Bug reporting: 8 ways to annoy your software development teamMarch 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Programming, Ramblings | 17 Comments
As usual this blog post should be read with a large grain of salt. It is a collection of bad practices I have seen during many software development projects. There are positive exceptions. For example when the testers are part of the development team and the whole team is committed to delivering valuable software instead of two opposite parties trying to fight each other. Having said that, the ugly situation mostly happens in fixed-price contracts where the bug versus feature discussion often takes place.
Disclaimer: all the examples are made up. Any resemblance with bug reports from projects I did is pure coincidence ;)
So here is some practical advice for acceptance testers on how to maximally help a software development team:
1. Since you have spent a lot of time finding this bug, prioritize it at least as Major. Of course Critical or Blocking is even better so that the development team will realize it is urgent and pick it up immediately. Luckily most bug tracking systems (for example JIRA) have priority Major as the default setting so you don’t have to spent too much time thinking about this. Example: a missing help text on what the field ‘zipcode’ means should be marked as major because it is going to leave the end user clueless.
2. Make sure that the description of the bug is short. A single word is better than a long descriptive sentence. The advantage is that it forces the developer to open this issue every time to understand what it means. This will help him to not ignore this bug just by reading the description. For example ‘Login’ is a much better description than ‘Login failure when I fill in a non existing username’.
3. Don’t let yourself be fooled and use improvement, change or new feature when filling in the issue type. Everything you find is a bug. Otherwise your organization (the customer) will have to pay for it, especially in fixed-price contracts. There are two situations to be handled here: if it is in the specification, then it obviously is a bug if a feature is missing or not accordingly to the spec. If it is not (clear) in the specification then you can always defend it by saying ‘it is obviously that this is not acceptable for the end user, so it is a bug’.
4. Never provide details in your bug report! This might put developers on the wrong track. It is much better to let them find out themselves what caused this problem and how to reproduce it. After all, they are the experts. That will also give them a strong incentive to deliver better software the next time. A good example is of course the good old ‘Doesn’t work’ or ‘Program crashed’.
5. You can (and should!) often re-open an existing bug-report. This is just a practical thing and saves you some time. Especially if you have a good generic bug description (Like for example ‘Login’ mentioned before) this is very convenient. But don’t be bothered if the new bug isn’t related to the old one. You are just helping the developers to limit the total amount of bugs and re-opening fixed issues gives them a nice historic perspective. Software developers like re-use and DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself), so should you as a tester.
6. Another practical tip: combine multiple bugs in one single bug report. Again you are helping the developers here because many bug reports might give a bad impression. It also helps to give them focus: suppose the login functionality in your application doesn’t work, then it is also a good moment to combine that with fixing a spelling error on that same page and probably adjust the colors a bit so they are more conform the specification.
7. Bug-reports are also great ways to communicate, especially with introvert developers. So you can create a major bug with a question like “What does the specification say about this Cancel button?”. That will help them to think about the spec, enable single/double/triple loop learning, etc. It might take some time, but someday they will appreciate what you did for them.
8. Another great way to stimulate software developers in a positive way is to use bug reports to give them some good advice. For example “Feature xyz is not very easy to use.” This example can be easily marked as ‘Critical bug’ and it will sparkle the creativity of the development team to come up with a great solution. That is also the reason that you, as a tester, shouldn’t give away any information on how this feature should be improved because you want to empower the developers instead of extinguishing their creativity.
I’m sure there are many more ways to improve the communication between testers and software developers. Don’t hesitate to share them!