If you have been working in UX or with design projects, you know that it can be very tricky to understand how to estimate a UX project properly. Since it’s an iterative process (especially the conceptual design itself), how do you even go about estimating something like that?
I understand because I struggle with the same thing myself. However, I also understand why clients ask since they want to better understand what value they will get, and how much it will cost!
There is an interesting reason I am writing this article. I want to show you a tool I built, that will make your UX estimation so much smoother… So that you can spend more time on actually designing!
Enter the UX project estimation tool.
🛠️ UX estimation tool – even better than a UX estimation template!
Here you’ll find a UX estimation tool I have created for you. The tool works like this:
- Enter your estimates for each UX activity. Under each form field you typically will find some aspects to consider when doing the estimate.
- If you are unsure what a deliverable means – be sure to look it up! You might find it useful in your UX project.
- At the end of the form there is a summary where you can see the total cost + time estimated overall for the project. This updates as you fill in the form. Sometimes the plugin I use can be a bit slow to update so give it some time, or try clicking another field, select/enter a value, and click another field to make the form refresh.
If you like this tool, feel free to share the link to this article with others!
📚 Why am I writing this article? Where can I learn more about UX design estimation?
This article is a complement to the original article that I wrote on medium. I actually wrote this in English mainly since this is a topic that could be interesting for many readers, even if most of the content on my website is in Swedish.
I also have two other similar articles written which I think you might find interesting on Medium:
To me these are some of the starting points of a UX project, before you start researching, designing, and so on, which you then can complement with interviews with stakeholders or users (article in Swedish) or by running a UX design workshop.
If you are lucky you might have a project manager help you with the planning! But if you are the only designer on a project, this is something that can be beneficial to do on your own. Especially since this helps to set the right client expectations up-front.
And if you know Swedish, I have a whole section written about the user experience field right here.
📊 How do you measure success of a UX project?
Measuring success for a UX project can be tricky, but it usually boils down to a few qualitative indicators:
- Is the project delivered on time and budget?
- Is the client happy?
- Are the users happy?
There are also more quantitative metrics, but I’d caution against using this unless you have enough statistical significance to do so. These include:
- Task completion rate (%)
- Task completion time (minutes and seconds usually 🙂)
- User satisfaction (could be via e.g. System Usability Scale (SUS))
If these are set then you are usually all good.
It’s worth mentioning that if you know up-front / early on that a project won’t go well, e.g. if the budget is too small to be able to deliver a good user experience – state this as soon as possible! The client will respect you for it, and you will sleep better knowing that you have clearly set the expectations early on.
To make you feel confident that you are done with your UX project, I have created a UX project checklist for you!
You can also read the full UX checklist article here if you want. But the checklist PDF above contains the same checklist items in case you want to print them or refer to them at a later point in time.
⏰ How long can a UX project take?
Honestly, it depends on so many factors (as you can see above).
I have been on projects that take a few hours.
I have also been on UX projects that go on for years.
Usually, the time a UX project takes depends on:
- The scope of the project itself, not just the UX part (e.g. is it a full app + website? Or just a few screens?)
- If the project has already been started or not (e.g. might be trickier to improve the overall UX if most of the product has already been implemented)
- The UX budget that your client has.
💰 How do I quote a UX project?
There are multiple ways to do this. Some experts go by the rule of charging more on a value-based approach (e.g. how much is the work worth to the client). While I agree that this can be done if the scope is VERY well defined (e.g. create a logo for our brand!) I don’t think this is a good idea for unclear and long UX design projects.
In UX design projects, I recommend that you quote either per hour (for smaller projects) or per day (for larger projects).
Remember to continuously show progress and status to the client, so that the client knows how your work is going.
💸 How much should I charge? What is the UX design cost?
It depends on where you are located, but some examples:
- In Sweden, according to Unionen, average salary for a UX designer is between 37000 – 48000 SEK per month. And according to glassdoor a product designer can have up towards 57000 SEK as of writing this. On top of that you need to also of course cater for taxes, vacation and so on if you run your own freelance work, agency or similar. So I wouldn’t go below 500-600 SEK per hour. Personally I charge more since I also have been working in this field for almost 10 years now.
- A product designer in the US is as of writing this one of the top 5 most paid entry level jobs, according to Glassdoor.
If you want to find out roughly how much to charge where you are based, do a google search on “your product job title + salary + location”. And consider your overall experience as well of course.
📝 What is the process to define a UX estimate?
The general process goes something like this:
- Understand the client’s needs, through e.g. stakeholder interviews and workshops. As part of this, make sure to clarify the client’s budget early on as well. That way you can define a better and more customised plan to the client you are working with.
- Write down and define the scope of work to be done. Writing things down helps to get clarity. E.g. write down different activities such as conducting interviews, creating personas and so on.
- Break down the scope of work as much as possible. E.g. How many interviews? How long does it take to transcribe the interview? What interview scripts should I use? And so on.
- Estimate the different activities. If you are on your own it is fairly straightforward – you can use the calculator I have built above for instance.
- Based on your estimates, create a project timeline. Here, remember to consider the lead time – e.g. waiting for client feedback. Also remember to cater for breaks, vacations, sickness and so on (even if you don’t charge the client for this it’s still good to consider!).
- Write down project risks (with recommended mitigation plan), assumptions and dependencies your work might have.
- Present the proposal with the client and get feedback.
- Sign-off on the work to be done, timeline and budget.
For more information, see the original article that I wrote on medium about this.
📅 How many projects is too many?
According to research, you should maximum work on 2 to 3 concurrent projects.
I can speak from experience, that anything more than 2 projects is very stressful, at least for me.
I prefer to do one project at a time whenever possible – that way I can put my full energy and focus into delivering the best user experience possible for the current project.
🚫 What are some common mistakes that people make when estimating a UX project?
Some of the biggest mistakes I see is to:
Not considering the client’s budget
Check the client’s budget as early on as possible.
Based on that, prioritise key deliverables based on the client’s budget, needs and the current project status and timeline.
For instance, if there is very limited time, perhaps a heuristic evaluation (article in Swedish) is a good start!
In other cases, a full UX-process with all its UX design methods might be beneficial.
It all depends on the current context.
Not defining the number of design revisions in your estimates for UI design estimation
If you have worked in UX for some time, you know that a design can be revised for a LONG time. If you work with estimates, make sure to state the number of revisions as part of the estimates too.
For instance: “2 design revisions per design layout is included in the estimate”.
Not setting the right expectations for the UX and UI estimation itself
Again, it is worth mentioning several times to the client that:
- Estimates are best-guess efforts, based on what we know and assume today.
- Estimates are rough predictions – for instance, it might rain tomorrow, but it might also be sunny.
- Estimates are typically written in effective time, so in other words, on top of this you tend to add things like: lead time, multi-tasking, waiting for feedback/review comments, and so on.
Making the UX estimates too optimistic
If it’s the first time you do something, double or triple your estimates! I am a time optimist myself so I know the pain of this. It is so easy to think “how hard can it be?”.
However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the biggest secret to making the client happy is: under-promise and over-deliver.
Therefore, provide larger estimates than you think – best case: you deliver earlier, and the client is much happier because the client got things quicker than expected!
💼 Do you need help, coaching or guidance with UX estimates, or the UX process in general?
I hope you enjoy this tool and FAQ post about UX project estimation! Feel free to share this article and tool with others if you found it helpful.