Storyboard Estimate

Feb 19, 2013

I am developing our project plan - how many hours should I allocate toward storybaoarding a two hour level 2 interactivity e-learning course?  The storyboard will be contracted out to third party.  I've seen estimates that range from 11 hours per hour of learning to 100 hours per hour of learning.


14 Replies
Tim Slade

Hi Shayne,

Interesting question. I would have to think 100 hours per hour of learning seems like a lot, but I guess it depends on the content and the extent of work involved to produce the end-product. Meaning, a simple course with slides will take far less time than something that includes interactivie and/or branching.

Honestly, I think this is something you need to workout with whomever you contract this out to. They should give you and estimate based not only on their abilities, but current workload, etc. This can also play a big part into how much you pay.

Not sure if that's the answer you're looking for...either way, good luck!


Jerson  Campos

It's not unrealistic to have a large amount of hours dedicated to storyboarding. This is your visual "analysis" phase where you'll have to iron out many of the initial issues before they become a big problem when you go into development. 100 hours per hour seems fairly exaggerated though. The hours depends on the project and how fast the storyboard artist can work. I know this doesn't answer the question much either, but without some more details of the project then it's hard to give you an estimate.

Daniel Brigham

Not 11 hours, for sure. You are storyboarding two hours of material (120 minutes), and one slide generally runs what--2 minutes or so? So maybe 60 slides will have to be built (or at least well-described).

The answer, of course, depends on what you want the finished storyboard to look like. Do you have a sample storyboard to show your third party? Could you post it here so we could help you?

When I storyboard, I basically build the slide and take a screenshot of it. Yes, the client might not like the way I built it, but most of the time they do, and boom, it's done.

It usually takes me between 35-50 hours to storyboard a 30-40 minute lesson. I am not the fastest gun in the West, this I know, but my storyboards are fairly detailed (see attached).

If you give a bit more detail on what the storyboard is too include, I could help you come up with a guess. Best, Daniel

Rich Johnstun

I don't think 100 hrs per hour of completely project is out of line to build a program from scratch, but there are a ton of variables there. Will there be multimedia content (audio/video that needs to be recorded and edited)? Will you need to generate your own graphics (I frequently have to shoot photos for my learning programs)? Is there existing content that is being leveraged? That is an excessive amount of time for storyboarding alone. 

Steve Flowers

100 hours does seem really high for storyboard development but, as Tim says, there are lots of factors:

1) Are they also doing the task / skill analysis to determine what needs to be trained and to what level?

2) Do they need to run pre-design analysis meetings with the SME to determine specific requirements (depth and content focus)?

3) Is a model in place that illustrates your expectations? e.g., we've done it this way before, here are all of the documents and level of detail we need / expect. Laying out those expectations helps to reduce the arbitrary nature of an estimate (and helps to make the provider feel better about open ended risks).

4) What type of assessment is required? Writing good assessments can take a lot of time.

5) What's your audience look like? What do they expect to see? If the audience needs a lot of detail and expects this detail in a spoken narrative, clear and concise narration takes extra time to craft.

I have a ballpark estimation method I've used to weigh contract responses for value. A median price per hour of Level II IMI tends around 15K (sometimes higher, sometimes lower but 15K is about mid-range for level 2 especially since most of these end up at around level 1 with a small smattering stuff that might indicate level 2). Half of overall time is relegated to instructional architecture and communication design, leaving technical design and media package development for the other half. $100 / hour (for our industry) is on the high side but is good for estimating hours with some flex. So for this rough wag, 75 hours falls at the top end of the window for the 15K median. This typically includes some audience analysis, pre-design and task analysis effort. Any requirements you nail down should subtract from overall hours. 

Cynthia Haan

I have been timing myself for a long time, and have done similar types of storyboards for about 7 years. Typically the screens are a mix of Levels II and III. I usually use an animation at least every 15 seconds, and an interaction every third screen. of course, like everyone else has pointed out, there are so many variables involved to consider, it's best to do an average...

My time is 8 hours per 15 minutes of storyboarding. This includes editing or writing the script at the same time. If it's highly technical stuff requiring a lot of demonstration that I am writing out for developers (currently mostly Flash) I double the time. I also find a lot of stock imagery to incorporate, and I usually allow an hour for that search for every 1/2 of storyboarding.

This doesn't count reviews, etc., just storyboarding.

Andrew Sellon

You're getting a lot of great input, Shayne!  I come in somewhere around Daniel's figures--but then, it sounds like he and I also take a similar approach, so that's hardly surprising.  I would agree that for the typical Storyline project, 100 hours to storyboard 2 hours worth of Level 2 content (which will likely have a share of Level 1 slides in there, too) seems high.  But as everyone else has said, it really does depend on your content, and also on your clients.  Definitely heed the warnings to include buffer time and budget!  I had a project recently where a new client swore up and down that all the stakeholders were at the table at our kickoff meeting.  They would've sworn to it.  Over the next few months (yep, you can see where this is going), one new senior executive after another appeared out of the woodwork, taking over and demanding extensive changes to the storyboard each time.  I had built in a buffer amount to my storyboarding figure just in case of storyboarding excesses, but in this case we still had to amend the SOW and add more hours to satisfy the last executive's wishes.  I can't overemphasize the importance of a buffer, just in case.  The simplest-looking project can turn into a time-consumer.  And as Cynthia has noted, don't forget to factor in the review cycles that will mean additional changes to the storyboards.

Over in a consultant thread of this forum, we've been discussing ballpark percentages of time for our projects, and it might be helpful to looking at from another angle: Examine the big picture of your project, the reality of your content's condition and complexity, your internal client's tendencies (if known), and breaking things out by an estimated percentage.  For example, say you decide you're likely to spend 20-25% of your total project time on storyboarding.  Then you could translate that into an estimate of hours based on your specific schedule and budget, and compare that figure to the quotes you've been getting.  Since you'll be paying a third party to draft the storyboards, you definitely want to make sure you and that consultant/company are on the same page.

Hope this helps!  

Renee Lubaway

I started elearning development during a volatile period when rapid tools were emerging - rapidly! The RFP process took a year and when they came back and said they were ready I said, "Hold on a second, six months just went by and I'll need to re-research this to be sure the tool I've selected is still the best solution." That's how tumultuous the industry was at the time. I did a lot of research on this topic and found the annual research publications from ELearningGuild to be pretty helpful. Check out their 2012 Global eLearning Salary & Compensation Report. Like you I found time estimates to be all over the place and soon realized that it really depended on the tools being used. As we move toward rapid development we also have to revamp our estimate as well as our planning methods. I had a wise advisor who told me to lump sum my estimate for the initial project (3 30 min. courses). I considered everything my research uncovered including a time chart that I found which I adjusted to allow for "rapid" development tools. Since I also do web design, I know how shocking time and hourly rate estimates are to stakeholders who don't understand the process.  I also manage the LMS for these courses. The lump sum was a good method and now I'm happily developing Phase II courses for this client! As for storyboard time - the things that delay the process for me is when the ball isn't in my court and things are held up by busy SME's. I had one who was an unwilling participant, another who couldn't help himself and used a lot of bias in his narration that had to be creatively extracted. While my storyboards have the general flow and content down, it's through research and course development using my tools that the course really evolves. I say to myself, "I'm using a rapid tool. Am I using my time wisely?"  I'm also a professional educator and my storyboards are like my lesson plan (completely different format, of course). As a classroom teacher, lesson plans often changed by the hour and always - reflect and revise before you use it again. In my elearning development, my story board helps with my launch, but I don't bother spending time editing the storyboard to match the course when changes are made in development and post review. I was a technology teacher and the whole point of emerging technologies like Storyline is to make life easier, save us time, solve a problem. Keep that in mind. Hope this helps. I love what I'm doing and I love the tool I'm using with Storyline. PS If I find that time chart I'll post it here.

Michele Hamlin

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10-20 storyboard slides

21-35 storyboard slides

36 plus storyboard slides

Graphics -off the shelf

Graphics -few custom

Graphics -custom

Navigation -linear

Navigation -linear or exploratory

Navigation -linear or exploratory

Interactivity, Simple - fewer than 8

Interactivity, Moderate - every 3-4 pages

Interactivity, High - every 1-2 pages

-simple mouse overs

-rollovers, pop ups

-rollovers, pop ups

-multiple choice questions



-feedback pop-ups

-multiple choice questions

-drag & drop



-multiple choice questions

Simple, custom interactions (1-2)

Complex, custom interactions (2-4)

Complex, custom interactions (3-8)

-simple demo/simulation



-simple audio, video

-animation, audio, video

-animation, audio, video

-simple game



Templates are not modified

Templates may be modified

Templates are likely to be modified



Branching and/or multiple modules






Duration: Up to two hours

Duration: Two to four hours

Duration: Four to eight hours

Participant guide - limited

Participant guide - extensive

Participant guide – extensive

Objectives - 1-3

Objectives - 3-6

Objectives - 6+

Practice/application - little to none

Practice/application - moderate

Practice/application – significant

-assesment - simple or none -

assesment - moderate -

assesment - extensive, system processing




-facilitator demonstration

-facilitator demonstration

-facilitator demonstration

Visual aids

- limited, simple -game

-games, DIY interactions

-posters Visual aids

- Several, simple to moderate

-captivate demo

-simple powerpoint

-posters Visual aids

- Multiple, complex

Job aid - none



Job aid - one or none



Job aid - one or more



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Development Tasks

Approximate Number of Hours

Graphic Selection (up to 20 images)

5-10 hrs

Graphic Editing

30 min. per graphic

Build Pages in e-Learning software - Static

30 min. per page

Build Pages in e-Learning software - Interactive with Images, Hot Spots, Process

1.5 hrs per page

Build Pages in e-Learning software - Interactive Text Build

1 hr per page

Build Pages in e-Learning software - Question Pages

1.5 hrs per page

1 demo (25 slides - not interactive)

5 - 10 hrs

1 interactive demo (includes click boxes, text boxes, feedback responses, highlight boxes) 25 slides

15 - 20 hrs

Branching\Non-Linear Navigation

2 - 4 hrs

Audio (capture and edit)

5 - 10 hrs

Audio (a call simulation using 1 or more SMEs - capture and edit)

10 - 15 hrs

Quiz (10 questions)

1 hr. set-up plus 15 min. per page

Flash Animation/Interaction/Activity

Developed on a case by case based on requirements - see eLearning Developer

Implementation tasks (testing in Qual & Prod, promotion in Qual & Prod, associated updates)

1 - 2 days (can be longer if server is down/slow)

Pepe Newton

Quick answer is ... it depends....

As an ID I can never just quote based on a brief that short... I need to know the following:

What's your source material like? Is there content to be developed? Do I have access to an SME? How many modules will the 2 hours be broken into? Do you have a storyboard template and design style you want me to work with or do I need to come up with my own? Am I designing user interface? etc etc etc

I've found a lot of issues around quoting come from misunderstandings between client and contractor about what's actually involved so I'd be asking more questions now to be sure you allocate the right amount of time.

Get this right now and your costs won't blow out later.

Good luck! Pepe

Martina Osmak

Hi everyone, great discussion going on here! I don't want to spam this discussion because the subject is just similar, not the same. But, since it really is close enough, I'd like to draw your attention to this thread - . Maybe you have some ideas what features should be developed.


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