No-one likes to admit it, but the traditional consulting quote is a guessing game. A client says, “I want to build X. How much will it be?” No-one really knows what X is even with a 2-page feature list, but not all dev shops would want to say that after a first meeting. Instead, a sales team might want to manage client expectations and give a ballpark figure based on their experience, erring on the side of overestimating so that the company has a profit margin.
This practice of giving software development quotes without a design is a lose-lose for everyone, so instead, we’ll explain how clients and dev shops can used a fixed-cost design project to align goals, remove risk, and create a practical roadmap for a great collaboration.
A bad estimate is bad for everyone — client, sales, the designers and developers.
A project is approved on just a budget without a design results in the following:
- clients work against vendors
- poor design and code quality
- clients overpaying
Clients work against vendors because incentives are not aligned if the budget is confirmed before the real scope of work confirmed. It is like paying the downpayment to build a house without a contractor even giving you a blueprint. The blueprint for software development can be UI/UX designs for client-facing apps, a proper technical design, or research project scope for feasibility research. These documents help confirm the scope of development or research, ensure alignment in the product being built, and help developers understand how to implement the details of each feature.
Poor design and code results when the vendor tries to squeeze as much work out of each designer and developer to have a bigger profit margin, paying no attention to quality or long-term maintainability of a product. Instead, performance is compared only against speed and cost.
Clients overpay in the end because problems will always come up after a project starts. How can a vendor make up a loss if they realize that their estimate was off? The scenarios can include an app vendor over-charging for change requests down the road (since many keep the code base) or cancelled projects half-way through development.
Clients end up being held hostage if a development project begins without a clear design roadmap.
Using a fixed-cost design projects reduces client risk and costs
We understand that budgets matter, so we’re saying “pay more and you’ll get a better app”. Instead, we help clients contain their budgets by doing a fixed design project first.
Oursky insists on a design project with a client before committing to any development estimate. Of course, our consultants will give a ballpark development estimation based on experience, but the range is huge due to the number of unknowns (even if a multi-page project description seems detailed).
The design project that proceeds development isn’t just for looks — it is to remove the uncertainties.
Design projects we do for clients are fixed in scope, so they can be accurately quoted. The deliverables produced during the design phase (such as mockups, prototypes, and a clear feature list) become the roadmap for development, which narrows the development timeline and estimation, and therefore reduces the software development risk for a client.
A client can prioritise features after understanding the full picture and costs involved.
The client is also free to decide not to proceed with development if they realize a project is out of scope. A fixed term design project helps both sides get to know each other and ensure that everyone is on the same page with clear documents such as the wireframe, mockups, interactive prototype, and initial technical planning.
Software development agencies that have a strong technical background can do technical planning alongside design. An app’s UX/UI are also dependent on technical factors, such as considerations about data consumption and ensuring smooth transitions or offline app experiences. Understanding the technical components of a feature that is captured in the documentation is what can reveal hidden costs not initially considered. If a design reveals that a project may be beyond a client’s budget, we can also then work together to scale down to the most essential features based on the core problem the client wants to solve.
The design deliverables can be taken to any development team.
Design projects can usually be completed in weeks, which means a client has documents they can keep and build on. Irrespective of whether a client works with us for development, we create industry-standard design deliverables that they can take to any app vendor, or their own developers, to get estimates and work with.
Creating your own wireframes helps lower estimates
If you are considering building an app or getting a quote and do not have a wireframe or user story, we suggest you work with a product manager and designer to create them anyway for any agency you are considering working with. Creating a wireframe and user story is the only way for you, as the product owner, to define how the product will work. You do not need to use fancy tools. A user story is a document, and a wireframe can be hand drawn or created on Keynote or Google Slides. As you create your own wireframe, you also clarify your ideas, and will likely spot details such as a missing feature. Discovering these details or assumptions is what makes the design process worthwhile.
Creating your own wireframe will also help you take away the guessing game. When there is a document to look at, the client and app vendor can discuss concrete points and details. In addition, many vendors will provide a more realistic quotation when they are approached with a more complete set of designs, wireframes, and user stories because they feel the client knows something about product.
If you have an app or would like to develop a digital solution for your product, get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.