4 simple steps to avoid scope creep in web development

4 simple steps to avoid scope creep in web development

One of the big issues facing web development companies is reacting to endless changes throughout the lifecycle of a project. Frequent change requests result in frustration and can have serious cost implications.

Scope creep happens when the requirements of a project change and begin to extend in an uncontrolled way beyond what was initially agreed with the client. It’s this unwanted expansion without a change to cost, time and resources that has the potential to squeeze your margin.

When the goal posts are moving, projects risk becoming non-profitable, impossible to deliver, or not tied to the client’s vision. It’s a common problem in web development, and this article will set out a clear plan to avoid such issues.

1. Continually manage expectations

Web development is complex. As digital business and technology evolves, client’s expect to achieve more for less. Websites now need functionality and integrations that were not possible or cost effective a few years ago.

The client’s vision of how a website will perform and even look is often based on their own experiences and assumptions. They may expect that certain features and services are standard. They may not realise the effort required to develop such solutions and balk at the cost or time involved.

That's why it’s essential to document the agreed budget, timeframe, and scope for completing the work before the project begins. To do that you must enter into effective two-way communication with the client and create a Scope of Work (SOW) document - there are many free templates online - to help define and steer the project.

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2. Establish clear requirements

Conversation comes easy, particularly when dealing with a friendly, amiable client. The problem is that in business, these exchanges can contain important information. In the case of change requests, recording and logging them is a must.

At the beginning of every project, it’s essential to avoid any confusion about what is being delivered. Remove doubt by establishing clear, precise requirements early.

It’s fine to then add features and services, but in a structured and formal way, not in a casual, ad-hoc manner. Agree on a process for submitting change requests and then a forum for discussing their priority and how they can be implemented.

3. Be price transparent

At every stage of a project there should be dialogue that reiterates exactly what was agreed. With a signed off schedule of work and a realistic price, scope creep will be easier to avoid. There may be an urge to accept any work to pay bills, but if the finances don’t add up you could be making things worse.

When agreeing a price, don’t expect there to be perfect alignment all the time. There may be an element of compromise. A sensible approach is to set a baseline price that ensures both client and agency objectives are met.

If requirements change, be clear that the cost of extra services will be added to the agreed price. If needed seek confirmation of a set contingency amount to cover such circumstances.

4. Get timely feedback

Scope creep often occurs when feedback arrives too late, or even at the end of a project. When this happens, it throws out time, other work, and most important, cost. To avoid this, set up regular reviews and formal sign-offs at each stage of development to limit the risk.

Another potential reason for scope creep is dealing with multiple perspectives from various stakeholders. A good tip is to establish a single point of contact and execute all communication through them.

A CEO or leader may delegate the project to a marketing manager, or IT person, but still expect to have their say. Regular and consistent contact with a single person can reduce confusion.

Top tips to avoid scope creep:

  • Make sure the project scope is properly defined and controlled.

  • Always establishing a budget at the outset.

  • Ensure goals are documented and visible.

  • Work with a single, consistent point of contact.

  • Carefully record all change and modification requests.

  • Try to get continuous feedback.

  • Constantly reiterate cost and budget implications.


The most effective tools to prevent scope creep are transparency and clear communication. If a project expands and you’re able to make the corresponding change, then everyone wins. Doing that well means expecting change and being able to plan for and resource it.

You might become familiar with the kinds of projects that create the most change requests. Learning how to capitalise on them, without jeopardising other work, could even be an opportunity.

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