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I gave my client a wrong error analysis and wasted everyone’s time

My second web development project (as a small biz owner) is building the Zero Waste San Diego (ZWSD) website. This marks the second project I’ve worked on with Michelle and is the most challenging one in my WordPress experience so far.

The highlight? I wasted my client’s and Michelle’s time by giving them a wrong error analysis! But there’s a really good twist in the end! (not gonna spoil it to you yet.) 

The ZWSD original homepage
[Above] The ZWSD Homepage I built.
The current homepage has a different style now; story for another time 🙂

How did the project start?

After wrapping up the sales page with Michelle, I was offered the second WordPress web development opportunity. This time, the client was ZWSD, a nonprofit educating people in San Diego about zero-waste living. I jumped into the opportunity right away.

What the project was all about

Redesigning the ZWSD website – the whole thing! ZWSD had an existing website hosted on WordPress. All I had to do was build newly designed pages with Elementor based on Michelle’s design mockup and add the content. Once completed, we would redirect traffic from old to new pages. The plan was straightforward.

I remember how excited I was seeing the mockup design. The design was unique and beautiful and looked challenging to achieve. There were wave graphic sections stretched across the page width, section divisions with different styles, and layers upon layers.

The ZWSD mockup design by Michelle
[Above] The ZWSD mockup design by Michelle

This was the first time I’d created this level of complex design; all I had was excitement. I didn’t know what complications were waiting for me.

Error encountered, wrong analysis & final solution

  • Persistent 500 and 504 errors: These errors kept showing while building the pages and prevented me from saving the work. Does it sound familiar? This happened when I was building the sales page for Michelle too. Did I debug them the right way? Nah.
  • Wrong analysis: New to handling error messages, I gave the wrong analysis to the team. I pointed out that the errors were caused by a few tools mentioned in the error log’s PHP notices line. Hours wasted in testing and asking around. The answer was: it was the exhausted PHP memory limit issue mentioned in the PHP Fatal error line. Again, the same cause of error as the sales page case.
  • Final Solution: I requested an increase in the PHP memory limit from the web host. Meanwhile, I repeated the web optimization processes, which included optimizing the database tables to clear up some storage space, deleting unused tools, and limiting post and page revisions. As a result, the errors were gone, and the site became more lightweight and organized. I was able to save my work again.

Project results & the awesome twist

The website was launched successfully and on schedule after four months of development and troubleshooting headaches.

The ZWSD is an image-heavy website. However, I made sure the images were well-optimized. They were properly sized, compressed, and lazy-loaded (only loaded when they needed to). Performance-wise, the homepage scored a B with 90% in performance and 77% in structure on GTmetrix.

The awesome twist? The client hired me to care for their website weekly! This is my first-ever retainer client for my web support service. I still remember when Laura, the ZWSD client, said, “Welcome on board!” It was huge and took a while to sink in!

Not only could I make money doing what I love (building websites) to help the organization with a mission I care about (planet’s sustainability), but also they trust me enough to let me care for the website moving forward. Is this for real?

Laura has been my retainer client since. Besides giving web support weekly, I fixed a bunch of site issues for her. I’m grateful for this work and try to deliver the best work I can.

If you or someone you know wants to have a website built out or cared for, I can be a good fit! Visit my service page for more details.

Lastly…

I hope this story gives you some insights into what web development looks like behind closed doors. It can be stressful and nerve-racking. You might feel foolish and doubt your abilities. You could potentially waste your client’s time. Yet, you learn to improve yourself, your processes, and your communication. The experience always leads to something meaningful.

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