The company I am working for runs the agile model - and we have to provide estimates of how long a particular task will take. If I haven't done the task before, how will I know how long to give as an estimate?

closed as off topic by JonW Feb 15 '13 at 10:08

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  • Traditionally if you aren't sure of how much work is involved, you would spike until you do know. Alternatively if you're using story points you could do relative estimates of how much work is involved and then let measurement of other previous tasks help you estimate future ones. – Kit Grose Feb 15 '13 at 0:21
  • I don't really think this is a User Experience question, it's more of a project management one. "How to estimate how long an 'X' task will take" is the question, it's not specifically related to UX. (for example if you replace 'ux design task' with 'development task' it doesn't turn it into a Development question). You might get some advice at Project Management StackExchange – JonW Feb 15 '13 at 10:08
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    I disagree with @JonW. It is a UX question. Because the solutions to estimation problems - especially in a agile context - are specific to the domain. And this is a common problem for UX folk in agile contexts. – adrianh Feb 15 '13 at 16:20
  • @adrianh If more information could be supplied in the question, specific to the particular task then this question could be more appropriate, but as it stands it's just a general 'how do I estimate my project' question that is too broad for any SE site. Just because it mentions 'agile' doesn't make it UX, that is just one methodology out of hundreds. However if the particular task can be described, along with the particular situation it falls within then that is more on-topic for this site. – JonW Feb 15 '13 at 16:25
  • @JonW Since I was most of the way through writing an answer I disagree ;-) – adrianh Feb 15 '13 at 18:55

THere is no simple answer for that, as the complexity comes with the ideation, and as idea influences UX and UX influences idea, the two usually pump the process up. In other words - it is possible to calculate the timings only if you have the whole idea (also about UX) shaped, and this is basically the moment when you already have UX done.

Especially for agency enviroment it is very complicated, because:

  • you WILL get client input on what you have done already, at various stages of the project (even after UX design), making you go a step backward, sometimes two steps
  • the complexity (set of functionalities) grows with time, and with the idea getting more and more defined

So: no simple answer.

However, there are some approaches that may help:

  1. Refer to your expertise, or use help of another UX designer to at least roughly estimate it.

  2. Use relative estimates, saying that the process may take e.g. about 1 week, but it depends on the final complexity, client input, additional information, dependencies etc. The time estimate can be done after that.

  3. Use a range. Saying "1 week" is more problematic than saying "1 to 3 weeks".

  4. Adjust timings on the go. As Ben said, this is a part of Agile, but even not using a particular project management methodology, you can communicate at the begining that it may change with time.


It depends on the task at hand. If you know what the output and input is, than you would probably know what time it takes to analyze the input and produce the output. If you don't know, you need to devide and concur, and break down the task into understandable measurable pieces. Then it easier to make a decent estimate.

The good thing is that you use Agile methodology which makes it possible to change the estimate as you move along. Most important, communicate the uncertainty to the members and leaders of the project group.

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