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What's better in terms of user experience?

Provide the user an email account where he can report bugs, or a link to the projects github issues page (which requires a github account but may be easier to submit bugs to)?

EDIT

The application is a Bash script hosted on github. The GNU Coding Standards suggests using an email address, which may or may not an appropriate solution.

Target audience is the CLI power user.

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For what kind of application? And what kind of public? –  Florian Margaine Jun 11 '12 at 9:13
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What's your application? who are your audience? –  ChrisF Jun 11 '12 at 9:17
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6 Answers 6

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I'd say neither.

Provide a form where they can report some feedback. Behind the scenes, this form can send you an email, create a github issue, or whatever you want it to do.

You can also provide the github link - an asterisk at the end of the page if the users want more information about the current status of the issues.

I don't think providing an email would add any value over having a contact form, not to mention the overhead of checking your emails.

Edit: this was the answer before you edited. After your edit, my advice would be the following:

Since your audience are power users, they know their stuff. This audience would rather have a link to the github repo. They know where are the issues, can see the code, etc.

Still, I wouldn't give my email address. Github will send you mails when you have new issues. An email is way too personal and - that's my personal opinion - shouldn't be used for public-facing distribution. Managing github issues is way easier than managing your emails.

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+1. Also, an email address posted on the web is an invitation for spam. I'd avoid it. –  Matthew Flynn Jun 11 '12 at 12:18
    
+1 for the general advice, however with regard to the OP's edit, it sounds like it wouldn't work so well for a Bash script. –  Phil Jun 11 '12 at 14:11
    
Uh, indeed. I edited. –  Florian Margaine Jun 11 '12 at 14:19
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The best way would be to provide both. The more way the user can send you feedback, the more feedback you'll get.

As was said in a comment, most people won't know what git-hub is or how it works. Nothing prevent you to copy-past the mail received into github to keep a track of the issues.

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The Github page can be more useful, but a lot of people don't even know what Github is. Why not include both?

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It looks like I wasn't fast enough / someone already posted the same thing. :) –  AskQuestions Jun 11 '12 at 9:19
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I think this really depends on your target audience, and the license model under which your application is developed (i.e open source or closed source). I know your question mentions who your target audience is in this particular case, but in order to provide an answer that is useful to everyone I think this is best ignored for answers.

As a developer you want to be getting as much feedback as possible for issues and bugs, and the easier you make it for users, the more likely they are to do so.

Providing an email address, or as mentioned by Florian Margaine, a contact form, is probably the best option. This will result in far more feedback from users, and will make it far more likely that bugs are reported. As you can imagine though, you will receive multiple reports for each bug - this is both a positive and a negative. On the one hand it will result in a lot of duplication of issues, but this can be a positive in that it lets you see just how many users are encountering the issue, and you can the prioritise it accordingly.

Providing a link to github or any other bug tracking system may confuse the average user, so if your product is going to be used by inexperienced users, then this may be best avoided. If you must direct them to such a system, then make sure they can submit a bug report by entering as few details as possible - just a title and description is all you really need, anything else can be added later.

If your product is going to be open source, however, then there is an added bonus that by linking to github or similar, not only can users report bugs, but see what bugs are being reported and fix them themselves.

So for an open source product or a product that targets a highly technical user base, then linking to github may be the best bet, but for your average user, an email address or contact form may suffice.

However, there is no reason that you cannot do both, thereby letting the user choose which system they find is most suitable to their abilities.

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I would definitely do a issue tracker on github instead of email. Two reasons why:

  1. Users could, and should, see if the issue have already been posted.
  2. You have a system that is a lot easier to administrate than an email address.
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+1: I set up a specific email address and let my bug tracker convert the emails into tickets/cases/issues/whatever-you-call-them. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 11 '12 at 12:31
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If you tell me your projects' github page, I can see what issues have already been reported, whether a fix has already been contributed, or I can fork the project to contribute a fix. If you just tell me your email address then I can't do any of those things.

Therefore I think it's better to tell me your github project page.

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For a non tech-savvy audience, a github page would be confusing at best though. –  Florian Margaine Jun 11 '12 at 9:13
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