6 tips for efficient bug reporting


23 July 2018 • 13 min read

    Mistakes and errors are an inseparable element of the software development process. Most of the time, bugs are detected during testing. That’s why testers are busy creating strategies and test plans, within which they choose different techniques, types, and levels of tests – all aiming at building the best possible process for software verification. We’re not able to check all paths and possibilities, but we want to be as confident as possible that the system works correctly.

    They say a good test is one that has a good chance of finding mistakes. However, even if bugs can be seen, they should be reported and dealt with appropriately. Thanks to an excellent bug report, we can avoid unnecessary misunderstandings, useless work, and explanations – and all that translates into making the most of our valuable time.

    Here are 6 simple tips for effective bug reporting.

    1. Unique Id

    The first essential thing an excellent bug-detection process does is marking each defect with a unique identifier. This method is very effective when dealing with specific problems. Using only titles or verbal descriptions might become ambiguous and cause communication problems later on. Given that your team might be forced to manage more defects, using identifiers is a smart move.

    The identifier can be a number, but it’s even better to develop a standard like a combination of letters and numbers (ABC-123). That approach allows adding categorization (for example, according to projects or modules in a given project) and thus gives us more information about the defect.

    2. Meaningful title

    Another critical element of a bug report is its title. At first glance, the matter seems simple, but the devil is in the detail. Remember that the title is the second thing we’ll use as a reference right after the identifier.

    The bug title should balance length with the information it provides. It can’t be too general because we want it to serve as a kind of identifier that limits the freedom of interpretation. On the other hand, a very detailed description complicates matters unnecessarily. It may prove impractical and difficult to remember. There are better places in the bug report for that type of detailed information.

    A good title captures the essence of the problem and allows for its quick identification, all the while being as concise and easy to remember as possible.

    3. Significant reproduction details

    The information used to reproduce the bug is crucial in the report, and we can assume that without it, such a report is simply useless (that probably doesn’t hold true for minor errors). We don’t want to explain what is essential for a given mistake every single time. The report should contain all the details that allow other testers and developers to reproduce the error.

    Make sure to include information about the initial conditions, steps to reproduce, as well as their expected and actual results. It should be saved scrupulously and in detail, but also in a way that makes it accessible to everyone – even those who have little to no experience in the project. That will allow you to avoid misunderstandings and explain the bug further. You’ll also prevent others to use the well-known phrase: “Everything works fine for me.”

    Don’t forget to add information about the test environment, browser, database, operating system, etc. That type of data won’t be necessary to every project and defect, but in some cases, it can make a difference and become the critical information for reproduction.

    4. Evidence

    A bug report can become a huge document, but a lot of information can become a disadvantage instead of an advantage. In some cases, a detailed description of the defect (not to be confused with the steps to reproduce) can create confusion and increase the amount of time and energy such a report requires.

    They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Instead of describing every detail, we can use screenshots showing the problem. And that’s not the only attachment type we can use. Be creative –  record a video showing the entire path leading to the error or include a result file generated by the system. Another useful hint for developers are logs generated by software or a browser if we’re dealing with a web application.

    5. Severity/priority levels

    Some testing teams use priorities, other severity – and others yet, use both these indicators. Regardless of which method you choose, it’s essential that the levels of a given metric are well-defined and each team member knows what a given level means.

    Awareness and consistent approach to the use of priorities or severity is the first step to effective bug management.

    Based on these metrics, we can plan which defects we need to handle first and which ones can wait – and for how long. That’s extremely important for the business value of our product.

    6. The right tool

    There are many tools for reporting and tracking bugs on the market. It’s impossible to indicate the best one because everything depends on the individual needs of the organization or a given project. We can, however, assume that specialized software should significantly help us to report errors effectively.

    An excellent example of such a tool is Jira. As a project management system, it allows registering and tracking bugs throughout their life cycle. Thanks to the broad configuration options, we can create a customized bug template and process it in a way that best suits our needs.

    Using Jira, we also gain the opportunity to extend its functionality by various apps – some of which are designed for test management. One of such apps is TestFLO for Jira Server, designed to help Jira users better manage errors in a testing context. Thanks to its high flexibility and close integration with Jira, TestFLO for Jira Server allows users create bugs directly from test cases, and then combine and track them directly from the level of requirements or using the Traceability Report. These additional options make bug reporting even more precise and effective.

    Key takeaway

    Bug reporting is one of the many elements of a software development process, but we should never underestimate it. Correct bug reporting is easy to identify, unambiguous, and reproducible. It contains all the necessary details without introducing confusion with irrelevant or repetitive information.

    Developing a good practice at the project level, or even at the organization level, and implementing the right tools for generating such reports brings tangible benefits.

    Your testing team will work more efficiently with such tools by avoiding misunderstandings, and the product itself will gain in quality by minimizing the risk posed by bugs.

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