Project Scoping - A Guidebook for Shopify Experts

"Ross knocks it out of the park [..] The checklists are worth the price of the guidebook itself. Highly recommend."
- Richard Patey
"...a great reference book for as long as I work with Shopify."
- Eric Davis

Do you frequently over or under estimate on a project?

Do you sometimes miss things in the early stages that you wish you'd discussed with the client but now it's too late?

Prevent these issues by learning to scope out your projects properly and ensure that you, your team and the client are all on the same page.

About this book: Project Scoping

In this book, we break down all the likely facets you'll encounter with a Shopify ecommerce project. Whether you're putting together a small boutique type store for a merchant selling hand made goods, or handling a complex integration, this book will enable you to tick all the boxes and not vastly over nor under estimate on the job.

Table of Contents

Some sample extracts from the book:

Chapter 1

Client Factors

Client Factors Illustration

At the risk of making a trite statement, not all clients are created equal.

The nature of your business and how you like to (and can) work will determine the type of client you need to hire. I say hire not out of disrespect to the client, but because as they can be “hired”, so they can be fired.

A bad client can be one of the most damaging things to your business. Whether it is time wasted, staff demoralization or they’re just plain unprofitable, you need to try your best to select only the types of clients that allow you to run and grow your business.

Personality Match

Starting with a prospect’s personality, it’s important to make a call on whether or not you’ll be able to work with the client on a medium to long term basis. Unless you’re doing only small tweaks, it’s likely you’re going to be communicating with this person a good deal in the months following kickoff.

Undertaking an online store design and development project will form a connection between you and this individual (or individuals) for at least a few months. You need to be sure you can do this, and often your gut feel will be right.

Is there anything about the client (and perhaps the nature of their business) that you find morally objectionable? Yes, it’s business, but if you feel strongly enough against something they’re doing then it’s likely that you and your team will not be producing your best work.



In early negotiations, it’s important to get an idea of approximate budget allocated to the project. It’s not to take that figure and do the same amount of work you would for a lesser figure, but so you can:

  1. Establish that the prospect has a realistic expectation of costs.
  2. Devise a strategy and approach in accordance with their budget.

It’s often a difficult answer to get from a prospect, but one that you need very early in the discussion to prevent wasting time... yours and theirs.

If the final scope of the project is still somewhat unclear, it can work to give the prospect an idea of your minimum costs and then ask if a figure of $xxx would be outside of their allocated budget with xxx being the highest realistic figure you expect the project to run to. Strategies around getting client budgets are undoubtedly written about in sales books and articles, and are not something that will be covered in great detail here.

One piece of advice would be to establish some form of baseline budget expectations early on in the process. Your idea and the prospect’s idea of the cost for the project could be in two completely different universes and time discussing things with such disparity being unmentioned is not productive for either party.

Time spent in meetings or on the phone with a prospect for what sounds like a $20,000 project may be $2,000 in their mind. Get it out the way early on and either proceed knowing it’s worth your time, or deal with it accordingly if it’s not.


Yesterday is not an option, but you’ll undoubtedly hear it often. ASAP is also not very helpful. It’s theoretically possible that my team and I work 20 hour days… at least for a few days, but the work will hardly be as good as it could be and I’d be someone worth avoiding after a stint like that.
What is helpful however is an indication of when the project needs to be launched. This gives you the ability to assess -alongside the scope of the work- firstly whether it’s possible and secondly if there’s enough contingency time to pivot and fix should things not all go according to plan.


Customized Theme

This is the “next tier up” as mentioned in the previous section. Using a ready made theme as a base for a store can still be a very affordable approach to Shopify theming. It allows you to leverage existing visual and functional pre-mades and if chosen wisely it can significantly reduce development time and get your client to market sooner.

Customizing a theme however is not something to be trivialized. If you’re not familiar with the theme itself you could be walking into a bit of a trap and equally so if the customization work is not clear.

Some important questions and considerations:

  1. Is the customization actually necessary?
    This may sound condescending or obvious, but a lot of merchants will request customizations that are truly not achieving anything besides catering to their desire. A customization could come with a fairly large pricetag and ideally the merchant would want or expect some form of ROI. If this is unlikely it’s best to make it clear to prevent any nasty surprises.
  2. Are the changes to the theme visual in nature?
    If they are, factor in time to do mockups or prototypes of the changes and have them approved prior to final development. Not everyone works this way, but time still needs to be allocated to either defining the visual or running through some type of iterative, agile approach.
  3. Are the changes functional in nature?
    If so, are the requirements clear enough for you to give an accurate enough estimate? If they’re still somewhat vague, you’ll need to factor in time to conduct some form of viability assessment or specification. Without this you cannot accurately quantify the work so unless you’re billing hourly for the work, this can be a major minefield.

If the customization work is not clearly defined, it’s not possible to estimate time nor cost, so make sure everything is understood by both parties before quoting or starting the project.


Chapter 9


Integration Illustration

Shopify does a brilliant job of doing what it does in terms of straight forward ecommerce. That said, integrating the store with other “best of breed” systems like a CRM or an accounting solution is often required. Shopify has a decent API and as such is inherently capable of integrating with other mutually capable systems.

One of the best examples of integration is the payment gateway. Most stores make use of numerous integrations like email marketing systems, social media and others that are often built into the theme or available as a free or low cost app. An integration can potentially also be done as a bespoke project for a client with a system that doesn’t already have an existing solution within Shopify and it’s ecosystem.
Existing Integration

If integration has been done before with a system, it’s possible that you’ll find an app for it in the official Shopify app store. Most of the more widely used systems these days have pretty solid integration apps built either by the vendors of the systems themselves (eg: Mailchimp) or some third party solution provider (eg: eBridge).


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