RE: [IxDA] Estimation process for UX services by hours or by deliverables?

27 Oct 2010 - 12:26pm
1178 reads

We subscribe to the philosophy of Blair Enns of Win Without Pitching ( in terms of not creating detailed estimates until we have a signed contract to do a Phase 1 (the Discovery Phase you describe below). For the Statement of Work for this initial phase, we provide a list of the activities we always plan to do plus anything specific to this project and set aside a bucket of hours plus a bit extra to allow the project to move forward while the PO for subsequent work is being approved -- for example 4 weeks of hours if we only plan to use 3. We state in the SOW that any unused hours will be applied towards the next phases of the design effort once we complete the investigation, finalize the scope/features in detail, and create a project plan. Often the subsequent Phases of the project are fixed bid, but we've found that having the initial Phase be hourly is nice and flexible for both sides. If the client really wants it to be fixed bid for Phase 1, we'll do that too, however.

I have never in the ten years we've been in business as an agency detailed out the hours by activity. I think someone has only ever asked us for it a few times and each time we've said that we only provide estimates by Phase and not activity because activities within Phases are related and it isn't really useful to think of them that way. This is less because of the time needed to create the estimate, and more because it doesn't really help the project to have the client micro manage your time in each phase because priorities change and it is just going to be a waste to keep discussing how hours are being moved around between activities.

Internally, we have a spreadsheet that lists all the activities we plan for each Phase and we use that spreadsheet to size each Phase so that we can come up with our project plan and final pricing once the Phase 1 is complete. This doesn't take us long to do because we have crafted this spreadsheet carefully over time and have noted suggested hours for each activity based on previous experience. We also have figured out the right amount of padding to have. By tracking our hours on past projects and understanding how time is spent, the spreadsheet tends to be pretty accurate.

Good luck!


Julie Stanford Principal, Sliced Bread Design | Lecturer, Stanford University | 650-969-0400 x706

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