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Non-Techie Lesson #1: The Proper Way to Submit Bug Reports

This is the first of a series of blog posts of lessons I’ve learned as a non-technical person. These are not in chronological order. This topic was brought up recently so I decided to post about it first.

This was my initial idea of a bug “report” : “Hey John – I’m getting a 404 error on this link.” “To Mint.com – This part isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do.” Notice I put the word “report” in quotes. That’s because it wasn’t a report. I would literally send an email with a one liner saying what didn’t work.

Submit a bug report or you'll go to hellPhoto Credit: http://www.zope.org/Members/ajung/PloneCollectorNG

I’m picturing developers everywhere shaking their shakes as they’re reading this. Don’t worry, I caught on to the right way quickly.

According to a good friend and a great developer that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, Owen Winkler, there are three components to a successful bug report that he blogged about here. To summarize, they include:

  1. Discussing what went wrong.
  2. Noting what you did before the bug occurred.
  3. Including what you thought was going to happen.

Make it easy for the Company/developer and include as much detail as possible while breaking down each category. Here’s a great example of a bug report submitted to GoDaddy:

What went wrong – When I went to check out, a pop-up full of offers appeared and I was not directed to the payment page.

What I did – I added a domain I wanted to buy to the shopping cart. When I clicked on Continue to Registration, a pop-up appeared telling me to stop and buy additional domains. I clicked “No Thank”s and another pop-up asked me if I wanted to purchase domain protection. Again, I clicked “No Thanks”. This time, I was directed to a page that displayed email options. Bypassing it directed me to a variety of hosting options. I was then presented with a page asking me to donate money for the server costs of displaying the upselling opportunities they provided at my convenience. Seeing no end in sight, I gave up.

What I thought was going to happen – When I selected the domain I wanted to acquire and hit checkout, I expected to be taken to the payment page where I would enter my credit card information to complete the purchase.

Okay, okay. I’m being facetious at GoDaddy’s expense (can you tell I’m not a fan?) but you get the idea. When you submit a report to a service or work with a developer, you want to provide the courtesy of completing these steps to streamline the Quality Assurance process.

Finally, you should include screenshots of the error if applicable. A lot of tools don’t include the URL field by default. If you’re talking about a particular page, drag the selected area so it’s in there as well.

*Bonus* – When submitting a bug, only include one per report. I’ve been guilty of adding a few at one time. Don’t do that. A kitten is also killed at your expense.