How to Define the Perfect Scope for Your LearnDash Project

    Shreya Reddy
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An honest, detailed, no-nonsense project scope.

That’s what we’re aiming for, isn’t it?

Without an accurate estimate, outsourcing your project could turn into a massive management nightmare. 

Before you can even let out a sigh of relief, you’ll find yourself dealing with a big pile of delays, missing details, infinite loops of going back and forth, pushing back of deadlines and redefining the initial scope of the project until you’ve dwindled your budget down to nothing; all of which leaves you standing with a heavy box of unsold courses and a massive hole in your pocket.


learndash scopeSadly, we’ve had quite a few of our clients tell us these horror stories from their previous experiences.

After working with 450+ businesses over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about defining the perfect scope for a LearnDash project.

#1 The First Few Discussions are the Most Important Ones

You don’t need to be a WordPress or LearnDash expert. What matters is that you clearly communicate with the people who are. 

Don’t hesitate to ask questions and clarify any doubts or concerns that you have, irrespective of how trivial they may seem. The initial discussions that you have with your developer or agency set the tone for your project as well as your relationship with them.

You don’t need to worry about getting too granular at this stage. But asking the right questions to your LearnDash developer and conveying your expectations, is extremely critical.

Recently a client of ours (let’s call him Bob) wanted to migrate his site to LearnDash. After understanding why Bob needed to make the switch to LearnDash, we discovered that his biggest concern was to ensure his students didn’t experience any discrepancies on his site. 

Insights like these helped us scope out an optimum solution for Bob’s specific business needs.

#2 Assumptions Set the Stage for Surprise Costs and Major Delays

Missing details and educated guesses create a gap between ‘your expectations’ and ‘your developer’s understanding of these expectations’. This gap is precisely the kind of Black Hole that you need to steer clear of.

For instance, Bob mentioned that he wanted to start using a new Payment Gateway. Unless we knew which one he has in mind, we wouldn’t be able to:

  1. Suggest a better alternative if any
  2. Evaluate and inform him of any compatibility issues with LearnDash and the other plugins on his live site
  3. Check if a ready integration plugin is available, or if one needs to be built from scratch.

In other words, don’t leave anything out. Even a minor missing detail about ‘user access settings’ or ‘adding some form fields on your checkout page’ could have a huge impact on your business.

No matter who you’re working with, we recommend that you insist on having a detailed and written scope of work in place.

#3 Always Prepare to Deal With Scope Creeps and Delays

Scope Creeps are the pesky little requirements or changes that pop up when your project is in the implementation phase. Minor work that you or your developer didn’t anticipate earlier (while creating the scope of your project), that ultimately results in additional charges and unwelcome delays.

Working with an experienced LearnDash developer or agency can turn out to be of great help when it comes to avoiding these surprise development overheads. That’s because someone with a good amount of experience is more likely to have handled similar projects which makes it easier for them to identify potential scope creeps.

Now, projects have delays, no matter how detailed your scope is. Some could be caused by the developer, some by you, or maybe even a global pandemic! It doesn’t matter who or what is responsible, what matters is that delays are inevitable and need to be taken into account. 

Setting realistic timelines is the only way around this, and any experienced professional will tell you that.

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Pro Tip:

If you’re in a situation where you know you can’t define your exact requirements at the moment but you do need professional help, try negotiating a ‘block project deal’ with your developer. That way, you can purchase X hours of development time and define the details of the job on the fly.


#4 Multiple Vendors Provide Drastically Varying Quotations

What do you do when you’re in a situation like this?

Most people end up choosing the more budget-friendly option. That’s one of the most common mistakes we’ve seen people make – assuming that the person quoting a higher number is trying to rip them off.

Of course, it’s a possibility. But before you make a decision we suggest you make one last effort to understand how the developer has arrived at a number while defining the scope of your LearnDash project. You want to make sure that your potential developer isn’t promising a best-case number to eliminate the risk of losing you as a client.

When estimating the development hours needed, the worst-case scenario can be 20 – 50 times larger than the best-case scenario! In fact, techniques like the ‘three-point estimation’ are often used by professionals to come up with a realistic estimate.

Getting into the nuances of the scope which lies at the expensive end of the spectrum, will not only help you check if this person knows what they’re talking about, but also helps you get a better idea of what you need to navigate through , whether or not you choose to work with them in the future. 



We Follow the Two-Step Process of Defining the Scope of a LearnDash Project

Let’s take Bob’s example. 

When Bob reached out to us about migrating to LearnDash, he wanted us to build a Course Marketplace like Udemy or Coursera for him. 

Step 1: Discovery

On our calls with Bob (or any other client for that matter) we made sure both our ‘Client Service Manager’ and our ‘Subject Matter Expert/ LearnDash Expert’ were present. These calls were all about:

  • Understanding Bob’s requirements
  • Identifying constraints and potential roadblocks 
  • Defining the objectives of the project

We did our best to guide Bob through this process, educate them when needed and make his best interests our top priority.

Once we had everything we needed, we sent out an ‘initial discovery draft’ to check if we’re all on the same page. A draft that looked somewhat like this:

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The existing site is a basic WordPress setup that your company has been using since 3 years. You want to move the courses and users onto LearnDash, retain the existing functionality and have us develop additional features to convert it into a Course Marketplace.

The migration process shouldn’t affect the current operations and the new version of the site needs to be launched asap.

Scope of Work

User Roles:

The 3 main users in this system will be:

1)The Students or Course Takers. 

These users will be able to:

  • register themselves, 
  • take tests, 
  • submit assignments, 
  • get certifications, 
  • pay for a particular course or a bundle of courses

2) The Instructors or Course Creators. 

These Instructors should be able to:

  • author courses
  • access reports and test results for their respective courses, 
  • evaluate student performance, 
  • make commission payments to the site                        

3) The Admin Team

These users will:

  • have varying levels of access to the system
  • All the LMS related data will be accessible only to the admin of the site in the backend using Propanel of Learndash. 


  • The site will have separate registrations for all the roles so that their users are created separately. 
  • All these user registration requests will be sent to the admin so that they can approve or reject the user. 
  • The Instructors are also allowed to approve users who register for their specific courses.
  • We will also add some additional fields during the registration process (based on your inputs) for the admin to receive all the required information.

Payments Module:

  • Allow Instructors to Create Course Bundles
  • Change to Payment Gateway from ‘X’ to ‘Y’.
  • Automate Commission and Payments Management.
  • Custom build an Integration module for Payment Gateway ‘Y’.


That’s hardly a comprehensive draft, but you get the picture.

Step 2: Effort Estimation

Once Bob confirms that the draft fits his requirements, we go ahead and create the ‘Effort Estimation’ Document. 

This is where we map the features, and development tasks with the number of hours needed to complete the work, and then derive the final timeline and cost estimate for the project. 

So let’s say we’re working on a custom ‘Video Assignments Module’ for Bob. The estimation looks somewhat like this:

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Assignments and Approach  Development Hours Total Cost
Assignment: Enable webcam and record a short video. Provide the ability to retake as many times as needed before submitting it. The admins can watch the video and either mark the video as passed or ask the user to redo it. 

Approach: We can use LearnDash’s ‘Upload Assignment’ feature here. Make the assignment eligible for manual approval, so that the admin can approve it.  

X hours Y USD


Parting Words

We know it can get frustrating.

You’re outsourcing your work for a reason. You want to offload the development so that you can focus on more important matters. 

Fact is, if you don’t invest your attention at this stage of the project, you can easily fall into pricing traps and face challenges you never saw coming.

Your requirements may evolve over the course of the project, and that’s fine. What’s important is that you work with a team that can adapt. A team that you can effectively communicate with in order to define the perfect scope for your LearnDash Project.

After all, successful projects are built on clear action plans that are derived from an honest, detailed, and relevant scope of work. 

That’s all for now! 

Got questions for us? Shoot ‘em away in the comments section below, or get in touch with our LearnDash Experts!

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Further Reading:

Do You need a LearnDash Developer or Consultant?


Shreya Reddy

Shreya Reddy

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