How to Streamline Bug Reports

Posted by in Software Development, Web Development tagged with

graphic of laptop computer with bugs on it

When a newly redesigned website launches, stakeholders are likely to come across elements of the site that aren’t functioning correctly. In order to fix these bugs, as they’re called, you’ll need to report them to a developer who can fix them. For a bug to get fixed expediently, it’s helpful to file your report in a way that a developer can easily understand, diagnose, and remedy the problem.

Think of it this way: bugs are like emergencies and developers are the 911 operators. The more calmly and accurately you can describe the problem, including what’s happening and where, the more expediently the right kind of help can be dispatched. If you panic and provide nonsensical information you’re liable to wait longer for assistance.

Luckily you don’t have to understand what’s technically happening in order to file a good bug. The important thing is to be clear, accurate and organized in your reporting.

7 tips to help your bug reporting process go smoothly

1. Cover your bases before making a report

Before you consider making a new bug report, be sure to make sure you’re not adding an unnecessary entry to the growing queue of issues. Check if someone has already filed a bug that is similar to yours. Use your best judgement to determine if you should add a comment to an existing bug, or create a new one. Duplicate entries can make queues tedious to sift through.

2. Check which version you’re looking at

Be sure to make note of what version of a project you are looking at. Is it the development build version? Is it production? Is it something on your local machine? Sometimes there may be bits of a project that are currently works in progress, so be sure to check other bug entries as well since they may affect what you see while testing.

3. Be descriptive without being wordy

Being thorough and descriptive in your bug reports can be very helpful to your team. A good bug report description removes the need for other team members to ask questions about the bug itself. On the other hand, sending in a verbose bug report can make it a bit more difficult for others to separate the issue from other content.

Any errors that show up as you test should be submitted in the bug report. Having precise error information can help developers pinpoint the specific issue more quickly.

4. Attach a screenshot if you can

Screenshots can be very helpful in lieu of being able to copy errors into a bug report. If there are visual anomalies involved, it’ll help a developer or designer know what they are looking for when reproducing the steps taken to trigger the bug. Be sure to upload small, focused screenshots related to the bug. Most screenshot tools allow you to capture a portion of your screen or window, as opposed to your entire desktop. Also be sure to export these images in common image formats such as JPEG or PNG so they can be easily viewed by anyone.

screenshot of software bug tracking system redmine
Reporting a new issue using the bug tracking system Redmine.

5. If you can, provide the steps to reproduce the issue

Providing steps to reproduce bugs are vital. Let the developer know the step-by-step process that lead to the error. This allows other team members to test and verify if a bug actually exists under certain conditions. It saves time and allows developers to test for a bug on their own, bypassing many initial questions that waste time.

6. Know your environment

Be sure to mention what environment the bug occurs on. This varies depending on the project, of course, but helpful information includes the operating system and browser you were using at the time the error occurred.

7. Create a bug assignment and labeling workflow

Sometimes a project is being tested and there are a flurry of bugs that appear all at once. They will eventually need to be assigned to an individual developer to prioritize and investigate. Creating a bug assignment “workflow” can help streamline that process.

Make sure that bugs are labeled properly (is it a design, programming, or content issue?) and assign bugs to the appropriate team members from the start so that the tickets are organized. Having a queue of unassigned and unlabeled bug entries can make sifting and sorting through them very tedious in the long run.

Some good bug tracking systems:

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