracy of most web project estimates.
Estimating time for a web project accurately is something many attempt everyday but few manage to succeed at. Our team is one of the best at estimate our clients projects.
Steps that can drastically increase the accuracy of your web project estimates by:
The factor that sets apart AHS from other leading IT companies is its never changing commitment to quality. Apart from meeting the client’s requirement we check the product / project for software engineering standards.
Every employee at AHS has vast experience and exposure of the software / internet industry. Average experience at our company is no less than 4 years. Trainings of newer standards are conducted regularly to keep our employees in trend with the latest technologies.
We price everything according to potential man-hours that a project could require.
Our strategy is simple: To keep the client involved in every phase of the project and so far this strategy has been working to our advantage.
Our mode of communication is online as well as offline. However the most effective communication takes place online through emails, instant messaging and voice chats. Direct communication is encouraged and practiced.
There are no fixed office timings and hence we provide our clients with the liberty to catch us online or drop a line anytime they want. Our staff stays online most of the time or if not available you can also ask them to come online at the time most suitable to you.
Our focus on building long-term relationships spells our formula for success. We know the modus operandi of turning a client into a Partner.
Every aspect of client communication and other records / documents are kept confidential and unauthorized personnel are denied access to it. We have strong business and social ethics and try our best to make sure that customer is given no reason to complain.