Software bugs come in different shapes and sizes. From application crashes and freezes to unusual or unexpected program results, bugs range from mildly annoying to well-and-truly debilitating. Luckily, whatever the issue, it can usually be solved. But before developers can look at a problem, they need to know exactly what it is they are dealing with. This is where bug reports can help.
Not all bug reports are created equal. However, well-written and formatted reports can significantly decrease the speed at which a bug is fixed. And this is a win for both the developers and users. With this in mind, here are a few guidelines on how to make clear and effective bug reports.
Make Sure The Issue is a Bug
Often what appears to be a bug may in fact be a user error or a hardware problem. The best way to make sure that the problem is actually a bug is trying to reproduce it. If the issue cannot be reproduced, it may not actually be a bug.
Be Sure to Make a Report
Even if the bug has already been reported, developers appreciate receiving additional information about a problem. The more reports developers receive about a specific bug, the easier it is for them to find a common thread and get the issue under control.
The easiest way to report a bug is to start with a Google search. For example, typing “adobe bugs” into Google will lead you to Adobe’s “Feature Request / Bug Report Form” page.
Focus on One Issue
In cases of multiple bugs, be sure to focus on one problem at a time. Since each bug has to be resolved individually, it is helpful for developers to have a clear description of one issue per report. This is particularly important since often different members of the development team are responsible for different aspects of the software.
Use a Descriptive Title
The title of your report aims to give developers an immediate idea of what type of bug they are dealing with. As such, it is best to make the subject as detailed as possible — something like “Got an error” is pretty useless. It is easy to make the title more specific by including additional information — “A login error due to missing user account.”
Provide Important Information
Sometimes bugs only occur in certain environments. While not all of the following information may be essential to resolving a particular problem, in some cases it can be invaluable. As such, it is important that the information below appears in a bug report.
Web page addresses can help developers narrow down an issue. Provide both the URL of the error page and the page visited before you got the error.
The exact wording of the error message can be crucial to fixing a bug. This goes for both user-friendly messages and system-generated error messages that may appear to make no sense to the untrained eye.
Operating system and browser
In some cases, bugs only strike certain operating systems — Android or iOS. At the same time, a program may work perfectly in Chrome but malfunction in Safari.
Focus on Facts
When describing the bug, it is important not to skimp on detail. Essentially, a bug report aims to give developers a detailed description of how to make the software fail. Describe — step by step — what you were doing when the problem occurred. While you can speculate why the issue took place, this is not necessary.
If a developer is unable to replicate the bug, they will usually come back to you asking for more information.
Follow the Right Reporting Format
Aside from a clear and concise writing style, using the right reporting format can help developers identify, reproduce and handle the bug. Here are a few suggestions:
What did you think was going to happen? Report how the response of the software differed from your expectations. This will help the developers work out whether the problem is actually a bug or a user experience issue.
What actually happened? Was there an error message? If so, what was it? Do you have a screenshot or an URL of the page where you were taken? This can be particularly helpful in cases where the bug is tricky to reproduce.
Following up a bug report with a few words of encouragement is always a nice idea since it shows the developers that their work is appreciated. It is also a great way of staying updated about the bug resolution process.