Sharing is caring: How to write an effective bug report
Anyone can write a decent bug report, after reading this helpful blog you will be able to write a truly effective one.
Sometimes when scrolling through my phone, I realize how many of the apps that I use are free. Well...free to me but not free to create. Each of these apps was released to me for free after thousands of hours spent developing, testing, writing bug reports, and debugging the app.
We talk a lot about the development and testing side of the SDLC, but what about the buggy side? Bugs will arise during the app development process — it is natural and expected. The question is how you communicate these bugs back to the development teams. Anyone can write a decent bug report — not many people can write a truly effective one.
As usual, communication is an important factor here. Whoever discovers a bug needs to communicate the details and insights simply and effectively.
So how do you write a great bug report? Let’s break it down together.
But first, what is a bug anyway?
There is no doubt that you have run into one. Everyone has...unless they have never used a computer or smartphone. Possible, but increasingly unlikely these days.
One definition is that a bug is some sort of failure, error, or flaw in a web or mobile app that causes unintended or incorrect behavior.
Bugs are sources of annoyance both from the user's perspective and from the developer's side. They can be minor or major. One bug might cause a slight data error. Another might bring down your entire system.
Whatever the case may be, when they are discovered, bugs must be reported. This is not only from the developer side — users have the power to report bugs as well and their insights do help to make a piece of software or app better.
So, let’s take a look at some of the ways to make your bug reports better, and subsequently, more effective. The result should be that the bug in question is repaired.
The hallmarks of an effective bug report
These are the basics. We will get into the process of writing a report a bit further down in the article, but for now make sure that you:
Number bugs correctly — Your bug reports need an easily identifiable numbering sequence. It helps to identify each bug record. If you have a reporting tool, the tool will automatically number the bug report each time.
Reproduce bugs — Always include the steps necessary to reproduce the bug. Make it a step-by-step instruction and leave no step out no matter how seemingly irrelevant. If you cannot reproduce a bug, you cannot fix it.
Include specifics — Bug reports do not need to be written in flowery longhand language. Communicate effectively using as few words as possible. Don’t combine bugs either, no matter how similar. Every bug gets its own report.
How to write a good bug report
We will get into the specifics of a bug report template in a bit, but before we do let’s take a closer look at some important tips that will help you write a better bug report:
Report bugs immediately — If you find a bug during testing, do not delay; prepare your report right away. If you postpone writing your reports, there is a chance you might miss some of the steps in the process and the bug won’t be able to be reproduced.
Reproduce bugs multiple times — The best way to ensure that a bug is fixed is with a step-by-step guide to reproduction. We have also experienced countless cases where a bug that was unable to be reproduced turned out to be an environmental or user error.
Test similar modules — Developers use different codes to separate modules, even similar ones. There may be a chance that your bug has occurred elsewhere so it pays to investigate.
Write a summary — A summary helps to analyze the bug from the developer's perspective. If it is poorly prepared and written, it will cause developmental and testing delays. Communication is of the essence and your report will become a reference for searches within the bug inventory.
Review your work — Make sure your language, wording, and instructions are clear so that there is no confusion.
Follow up — Once your report is filed, follow up. Let the developers see your willingness to participate even in the report itself. If you show your development team that they are appreciated, your bugs are far more likely to be resolved.
It is important to realize when writing bug reports that you must familiarize yourself with your audience. That way, you can prepare your bug report in a way that will simplify the intended audience’s testing process.
How to write a bug report
As promised, let’s build out a template that you can use when reporting bugs in your organization. Starting from the top:
Reporter: Your name and contact information. Email is usually enough.
Product: Which product was in use when the bug was discovered?
Version: The version number of the product where the error occurred.
Components: The main sub-modules of the product in question.
Platforms: The hardware that you were using when the bug appeared.
OS: Different versions and operating systems where the bug occurred must be mentioned. Each one specifically, too.
Priority: Pretty simple. Select the priority of how important the bug fix is.
Severity: With this metric, you will describe how impactful a bug is on the system. The types of severity range from trivial, to minor, and up to major and critical bugs.
Status: Measuring a bug’s completion level from “new” to “fixed”.
Assignee: If you know the individual who will be responsible for fixing the bug, then by all means assign your report to them. If not, then assign it to the manager and let them take it from there.
URL: Location where the bug occurred.
Summary: Brief description of the bug.
Description: Longer, detailed explanation of the bug and all of its facets. You must include the step-by-step description to reproduce the bug. Also, include how the app is expected to behave as well as the actual result.
The quality of your bug reports
A bug report needs to be of the highest quality. The better that you prepare it, the easier it will be for the development team to fix any bugs that you find. A bug report serves as an important piece of communication between testers, developers, and managers.
With the effort that you put into preparing the best possible bug reports, you will help to save organizational resources and improve communication between testers and developers.
This is even more important in 2021 where teams are working remotely, companies are moving into the cloud, and agile and DevOps methods are rising in popularity. These shifts have made communication difficult and, by extension, web and mobile app evaluation as well.
Reporting bugs empowers testers to improve the software — it is a matter of proactivity. Don't sit around and wait for something to be fixed. By testers taking an active role in bug discovery, they are showing their team’s willingness to participate and are improving the testing team’s standing within the organization.
If you are looking for a great way to discover bugs that need to be recorded take a look at a recent webinar, "Breaking down barriers: Why testing in the cloud matters in 2021".