Bug reporting guide

For many of us who use IT at work (and let's just say who doesn’t these days?), reporting a bug may sound like such an everyday task that there’s no need to create a guide about it. But by sitting on the other side of the IT fence as a developer, I can reveal to you that the way a bug is reported can have a variety of consequences, some of which can result in lost working hours and lost money for your business.

Have you turned it off and on again? – start at the simplest issue and go from there.

At Web Engineer I look after a wide range of sites, from the single brochure style site for a boutique hotel to the more complex, which require consistent data and content updates.

Occasionally the customer can encounter a bug where a part of the site isn’t working the way it should; these things do happen from time to time, normally as a result of a change or site update.

If you’re in a situation where you’re in the office and need support, think about how you would provide us with information. Here’s a good and bad example of how to write the subject line of the Helpdesk message your busy support team:

  • Clicking the [home] button on page 2 causes error 500
  • Random crashing

Always think about how you would describe the issue in as few words as possible and quickly and uniquely identify what the bug is, why do this you ask? Well, it helps explain things clearly. Even if you’re not an expert a few extra words to explain what you see helps your support identify what the problem is.

Now onto the bug report itself, firstly figure out the steps to reproduce the bug – by providing us with as much information as possible will mean that we can identify and rectify the problem much quicker than struggling to reproduce the bug due to unclear instructions.

  1. Let us know if you can replicate the bug, consistently, occasionally or not at all. E.G  
  • I can reproduce the bug by following these steps:
  • I can normally make this happen, but sometimes…
  • This only happened once but, I’m worried it could happen again…

2. Clearly outline the steps to reproduce the bug. E.G

  • Login
  • Go to clothing
  • Click on product A
  • Observe the error screen

3. Outline the expected result and the actual result (what’s meant to happen vs what actually happened)

  • Expected result: Display the nice product.
  • Actual result: Takes me to [URL] and displays an error message (see attached screenshot)

4. Include any other asset or information you think may help

  • Including screenshots to help demonstrate errors
  • Include URLs where the problem is occurring or of the error page
  • Any warnings displayed
  • What browser you are using etc.
By following these few steps you should now have created a short precise bug report that enables us to understand your problem and get onto fixing it. So, as a summary, here are my three golden rules to consider the next time you need to report a bug to us

  • Be precise – explain what the issue is
  • Be clear – explain how to reproduce the bug step by step
  • Only include one problem per report.

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