How to Write a Bug Report That Your Developers Will Appreciate
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Finding bugs on your website or in your products can be a major headache. Chances are, if you do come across a bug, you want it fixed as quickly as possible.
That’s why writing effective bug reports is crucial. A bug report tells your developer everything they need to know about the bug, where it’s occurring, and how desperately you need it squashed.
We’re going to take a look at why it’s so important to get your bug reports right, and what features you should include making sure your developers can fix the bug quickly and efficiently.
What is a Bug Report?
A bug report is the best way to let a developer know that an issue with a website or a piece of software needs to be fixed. Writing clear and concise bug reports is essential if you want to get any issues that may be affecting your customers resolved quickly.
Bug reports should be specific and should only contain relevant information that will help your developer to understand and ultimately solve the bug you are alerting them to. Including a lot of unnecessary information will only make the process longer.
Bug reports should include enough information to make the bug reproducible wherever possible. If the developer is unable to reproduce the bug, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to fix it easily.
Why is it Important to Write Effective Bug Reports?
Software or websites that are filled with bugs won’t work as expected, which will lead to users getting frustrated, often abandoning what they were doing without looking back. For e-commerce sites in particular, this can be a problem. As many as 13% of cart abandonments were due to the website being shopped on having errors.
If you want to make sure your website is running smoothly, then quality bug reporting is essential. This improves the experience for your customers and reduces the pressure on your customer service teams.
Developers are often under a great deal of pressure to solve many issues, so the more helpful information you can provide them with, the easier it will be for them to solve your issues quickly. The more quickly your bugs can be fixed, the less interruption your customers will face, and the less negative effects your business will experience.
Features of an Effective Bug Report
In order to make your bug reports effective, you should try to include as much useful information as possible, while omitting any details that aren’t relevant. Here is a checklist of things that all effective bug reports should include.
The title of your bug report should give your developer the basic details they need to know at a glance. It should include a brief description of what the bug is, and where it occurs.
For example, if you find that items added to the shopping cart of your ecommerce store are not displaying the correct price in the basket, you could use the following as your title;
‘Shopping Cart – Items added to cart display incorrect price’
If you’re experiencing issues that cause the FAQ section on your hosted phone system landing page to display incorrectly, you could use this title instead;
‘Hosted Phone System landing page – FAQ section not displaying correctly’
A title such as this will tell your developer exactly where the bug is occurring, and gives them enough information about the issue to identify whether it has already been reported, and merge any duplicate reports if necessary.
Sometimes a title will not be enough to get across all the relevant information about a bug. In these instances, you can include a short summary to provide additional information that your developer will need.
In the case of our shopping cart example, you could include the date and time the bug occurred, and what specific items you were trying to add to the cart when you noticed it.
Expected vs. Actual Results
In this section, you can get a little more descriptive about what happened when the bug occurred. You should still try and be succinct, however, and only include relevant information.
The expected result is what should have happened when the action was undertaken. The actual result is what actually happened when the action was undertaken.
Including this information lets the developer know the effect of the bug and how different the outcome is to what is expected. It also lets them know the desired outcome when they get to work fixing the bug.
Including some visual evidence in your bug report can help your developer to understand exactly where the bug is occurring, and what happens when it does. This could be a screenshot of the webpage, or even some captured video that shows the steps leading up to the bug being triggered.
Make sure that the visual evidence captures any error messages that may be displayed. If it’s not clear exactly where the bug is occurring, you could annotate the picture to better explain the issue.
Steps to Reproduce
By including the steps that need to be taken to reproduce the bug, you can provide the developer with an easy way to see the bug for themselves first hand. This should help give them a better insight into what is causing the bug, and how to go about fixing it.
You could include a numbered list that lays out exactly what steps need to be taken to reproduce the bug, and in what order. This will reduce the time it takes to find and fix the bug. The earlier in development bugs are fixed, the less they cost your business.
Some bugs may only occur in specific web browsers, or on certain devices. Including as much information as possible about the environment you were browsing in when you noticed the bug will help the developer when they’re trying to reproduce it and will give them pertinent information to help them fix it.
The information you include about the environment should cover:
The web browser used, including the version
The screen size you were using to view the affected web page
Your operating system
The zoom level you were using to view the web page
The pixel ratio
In addition to this information, it’s also a good idea to include the source URL. Knowing the exact web page you were on when the bug occurred will help the developer narrow down what caused it.
If you are monitoring your system and have access to console logs, including them in a bug report will save the developer a lot of time in determining what caused the bug. They will provide the developer with a list of all the errors that occurred on any given web page.
This can be especially helpful to developers when trying to fix bugs that are hard to reproduce, providing them with information that may otherwise be hard to obtain without seeing the bug first hand.
Severity and Priority
Defining the severity of the bug, and how urgently it needs fixing, will help your developer prioritize the most urgent issues.
The severity of the bug is judged by how much it is impacting your customers, and your business.
When testing websites, 20% of bugs are categorized as being of critical or high severity, meaning they caused a failure or impaired system usability. These bugs need to take the highest priority, whereas the 35% of bugs that are deemed as being low severity can be dealt with less urgently, as they cause mainly cosmetic issues.
Finally, you should include any other information that the developer needs to be made aware of.
This could include referencing information, such as a bug number or bug ID, that can be used to identify cases more easily. You could also include information about who is reporting the bug, so the developer knows who to contact should they require any further information.
You could include details of whom the bug report is being assigned to, if you know which developers are responsible for specific components of your website or product. You could also include a due date, letting the developer know when the bug should ideally be fixed.
General Tips and Tricks For Writing Effective Bug Reports
Including all these features in your bug report will ensure your developer has all the necessary information to fix the issues you’re reporting. But there are several other things you should keep in mind when writing a bug report.
Remember to only report one bug in each bug report. It’s much harder for developers to solve bugs if they have to search through reports that have multiple issues detailed. Even if the bugs seem to be related, give each one its own report.
Try to avoid reporting issues more than once. If your company has an issue tracker, check it before submitting a bug report to make sure you’re not duplicating a report that’s already been submitted.
Professional bug trackers are available from third parties, which can help you keep track of which issues have already been reported. There are also templates available if you need a bit of extra assistance compiling your bug reports, in the same way that you may use a web design proposal template.
Write Better Bug Reports
Writing effective bug reports is essential to keeping your website and your products running smoothly and reducing the negative impacts on your customers and your business as much as possible.
Include as much relevant information as you can while keeping out anything superfluous. Make sure bugs can be reproduced, and include all the steps you took to produce the bug yourself.
Let your developers know how severe the problem is and how urgently it needs to be fixed. Then they can focus on the most pressing issues first.
About the Writer
Yauhen Zaremba is the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, agency contract template, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences, where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.