Bug reporting is an essential and continuous aspect of software development. It involves collecting, formatting, storing, and sharing diagnostic information about issues that interfere with the functionality of a website or application.
Without a robust bug reporting system, development teams can struggle to deliver applications that not only work — but work well.
Bug reports use text, image, and video to summarize key data about a problem. Agencies use these reports to review, analyze, and correlate information about the error, as well as to identify and resolve the source of the issue.
Ideally, anyone should be able to submit a bug report. That includes end users and non-technical stakeholders. However, that can sometimes leave your development team in a situation where they don’t have the necessary technical information to fix the problem.
To submit a good bug report, the reporter doesn’t need to know all the technical details. They just need to write a bug report that’s actionable.
This article will teach you how to write effective bug reports that will improve your agency’s bug tracking and ensure better product performance over the long term.
Examples of Good Bug Reports
7 Rules for Writing a Good Bug Report
Whether you’re learning how to write a web or software bug report for the first time or just need some pointers, here are the rules behind the most actionable bug reports.
1. Clearly Define the Problem
Actionable bug reports use clear and direct language to state the problem.
Document as much detail about the bug as possible. Include not only what happened, but when it happened. If you took any specific actions before you noticed the bug, describe them.
It’s even better if you can add screenshots, videos, and other visual proof to your bug report. Visual documentation provides more specifics and richer context.
2. Limit Each Bug Report to One Issue
Grouping several different bugs into one report might sound like an efficient approach. In reality, it makes it harder for the developer to isolate and identify the information they need to resolve an individual bug.
Give each bug its own report. This streamlines the developer’s focus and workflow. It also prevents them from accidentally conflating unrelated information from two or more distinct bugs.
3. Explain How to Reproduce the Bug
Every good bug report explains to the developer how they can recreate the reported problem.
The scientific method is a helpful way to think about bug reporting: the bug needs to be provable. By documenting how to recreate the bug, the developer can use that information to reproduce the bug and study its causation.
Include links and any other relevant information about where the bug was found. If the bug only happens when you take action Y, but not when you take action X, state that in the report.
4. Expected Results Vs. Actual Results
In order to qualify as a bug, the issue has to involve actual results that don’t match the results that were expected.
In other words, it’s a bug if the actual result is not only different than expected, but also has an adverse impact. Either the product has failed to fulfill a specific expectation, or it’s producing an undesired outcome.
Consider the repercussions of the bug. For example, does it slow down the web application’s response time? Does it limit features that support the overall user experience? Explain how the bug prevents the product from delivering the results that were desired.
5. Follow Up and Provide Clarity When Requested
After you submit a bug report, make yourself available to the development team for any follow-up questions. They may also need to work with you to further test the issue and verify that their proposed solution has actually fixed the problem.
Respond promptly and provide clarity where necessary. Keep in mind that the more accurate and detailed your bug report, the less likely the dev team will be to ask for more information.
6. Record and Provide Corresponding Codes, If You Can
If relevant, include the bug’s error code or message in your report. This makes it easier for the software developer to find and debug the problem.
Some products and services are programmed with generic error messages. However, generic messages are not always specific enough to aid the crash reporting process.
If your developers built the product with error codes, include the relevant error code in your bug report. The error codes are there for a reason: to help the developers identify and correlate common problems.
7. Collect Visual Evidence
When it comes to reporting bugs, a picture really is worth a thousand words. One or two screenshots can sometimes be more than enough to summarize the problem.
Enclosing visual evidence with your bug report reduces the likelihood that it will be misunderstood. Whenever possible, always attach an image or recording of the problem you experienced.
Essential Bug Report Details
To improve communication and reduce misunderstandings, organize your bug reports to include the following sections:
1. Bug Identification Numbers
As described earlier, some products include error codes or bug identification numbers for common and expected problems.
Bug reports often have long names that reflect the bug’s context. Keep communication with your team as simple and straightforward as possible by using the bug ID number to refer to the problem.
2. Bug Title
Even though bug ID numbers are easier to reference, bug report titles still matter. Make sure your report’s title is descriptive enough that the reader doesn’t have to review the report every time in order to know what type of problem it’s describing.
The bug report title should also tell the reader whether this is a new bug, or a bug that has been previously reported or fixed.
Not all bugs are equal. Assign a priority rating to your bug report to let the developers know how urgent it is.
You can use numbers or keywords to rate the bug report’s priority. For example: 1 through 10, or low priority to high priority. Clear-cut priority ratings will support your development team’s ability to fix the most disruptive bugs first.
Actionable bug reports include device and operating system details, as well as information about the browser configuration in use when the bug was detected.
Some bugs occur under specific conditions. Without information about the OS or browser configuration, the developers may be unable to create the reported bug — making it much harder for them to fix the problem.
When BugHerd users report a bug, they don’t have to fumble to find metadata about the device or operating system. Our bug tracking tool automatically updates the report with essential technical details. This automation comes in handy for clients and other product testers who may not have much technical knowledge.
Use the description section to cover any details that were not already included in the other sections of the bug report.
Your description should summarize the what, how, and when behind the bug. It helps the developer by providing deeper context about the conditions that created the bug.
A good description doesn’t have to be technical. It just needs to be clear, accurate, and informative.
6. Steps for Reproducing the Bug
As we covered earlier, the most actionable bug reports explain what steps need to be taken to reproduce the problem. Use the “Steps to Reproduce” section to describe specific action steps with clear, direct language.
Open the website in mobile view
Click on the Hamburger menu
The Hamburger menu does not open when clicked
The above steps are actionable because they tell the reader exactly what to do.
Avoid vague instructions or ambiguities, like “Try to open the website menu and see what happens.” This fails to inform your dev team if the problem is happening in desktop or mobile view (browser details), which menu has the bug (feature details), and what the actual bug or issue is (the actual outcome versus the expected outcome).
7. Visual Evidence
Your bug report will be more actionable if you include an image or video recording of the instance of failure. If possible, annotate or highlight the image to draw attention to specific error messages or buggy features.
Good Bug Report Vs. Bad Bug Report Format
Now that you understand what information goes into an actionable bug report, let’s talk about formatting.
Format your report so that it emphasizes information according to a strict hierarchy. Start with the basics (bug ID, bug title, reporter name, submission date) and build up to the other details (description, steps to reproduce, actual vs. expected results) It should be easy to scan the report and find the most important information.
Below is an example of a well-organized bug report format.
|Bug Title||Cart – unable to add a new item to my cart|
|Bug Description||I am unable to add items to my cart when I click on the add-to cart button on a product page. This happens when I have one item in the cart. |
However, I should be able to shop for as many items as I want.
|Steps to reproduce||Add one item to your shopping cart. Then go to another product page to add the item to your cart.|
|Expected Result||The cart should contain up to 20 items|
|Actual Result||The cart contains only 1 item|
|Assignee||Jon Snow, the front-end developer|
The following is an example of a bug report that lacks proper formatting and information.
|Bug Title||Non-functional checkout cart|
|Bug Description||The cart didn’t respond when I clicked on it.|
|Link to Issue||www.xcdf.com|
It can take time to develop a useful bug report. Thankfully, you don’t have to create yours from scratch. Open a BugHerd account to allow your team and clients to install BugHerd on their browsers for faster, seamless bug reporting.
BugHerd automates the bug reporting and issue tracking processes by documenting key metadata. Your bug reports will be faster to make and easier for everyone on your team to read.
Here’s an example of how BugHerd organizes the information in a bug report. We think it’s pretty good, if we say so ourselves.
How to Create Actionable Bug Reports with Bug Reporting Systems
Bug reporting systems take the hassle out of the process. All you need to do to get started is install the software or open the web platform.
There are several bug reporting systems out there. The best ones are easy-to-use for non-technical users, portable, and allow unlimited bug tracking.
Pay attention to the function of the bug-reporting system you want to use. By function, bug tracking software allows you to report, document, store, manage, assign, close, and archive the reports.
BugHerd is a powerful bug reporting software for web development projects. Use it to collect feedback from QAs and clients during software testing and development. BugHerd’s issue management system is perfect for tracking the resolution of a reported bug.
How to Track Bugs with Bug Reporting Software
You need an active BugHerd account to report bugs and manage each of your projects’ bug reports.
After setting up your BugHerd account, create a project file for the website in development. All feedback, bugs, and feature requests for the project will be stored here.
Visit the website you want to review, then click the BugHerd extension to activate the sidebar. The sidebar contains action buttons to help you create a bug report, make a screen recording, or make a feature request.
Click “log a new issue” to open the bug reporting template. The software takes a screenshot when you click the report button.
Fill the text box with a description of the issue. Assign the task, set the issue priority, and add a tag. Click the screenshot to add annotations for easier understanding.
After completing the report and annotating the image, click “create task” to report the bug.
The reported bug will remain open until the development team completes the task. Any time you visit the website, you will see the task pinned to the section of the website where the problem was discovered.
Now that you know how to create an actionable bug report, every bug you encounter becomes an opportunity to perfect your new skill. Repetition is key. Practice as much as you can — your website builds will be better off for it.
If you need to create and track several reports, or provide your customers with a more visual and intuitive feedback system, use BugHerd to simplify the process. Happy bug reporting!