The Art of Producing A Quality Bug Report

Whether we speak of manual or automated testing, the goal of software QA is to minimize bugs. Bugs are an integral part of a software code, and in order to fix these bugs early on, they need to be identified and communicated clearly and well in time to the development teams. This is done via bug reports. Fixing these bugs, however, largely depends on how effectively these bugs are reported.

Bug writing is a skill, and a well-written bug report is objective, concise, clear and contextual. The significant details are not lost along the way, nor is a good report biased by the judgment of the person writing it. Bug reports serve as the main communication link between testers, developers and project management teams, and must be written with a perspective to offer each bug the best chance to get fixed.

Before we understand how to effectively fill different fields in a bug report, there are heuristics to abide by:

  • Assign a unique number to each bug report for easy identification of the bug record.
  • Keep a track of the exact steps to reproduce the bug.
  • Be precise, concise and contextual when reporting the bug.
  • Produce different reports for different bugs.

These steps lay down the foundation for a quality bug report document.

Significant Bug Report Fields And How to Effectively Fill Them

Title: Short, simple and precise, a good title should provide enough context to let the reader understand what the bug is all about.

Environment: Bugs tend to appear in specific environments, hence it is advisable to mention the OS and browser details along with hardware and software versions being used.

Severity: Priority of bugs in a backlog is an important piece of information but this should be considered in the context of the end user besides the business’s decision to mark its priority relative to other work.

Expected Behavior: To get a clear understanding of the actual bug, it should be written in a way that the person reading the bug report is able to understand the context and the desired/expected behavior of the program.

Actual Behavior: This is the crux- the real matter. So, take the liberty to provide details, and if there are a number of things that are not working as expected, consider creating multiple bugs (or maybe a parent bug with sub-bugs).

Steps to Reproduce the Bug: Clearly specifying the step by step process to reproduce the bug usually makes things clear- what was expected, what actually happened, and the environment used. If a bug is not reproducible, it’s either a user error and if not, the likelihood of getting it fixed is quite low.

In addition to effectively filling up the above fields, it is equally important to proofread your bug report before submission. Incorrect or confusing language may cause unnecessary delays and lower chances of bugs getting fixed. Also, avoid opinions, use constructive language and be precise and factual. Besides, make sure that the bug has not been reported earlier- duplicity can create chaos. Finally, the bug report should provide sufficient data for an informed business decision, which may even be to not to fix the bug at all.

Need to Report the Bugs Formally

No doubt, testers are in the business of reporting bugs, but why to keep a record of each and every bug? To say the least, it’s better to be proactive and reach out to developers directly when required and to keep a record of all the bugs because this will ultimately lead to a best possible product outcome. Even bugs that are unrelated to what testers should be concerned with offers customers a chance to evaluate their pros and cons if reported. Hence, even if this isn’t the time to fix an error or if the bug requires further investigation, testers should simply post a sticky note to the board within the sprint to keep the team aware. Regular conversation with Product Owner can also help clarify whether the bugs found need to be resolved or are insignificant. Reporting a bug formally is, therefore, a good practice leading to a better end product.

Conclusion

Writing a high-quality bug report is a skill, and hence, it’s important to spend appropriate time on this task to offer a concise, correct, complete, courteous and constructive bug report. The report fields should be filled in effectively and should contain enough information to enable an informed business decision.

However, even when a bug report is written cautiously, there are factors that can reduce the effectiveness of the report like communication barriers across time zones, cultural and language issues, inexperienced testers and pressure to deliver the product fast. These issues can be resolved through proper management and training, and can significantly impact the bug reporting mechanism and ultimately the end product when left unsettled.

So, take care of all the above and you are on the journey leading to a high-quality end product. Happy bug hunting and reporting!!