Web Creep

It’s easier to choose the winner of every game in the NCAA tournament than to control the scope of a web site. Print ads and TV spots are easy. They have to run somewhere. So they must be completed by a certain date. They have exact size or length limitations provided by the pub or station.

A web site, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have a deadline. It can forever be pushed back. And, because it’s perpetual, it can always be added to, modified or refined.

Our first line of defense is to control this inevitable spread is our site map. We put a lot of time constructing the architecture. We organize the information in a logical manner and get client approval on this map before proceeding. Oftentimes, we have to revise our estimate at this stage (our second line of defense) – as clients frequently add more or change navigation.

Only after the site map is approved do we move into design. We get the homepage design approved and that sets the course for the rest of the site.

Like the Tarheels against just about everybody this year, we sometimes go through a few rounds when we begin designing the main navigation pages before each is to the client’s liking. But when we finally get there, the rest of the site should be pretty easy. The problem is, this is usually when clients remember things they didn’t think of before. “Oh, we need to add a page about XYZ.”or “What if we. . . ”

That means another estimate. Nobody wants a new estimate so the negotiation begins: “Can’t you just add that one page/data capture/graphic. It’s really important to my boss, my secretary, my mom. . .”

And so the scope continues to creep. . .

We would love to make every website an animated masterpiece. Unfortunately not every budget allows that so we have to make tough decisions. Like choosing who will go to the final four, we have to define the end goals upfront and make every decision from there. Each addition or revision should be weighed by whether or not it helps the site meet its objectives. If a suggested change doesn’t help the site meet its objectives, it should be left behind like Butler left Pittsburgh in the third round.

With the increasing number of marketing dollars moving from print to online, ad agencies are creating banner ads instead of outdoor boards, web sites instead of brochures and Google display ads instead of print ads. The issue is, the banner ad specs are not exact from one web site to another. Each site on which a banner ad appears requires unique animation requirements. So the amount of work required to create a series of banner ads is much greater than the amount of work required to create a series of outdoor boards.

Take Google, for instance. Google prefers you provide eight different size options for each banner ad in order to maximize the frequency with which your ad will be served. So one banner is suddenly eight banners – and that’s just for one placement.

This is forcing agencies to change the way we price our work. “Programming” has become the new “printing” – a hard cost that we pass on to our clients. We estimate the programming costs based on the scope of the web site or the number of different banner ad executions. So while printers may be far less active these days, ad agencies are busier than ever. We just have to charge for this increase in work so, we’ll still be here tomorrow.

NOTE: The author’s NCAA bracket just fell to 86%. Luckily, her company is still running at 110%.

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