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Chicago, IL 60640
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NogginLabs was founded on the notion that custom e-learning design and development is the ultimate horizontal industry. Time and again, each new project, client, and industry proves it. The biggest advantage of the e-learning horizontal is cross-pollinating ideas from two wildly different domains. A restaurant service simulation for iPad may influence a high-fashion online retail challenge. E-learning for financial advisors in a bank could inspire a mobile outreach program for cancer survivors. This variety also keeps the creative folks at NogginLabs fresh. Fresh learning ideas and designs come from a set of constantly changing constraints.

Want a great custom e-learning proposal? Share your budget.


Want a great custom e-learning proposal? Share your budget.

Lindsay Bland

If you’re at the point where you are requesting a proposal for an e-learning project, chances are you have a budget. It could be a number you can’t exceed, or a target budget range, or just a ballpark number rattling around in the back of your brain after a recent conversation with your boss. The point is, you have a number. We know you do.

And yet for some baffling reason, project budgets have transformed into this magical trump card that is clutched tightly, ever so close to the chest, never to be shared with anyone. Your budget is your precious and none of us will ever see it until we’re clawing it from your clammy hands as we both teeter on the edge of a cliff above a pool of lava inside the fiery belly of Mordor.

I mean, okay, slightly dramatic but hear me out. Just like when you go car shopping, or house shopping, or shopping for fresh strawberries at the start of summer in the Shire: you have a number you won’t, nay, a number you CAN’T go above. You have a sense of what this purchase is worth to you and your company. And that knowledge should be shared with every vendor within shouting distance during every single painstaking step of the proposal process.

Why the heck would I share my budget?

1. You’ll get better proposals

If you tell your realtor you want a house that can sleep four people and will function as your home for the next 5 years, and then you refuse to give him a budget range, he has no idea what to show you. He asks for more information, so you tell him you like the color purple and gas fireplaces and the fact that your last three realtors showed you homes with hardwood floors and you’re not quite sure how you feel about that. More information, sure. But he still has to show you a house that fits that your description in every possible price range. Or, even worse, he has to blindly guess at what he thinks you might want to spend. You are then presented with a huge variety of crappy hovels and space mansions that you couldn’t afford in this lifetime or next. Wouldn’t it have been better to tell this poor guy upfront that you are looking in a specific price range, so you can see the best of what that price point has to offer?

Seems obvious, for sure. Yet the case of the secret budget happens all the time in the e-learning industry, leaving vendors in a frustrating guessing game that results in watered-down proposals that miss the mark. It’s hard to hit the mark when nobody tells you where it is or what a mark even looks like.

2. It’s respectful

The search for custom creative services isn’t easy, we know. It’s hard to buy something that hasn’t been designed yet. But just as you are issuing RFPs and having calls and demos to vet your vendor candidates, those vendors are vetting you, too. Twist! We refer to this as determining “the fit.” We want to make sure that your company is a good fit for us. A good fit has a huge impact on the success of a project for both parties.

One giant red flag that says “no, this is not a good fit” is a wide gap between what we charge and what you want to spend. This is the same reason that I don’t spend my days wandering around Jaguar dealerships and precious gem conventions, which I’m assuming are a thing. If you want top-quality, custom courseware for peanuts and popcorn balls, then it’s not a great fit. Many vendors would opt out of responding to RFPs that aren’t financially in line with what they charge for project development, so it seems natural to respectfully offer folks the opportunity to make an informed decision.

3. Constraints force innovation

One popular reason e-learning buyers often give their vendors as to why they’re intentionally withholding budget information has to do with creativity. “We don’t want our budget to cloud your creativity,” they say. “Just be creative!” I’ll save my rants around asking for and giving away free creative for another ten blog posts. The point I’d like to make here is that budget, along with timeline, technical environment, brand standards, learning objectives, business goals, etc. is a constraint.

Let me say that again: budget is a constraint. And constraints force innovation. Creativity needs constraints. Without constraints we are left to our own devices and the sky’s the limit. And in corporate America, it’s safe to say the sky is never the limit. We honestly need your limits in order to creatively solve your problems!

Once we know all of your constraints, we can stop wasting our time and resources guessing. We can then get creative and specific in our recommendations and figure out the best possible solution to fit your unique needs. As custom e-learning developers, we like to compare ourselves to a custom home builder. In order to build your dream home, we need to know all of your constraints, including budget. Otherwise we might pitch you a futuristic mansion that runs off solar flares and human emotions when at the end of the day all you really wanted was a quaint hut on the outskirts of Gondor.