To succeed in the competitive software development industry, companies need to deliver high-quality and error-free products to their end-users. That’s why QA teams must discover all bugs, flaws, unexpected software behaviors, and missing application requirements early in the software development life cycle.
Once an error is detected it must be clearly described, so that developers can understand, reproduce and fix the issue correctly. And this is all done by writing bug reports.
In this article, we’ll discuss what a bug report’s key components and best practices are, and we’ll take a look at several tracking tools that make the reporting process more efficient. Keep on reading to learn how to write a good bug report.
What Is A Bug Report?
A bug report is a document that informs developers about a specific issue with an application that needs to be fixed.
A bug report must be well structured and it needs to contain enough detail, so developers can find the answers to these main questions:
- Where did the problem occur?
- What exactly didn’t work as expected?
- What steps need to be taken to replicate the error?
As software engineers usually work under time constraints, they have no time to read novel length bug descriptions. Therefore, reports must be concise.
Usually, poorly written reports have one of two issues: too many irrelevant details or too little valuable information. The skill of not including anything unnecessary comes with experience.
Testers also need to keep in mind the essential components of a bug report, so that they don’t miss anything important out.
What Are The Main Components of A Bug Report?
Writing clear and detailed bug reports requires a solid understanding of what elements a report should include and what it shouldn’t include. So, let's have a closer look at each component.
Bug Title or Summary
The title on a bug report is what developers see first. In this sense, it serves as a mini summary of what the bug is.
A good bug report title is typically short and descriptive. You need to state what exactly isn't working, what results don’t match up, and if the searches take a long time.
A generic title like "Search is not working" is not very helpful. This, "Search is not triggered when clicking the search button" is more informative.
Clear bug titles reduce the possibility of duplicating errors in defect tracking tools, and they can help developers find a report if they need to see it at a later date.
The bug description section should provide information on what led to the problem, which output testers expected, and what actually happened. It can be structured like this:
- Steps to reproduce.
It’s essential to provide developers with clear instructions on how to recreate an error. Ideally, it should be a numbered list of simple actions, for example:
- Navigate to the login page.
- Enter the correct username.
- Enter the incorrect password.
You can also add some prerequisites to your report. This will help to make the list shorter.
For example, if something doesn’t work on the "Edit Profile" page, you don’t have to describe each step to log in as a registered user. Instead, you can add "Prerequisites: User logged in".
- Actual and expected results.
Here you explain the differences between the expected and the actual software’s behavior.
Expected result: Login fails with error message "Incorrect username or password."
Actual result: Login fails with error message "Incorrect username," leading users to confusion.
Remember that adding all the important information, and avoiding any unnecessary details, are equally important for effective bug reporting.
Screenshots, or screencast videos, can often help developers to understand the problem better, and this can help to fix the issue faster in some cases.
However, adding them to a bug report doesn’t mean that you don’t have to bother with a proper bug description. Attachments don’t replace written information.
Severity and Priority
Severity and priority components give the developers information on how critical the problem is and how quickly the error must be fixed.
Severities are usually ranked as - blocker, critical, major, minor, trivial or enhancement.
You can assign a priority level based on the severity of the issue.
Applications can behave differently on different devices. So, a bug report should also contain information about the operating system, application version, browser and hardware devices used during the testing process.
The approach to bug reporting can vary from company to company. It also depends on the technology used, the type of project, the workflow in a place and the products being tested.
However, understanding a bug report's components will help you create a high-quality document.
Bug Tracking Tools
There are plenty of tools on the market today that allow teams to report, manage and track bugs efficiently.
So-called bug tracking tools, or defect tracking tools, usually have these key features:
- You can create bug reports in them.
- There is an option to assign priority levels to errors.
- The status of each entry can be changed at different stages of a bug’s life cycle (for example, new, assigned, opened, fixed, pending retest, retest, verified and closed).
- Managers can assign tasks to team members.
- They allow users to search, filter and sort bugs based on various parameters (for example, by title, severity, id number and so on).
Here’s a brief overview of the most popular bug tracking tools used today:
JIRA is a well-known tool for tracking bugs and managing Agile projects. It has every feature a team could possibly need. It’s customizable, and it can be integrated with almost any software a company uses.
Bugzilla is a popular, open-source bug tracking tool. It’s simple to use, it has all the necessary features and it provides users with advanced searching opportunities.
Trello is a popular project management system. It’s incredibly flexible, you can track bugs easily and it can be used with teams of any size.
Another project management tool widely used for tracking bugs is Asana. It has a premade defect tracking template that you can easily customize depending on your team's needs.
Redmine is an open-source bug tracking tool. It’s very popular among smaller teams that need a simple and flexible solution for managing various projects.
FogBugz is a web-based project management system with bug and issue tracking systems. It also has email support, task management and time tracking features.
YouTrack is a web-based bug tracking system and project management software developed by JetBrains. Companies can customize the tool according to their needs when tracking projects, planning sprints or reporting project progress.
Backlog is a simple yet powerful platform. Features like custom fields, file sharing, wiki, and task hierarchy ensure an effective bug tracking process.
Zoho Bug Tracking is an online tool that allows teams to create projects, track bugs, set milestones, generate reports and share documents on a single platform.
BugHerd is a bug tracking tool that allows users to collect and organize website feedback directly on a page.
There’s no doubt about it, using the right tool can make the bug tracking process much easier. However, tools alone are not enough. The process is much more effective if all team members stick to the best practices when writing bug reports.
Bug Reporting Best Practices
Here are some key points to keep in mind when it comes to reporting bugs:
- One report per bug. Describing multiple defects in one bug report can confuse a developer. Even if you find multiple issues in one place, you must create a separate bug report for each error. Further to this, if a developer is handed a bug report that has multiple errors listed on it, they can’t change the bug report’s status until all issues are resolved - this could be very time consuming.
- Avoid duplicates. Before creating a new bug report, double-check to see if the issue has been reported already.
- Reproduce the bug a few times to ensure you don’t miss any critical steps in the description section. Developers must be able to recreate the problem following your instructions. If you cannot replicate a bug each time, mention it and include the reproducibility rate (for example, “7/10 times the bug was reproduced”).
- Stick to the facts and don’t speculate about what could be causing the problem. It can send developers off in the wrong direction and prolong fixing time.
- Always be polite and don’t blame or criticize developers. Your job as a tester is to ensure that a product is of high quality, and not to evaluate other people's work.
- And finally, read your report before submitting it. Make sure it’s clear, concise and easy to follow.
Creating quality bug reports is a valuable skill for any QA professional. Now that you have enough theoretical information, it’s time to put this knowledge into practice. Soon you’ll be writing bug reports that make your developers so happy!