The Art of Bug Reporting

Posted by Alexia Golez on July 5, 2013

Finding common ground for reporting issues on a site especially when you hit a problem on a site that's driving you bananas. "I don't know what I've done" / "Where is this feature" / "I don't understand" - you might scream before going all Hulksmash and wrecking the gaff. And you know, if you don't report that bug - no-one will hear that scream.

Good bug reports are incredibly important to the dev team (and the whole organisation) because they detail not only what the user was doing before encountering the problem. More than this, bugs try to capture what the user was trying to achieve.

Every time you report a bug, you save a kitten.

As a developer when you're assigned a bug, a wave of things go through your head. What was the user thinking about doing? Perhaps they are doing or trying to do something we didn't think about. Maybe it's we weren't clear about how to find *that* feature. All important lessons for a dev team, and much more importantly, the whole org as we try to cleave out a feature and build on it into the future.

Writing good bug reporting is really about finding a common language between users, the dev team and the wider org. If you come across a bug, there's a couple things you should do:

    • Log it: Don't wait for someone else to do it. Your hair-pulling will save someone else.
    • Be atomic: Write the steps that got to the weird issue you're seeing. Developers love pedantic steps, they sequence out what's happening and are very powerful in identifying where things went awry.
    • Be clear about what you expected to happen - bugs are all about expectations - if you expected LOLCats to tango when you hit the Submit button but they waltzed, say it.
    • Get screen capturing - hit the Print Screen button if you're on Windows or Command + Shift + 4 on Mac and grab a capture of any weird errors you're seeing. Screen caps are the best friend of a developer picking up bugs. I like to highlight problems with text or boxes around error or weird behaviour.

Depending on how serious the issue is, the response time for the bug may vary. Bugs that block an entire feature take priority, whereas that image alignment problem that ticks you off will probably fall down the bug fixing to-do list.

Remember to report issues you see on the sites you frequent, the dev gods will smile on you.

Photo courtesy of James Larkin (@forbairt).

Topics: Technology