How to Write a Bug Report

By Chris, 07/11/2013, in Engineering management

Writing good bug reports is the difference between actually seeing your bug get fixed and sending protracted emails over the course of a week convincing a developer that there is, in fact, a bug. By far the most important information you can provide in a bug report are clear reproduction steps. Here's my guidance on how to write these:

  1. Pretend you are writing to someone who has a very basic understanding of the product.
  2. Now also pretend that this person is an idiot.
  3. Tell them, step-by-step, how to reproduce the issue.

So good reproduction steps look like this:

  1. Log in as user [email protected] with password "foo" on the live website
  2. View the dashboard
  3. Note the dollar amount in the "You subscription plan" area in the lower left
  4. Hit the "pay" button next to that amount
  5. Note the "Today's payment" field is not populated in step 1 of the checkout dialog.

Yes this can be a little tedious, but if you get in the habit of doing it, it only takes like 30 seconds more per bug, and if it takes longer it's because it's forcing you to actually reproduce the thing consistently, which is the whole point in the first place.

And using this numbered, step-wise, idiot-proof format will cut down on the back-and-forth between you and whoever is fixing the bug by an order of magnitude. So it's ultimately a huge time saver and a great habit to get into. You life will contain 25% fewer bugs and developers will hug you.

Bonus tip: Whenever possible, provide screenshots!

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