Bug reports are important. They let the developers of a product know there’s a defect that they have overseen.
But a bug report has a quality of its own; Just complaining ‘it doesn’t work’ won’t get anything fixed, and only serves to annoy both parties.
So what’s a good bug report then?
Well, imagine you’re in the position of the person who’s trying to get it fixed for you. What do you want to know? For me, a small list pops up:
- How did it happen? What are the steps to reproduce it?
- What factors were involved? Like what machine did you run it on? Is your internet slow? What kind of digital environment?
- Did you notice anything specific that might give me a hint towards to real problem?
- Do you have anything in your installation you changed manually? Mods? Plugins? etc
- Did you find a way to work around it, or temporarely fix it?
These things, even if you don’t know what the underlying problem is, are a great help towards finding what the problem is and fixing it.
An example of a GOOD bug report:
While using XYZ, whenever I try to print any document to my networked HP N551 printer the application throws an error, namely “The network path could not be found” (see screenshot), and generates a debug file which I have enclosed. Printing on a usb printer works fine. I have tried reinstalling the application to no avail. Other programs can use the printer fine. My computer is a Windows XP SP1 laptop with both wireless and wired access to the same network. I noticed that turning the wireless off fixes the issue, but I’d prefer to have my wifi on.
This bug report is detailed, includes a debug file, screenshot, a workaround, specifies enough information to get going, yet doesn’t make it too cluttered. There might be some things that could be better, but this is definitely not one to complain about.
Here’s an example of a BAD bug report:
The application I use doesn’t print documents, Help!
While not going off topic and pointing out the problem, this isn’t enough information, it could be anything! This is more of a support ticket than a bug report.
Here’s another example:
The application is slow, because it’s written like shit. Application ABC does it much better than XYZ. You suck!
This isn’t even a bug report. This is a whiny, unconstructive complaint. I’d say this belongs on a forum, but it will probably get rejected there too.
The most important part about a bug report is that it has to be constructive. A bug report isn’t a complaint or feedback form, while these are also appreciated, a bug report has a certain need for information, as there have to be technical changes in the product to fix the issue.