How Long Does It Take To Fix My Website’s Bugs?
Estimating bug fixes is one of the hardest things to do as a web developer. No web developer wants to give a time estimate and then completely blow past it. We have schedules to keep too!
As the technical side of our partnership, the onus is on me to ask questions about not only the bugs themselves, but also about the history of the website and who has worked on it to give a time estimate you can count on.
Understanding The Ask
I recently replied to a job post requesting help with a few bugs on existing sites. Seems straightforward enough, right?
But if I don’t ask about some details I may underestimate the time required to do the fixes and then we’ll both be frustrated when the deadline approaches and I’m asking for more time.
Even with just a small bit of information about the problem – “My website has bugs. Help!” – I can still ask pointed questions that will help me determine the level of effort involved to fix it.
In this case if I’m working on an existing site that means as a developer I’m stepping into someone else’s work. Here are five questions I always ask when providing an estimate to fix bugs:
How long has the site been in existence?
The longer the site has been around, the more likely it has been modified. The more it has been modified, the more difficult to review and parse through.
How many developers have worked on the site?
I’m going to work as fast as I can, but if there have been a lot of cooks in that WordPress kitchen, the site’s complexity increases and the time needed to troubleshoot will increase right along with it.
And of course not all developers are created equal. Some leave behind great comments, outlining the changes made and their impact. And that can make my job easier! But a lot…well, just don’t. Without a trail to follow, the research required can greatly increase.
Is this a pre-existing theme or a custom build?
I think there is a perception that if a site uses a store-bought theme that doing enhancements or solving bugs should be a piece of cake. And some times that is the case, but this is completely dependent on the site!
There are a lot of good themes out there with proper documentation and a great support staff to help with troubleshooting. However, many themes are just the opposite – little documentation, little to zero support and the theme may be so obscure that even Google sleuthing doesn’t yield much help.
Not having solid resources to refer to can make what seems like a simple change take longer than expected.
I try to get the name of the theme upfront if the client knows it. This way I can do some quick research on it to see what level of documentation and support they offer. The more robust these are, the less time I’ll likely need to get the issues solved or the enhancements launched.
Custom themes follow a similar path. Is the code well-commented? Did the previous developer use WordPress best practices? If the answer to these questions is yes, the less time I’ll likely need to solve problems.
When did you start seeing the issue?
Time is important when trying to fix problems. The earlier the issue is identified the easier it is to retrace steps and solve the underlying problem. If you’re not sure when the bugs started, that’s okay, but it may take extra time to develop a solution.
Have you recently installed any plugins?
There are good plugins and there are bad plugins. If I know you recently installed a plugin that is where I’ll start my troubleshooting. This may reduce the amount of time it will take to solve the problem.
Estimating Bug Fixes – Wrapping Up
The answers to these questions can give me a sense of how complicated troubleshooting may be. If the site has been up and running for a few years and it’s been churning through developers, it’s likely I will need more time for research and remediation.
And while this is a simple example, the concept applies no matter the scope of the project. Whether a bug fix or a completely new website, asking the right questions up front will help set proper time expectations.
As a client you’ll feel more comfortable knowing that when I say it will take me ‘x’ amount of time to complete a task you’ll know that I have given as accurate an estimate as I can, the reasons for the estimate and what to expect for future engagements.