Scope: A Little Goes a Long Way

December 15, 2008

I wasn't at work last week, I'm sure you all noticed. Instead I spent the week in Austin, attending a four-day workshop series called UX Intensive, hosted by Adaptive Path.

Throughout the week, I and about 100 other web enthusiasts examined four key elements that contribute to a successful website design: Design Strategy, Design Research, Information Architecture, and Interaction Design.


Over the course of four days, I met a lot of interesting people and learned a great deal about designing and building websites. In light of my week in Austin, I've put together a list of four insights to better web design, one for each day of the week.

Design Strategy

Design strategy ties in directly with business strategy—that is, how a business positions itself in the marketplace and differentiates itself from the competition. A unique and valuable position is what drives good business and good websites.

One important ingredient to having a good strategy for any project is clearly defining the scope of the project. Scope is, in the end, what we deliver to the client and, ultimately, the end user. Scope is defined at the beginning of the project, often in our first meetings with the client.

Too often, in all the initial excitement, the scope gets really big, really fast. Clients want an all-inclusive site with all the cool new features that does it all and "fixes everything." And, of course, we are always willing, able, and eager to deliver all the client wants and more. But it's important at this stage that we all take a step back and think about two concepts.

The first is simple. There is always a time constraint on our projects, a time limit, more or less. Within the allotted frame, let's think about delivering a smaller scope that is done very well rather than an overwhelming scope that yields a mediocre result.

The second depends on the first. Launching a site with a small scope allows the product to evolve over time, in stages. Each stage is a new opportunity to impress customers all over again. Think of it like lottery payments over the course of 10 years rather than one big lump sum. Delivering a cool new feature every few months will keep customers engaged and excited about the product over a longer period of time.

Thinking about these two concepts prior to defining scope is a great way to deliver a cost-effective, quality website that evolves over time and allows the client to systematically deliver a quality product to the end user.