How to Write a Bug Report Effectively & Comprehensively
Everyone who has ever used a computer has probably come across a bug. They can be anything from a minor inconvenience (for instance, having to reload an application) to a major problem (crashing your computer entirely while in a remote work environment).
No matter how thoroughly a piece of software has been tested, whether through a manual QA process or an automation software test, there are likely to be a couple of bugs still there on release. So, if you come across one, what should you do?
That’s right: write a bug report.
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Why should you write bug reports?
While computer issues can be challenging, identifying and reporting issues relating to bugs doesn’t have to be a chore. Do it well, and it can be quite liberating. Finding and reporting a bug, either through a virtual business phone line or in a written report, can empower a user to help make the product they use every day better.
If we all did this, the software would be in a better place. Developers can’t fix problems they don’t know about. If you can write an accurate and helpful bug report, those issues are more likely to get fixed. You don’t have to understand software development to help out – you can just be a regular no, code, low code computer user.
Qualities of a Good Software Bug Report
As we’ve said, anyone can write a bug report. But it takes skill to write a good one. There are two key qualities to keep in mind:
You should describe exactly how you encountered the bug in your report. One way to strengthen your writing is to avoid making assumptions. Simply document exactly what happened without missing any steps or adding in your own theories.
Make sure to be specific and get to the point. Try to summarize the situation in as few words as possible while still giving clear and effective information. The more accurately you can describe the problem, the easier it will be to reproduce and ultimately fix.
The Master Checklist: The Essential 7 Step Guide
Still, wondering about the best way to write a report? Here’s our checklist of the main things to take into account:
Include a bug number and title
A bug number simplifies bug reporting and the way that you make reference to bugs throughout the report. Many error messages will include a number, so ensure to include it to help the developer check if there have been other reports.
The title of a bug report is the most commonly read section of the report, so it needs to be clear and easy to understand. For instance, if a calculation isn’t providing the correct result, a title like ‘average conversion rate for ecommerce not correctly calculated’ would do the trick.
Provide background information
This section should provide the context for what you’re about to write. For example, if you found a bug on a website, list the web address, the browser, and the operating system you’re using. The more background information you can provide, the easier it will be to figure out the cause of the problem.
Describe the bug
The bug description aids the developer in fully getting to grips with the problem. If you write a bad description or communicate misleadingly, it can lead to delays in resolving the issue.
As we mentioned above, it’s important to be explicit – especially in areas that need a quick fix, like business cybersecurity or financial data. State clearly what happened, exactly how it looked, and what was written. Don’t leave out things you assume the developers know. Instead, err on the side of too much rather than too little detail.
Include the procedure to reproduce the bug
The procedure to reproduce a bug should be explicitly stated in a solid bug report. Actions that may trigger the bug should be included in these steps. Don’t make broad generalizations—make a list of the steps to take.
Include the expected result
How should the software be expected to function? The developer should understand where the bug appears. Give as much detail as possible when describing the correct end-user scenario.
Describe the actual result
Show how the bug differs from the expected result. What has gone wrong? The more information you provide, the easier it will be for them to explore the problem with all variables in mind.
I am trying to log in to my bank account. I enter my username in the username field and an incorrect password in the password field. My expected outcome is for an error message to appear stating “incorrect username or password,” but a bug leads to the actual error message stating “incorrect username.”
Include additional resources
Pictures are clearer than words. With a bug report, it’s often useful to attach a link or a screenshot—you’d be surprised how often a screenshot displays something significant. It can also assist a developer figure out what the problem is.
Reporting bugs gives you the power to help make software better. It’s one of the best things a non-developer can do.
Someone who reports problems demonstrates that they are concerned enough about the best possible product outcome. It doesn’t matter what the bug is—it could be anything from automating mobile app testing to a virtual phone system.
The next time you’re using software, and you come across a bug, go out of your way to report it. Being proactive will benefit you – and everyone else – in the long term.
Senior Director, Demand Generation, 8×8
Richard Conn is the Senior Director for Demand Generation at 8×8, the best small office SIP provider and a leading communication platform with integrated contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. Richard is an analytical & results-driven digital marketing leader with a track record of achieving major ROI improvements in fast-paced, competitive B2B environments. Here is his LinkedIn.