Scoping and Estimating WordPress Projects as an Agency
AS AN AGENCY
• Who we are
• Understanding and controlling scope
• Estimating and tracking time
• Managing customer expectations
• Continuous improvement
WHO WE ARE
Disney’s Digital Media Agency helps Disney business units
build, operate and enhance digital media properties from
concept through launch and operations.
We have launched dozens of WordPress sites for internal
customers across Disney businesses.
Since October 2015 we’ve prepared more than 90 project
Many of us have agency/consulting backgrounds.
KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING
BEFORE YOU START DOING IT
“You can use an eraser on the
drafting table or a sledge hammer
on the construction site.”
- Frank Lloyd Wright
A solid discovery process is key to a successful project.
• Why are we doing this?
• What is the goal? What problem are we solving?
• What are we doing?
• Universally understood and agreed upon scope
• What’s the budget?
• Scope must be clear in order to communicate accurate
• Do these line up?
• Ensure alignment between customer's wish list, budget,
timeline, and any other constraints
• What is your timeline?
• Is there a specific date you need this to be live?
• If date is aggressive, can we start with a scaled-down
• What is your budget?
• Get an objective number
• Don’t think with your own wallet – “cheap” and “expensive”
are relative and subjective
• What level of quality do you need?
• Minimum Viable Product (MVP) rough cut vs. a fully
featured and polished initial release
questions until you
and the customer
agree on an
or description of
words like these.
Non-technical work needed to support project operations
• Contract, insurance, billing/invoicing/taxes, customer relations,
demos/walkthroughs, status calls/reporting,
• Ensure you account for this time - it's part of your costs
• Build into the rate or call out as line items in your bid
• Do not underestimate the paperwork burden, especially with
THE PROJECT TRIANGLE
Pick two. You can't have them all.
• Critical constraints (budget, timeline, scope/quality, etc.)
• Who is the audience?
• Authentication? (e.g. Facebook/Google login)
• Example sites that provide an experience the customer likes?
• What does the customer already have?
• Designs? Hosting? Domain? Existing source code?
• What other systems does it interface with?
• What is the content and how is it published?
• Custom publishing needs? (e.g. workflow, roles)
• Media, Microsoft Office documents, PDFs
• Additional languages
• Be aware of data handling
• Domestic PII, International PII, PCI, file uploads
ARE YOU THE
• Is WordPress a clear fit for the project needs?
• Know what WordPress is designed for and its strengths;
be thoughtful when considering a project that pushes
WordPress outside its strengths
• Does your team have the resources/skills set to deliver
• Number of resources (volume of work)
• Type of resources (type of skills)
• Be candid about availability and scheduling constraints
• Can you partner with someone?
BREAK IT DOWN
Why break down work into discrete tasks?
• Limiting the field of options
• What is a 4 hour task vs an 8 hour task? Probably easy
• What is a 6 hour task vs a 7 hour task? Probably hard, so
why use it?
• If it is more than a day, break it down
• Easier to assess
• Reduce risk
• Less risk of major estimate gaps when individually estimating
a breakdown of tasks, as opposed to one large overall scope
• Being inaccurate on a single task by a huge margin is smaller
impact if each individual task is smaller
Days, hours, story points – the method is less important than
using a consistent approach
• Breaking scope into tasks is essential to truly understanding
level of effort (LOE)
• Capture assumptions
• Role-by-role estimates; use a percentage formula for QA
• 10% - 30% depending on development complexity and
target level of testing rigor
Hours Human Construct
.25 I can do that right now
.50 I can do that quickly
1.00 It'll take an hour
2.00 It'll take a couple hours
4.00 It'll take half a day
8.00 It'll take a day
12.00 It'll take a day and a half
16.00 It'll take a couple days
20.00 ...half of a week...
24.00 ...3 days...
32.00 ...4 days...
40.00 ...a week...
60.00 ...a week and a half...
80.00 ...two weeks...
Is this actually part of a
Typical task sizes
Can this be broken
down into more granular
ESTIMATE VALUES CHART
• Ramp-up time
• How much setup time is required before you can begin
work on deliverables?
• Administrative tasks
• Daily tracking, velocity, pace, burn down charts
• Use a tool for task tracking (JIRA, Basecamp, etc.)
• Use source control (e.g. GitHub)
• Frequency and level of detail in reporting
• What format and frequency of reporting does the customer
• How much time per day or week is needed to prepare and
WordPress Entity Architecture Construct
Custom Post Types Data modeling
Custom Taxonomies Data organization
Secondary templates Data presentation
Design Revisions Data experience
Search Facets Data indexing
Content Entry Data ingest
Interfaces Data transport
Can you determine how many of the following you will need
Alignment with the customer on what you are doing and to
what extent you are doing it is critical.
Otherwise, you can't meet the customer’s expectations.
• Don’t: “Custom design”
• This means it's done when the customer decides it's done,
regardless of hours, iterations, or your costs
• Do: “Custom design including 2 initial concepts and 3
rounds (up to 8 hours each) of revisions to the selected
• Specific, measurable, objective, time boundaries
A mutually executed contract specifying the work to be
completed is essential - it’s the project governance of record.
Milestone/deliverable vs. time and materials - which is
appropriate for your project?
• Milestone: specific scope of work, timeline, and budget
• More waterfall
• T&M: scope in flux, timeline flexible, customer looking to iterate
and try out different ideas
• More agile
In order to accurately estimate project duration, consider
factors beyond the design and development hours.
• Scheduled calendar events: vacation, holidays
• Allow for the unexpected: pad a bit for sick days, etc.
• Are your team members full time?
• If someone supports you only 8 hr/wk, account for that
• If someone is full time but 50-50 across 2 projects, account
• What approvals will the customer require?
• If the CEO needs to approve designs, it might take 2+
weeks to get on their schedule
Document these for clarity and to ensure nothing gets
missed by either side.
• Example Assumptions
• Vendor assumes Customer will perform all content entry
once the site is built
• Vendor assumes Customer will provide all photos, logos,
and other assets
• Example Exclusions
• Vendor will not perform translation services; if content must
be presented in multiple languages, Customer must
• Search Engine Marketing (SEM) services not included
• "Yes, if" - New scope can sometimes be accommodated
• Either it replaces something else, or
• The timeline or budget increases
• Track and document these items
• If accommodating: document in a change order
• If deferring: move to a Future Phase backlog
• Flexibility is limited
• If work on a 100-hour task has started, it can't be removed
and replaced with a different 100-hour task
• (Don’t) Do them a solid
• Customers tend to notice things that didn’t get completed
more than extras you throw in
• Establish a process for communicating progress/status, and
do so consistently
• Be as detailed and transparent as you can about what will be
• Be honest if you hit a challenge
• The customer is going to find out anyway
• Not being forthright destroys relationships
• Actively listen
• Pay attention to customer needs, preferences, pet
• Adjust to accommodate whenever possible
• Don't disappear
• Dropping out of communication freaks customers out
• Be honest with your customers
• Use your expertise to guide them
• Call out outlier feature requests
• Sure, we can do that - but it will cost a lot for little value
• Be invested in their success
• If they are successful, you are successful
These are invaluable opportunities to review what worked
and didn't work, and understand how you can do better.
• If you tracked your time against tasks, use that data to refine
and improve estimating
• Ask your customers for feedback - people like to give
feedback, and you should like getting it
• In person is ideal, but take feedback however you can get it
(email, phone call, online survey, etc.)
• Every piece of feedback, positive or constructive, is an
WHAT TO ASK
• What went well?
• What didn’t go so well?
• What made this project different from others?
• How do we apply what we learned going forward?
There are many styles of retrospective format; consistently
doing one after every project is more important than style.