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I'm hoping to get some tips and advice on how to educate the rest of the company on how to submit proper bug reports. Currently we get tickets like:

  • When I click this link I get a 404. (They include the page that 404s and not the page that caused it)
  • Sometimes the right column flows into the button column. (no screenshot or additional information)
  • Changes to xxx does seem to be working right. (EOM)

Does anyone have a bug submission process/form that guides users into submitting as much information as possible?

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Belongs on programmers.stackexchange.com –  Paul R Feb 28 '11 at 14:25
    
possible duplicate of Getting users to write decent and useful bug reports –  gnat Aug 24 '12 at 7:30

5 Answers 5

In our organization we use a bug template that requires the following information when a bug is submitted:

  1. Short description of the bug
  2. Steps to reproduce the bug (this is a step by step procedure for reproducing the bug)
  3. Expected result (what did they expect to happen)
  4. Actual result (what actually happened)
  5. Software version and operating system

This is the minimum information required. We also ask for screenshots and application log files as appropriate for the bug in question.

We try to make our bug reporters report bugs from the users' perspective as much as possible. That makes it easier to assess the criticality of a bug more quickly so we can get it prioritized.

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Couldn't have said it better myself –  Bruce McLeod Mar 1 '11 at 9:52

Working a lot with customers who don't really know how to submit bugs, I never really succeeded in explaining to the customer how to do it right. But some people may notice they are doing it wrong, especially when you repeat the same question again and again, or if you guide them.

Repeat yourself

For example:

Bug report 1: The left panel is not displayed correctly in my browser.

Answer to the bug report 1: Thank you for submitting the bug. Can you please provide us the name and the version of the browser you used and the screenshot of the problem? Thank you.

Bug report 2: When I move my mouse over the button "Submit" on "Submit the order" page, the text below disappears.

Answer to the bug report 2: Thank you for submitting the bug. Can you please provide us the name and the version of the browser you used and the screenshot of the problem? Thank you.

...

Bug report 1024: Hey, I think there is a bug on the home page when I use Firefox 4.0 Release Candidate. When I hover the side panels, their color remains black, while in Firefox 3.6 and Internet Explhorror 8, the color is switched to dark blue. See the screenshot below.

When asked to do repetitive things, the customer understands more or less quickly that it will be easier to do it by herself the next time.

Note that it's very important to make copy-paste of your requests. If you formulate the requests differently every time, it will take longer for the customer to notice that you ask the same thing for every similar bug.

Bot repetition is even better

If there is a thing which helps a lot in "teaching" the customer, it's to send automated answers. If you use a product for bugs submission, it would be difficult to do, but if you've done your own bugs tracking system, the thing may be easy.

Automated answers help because they give a stronger feel of repetition and their deterministic behavior means that their answer will be the same. When you ask something to a human being and she refuses it, you can ask the same thing in a week. If a robot refuses something, there are chances that it will refuse the same thing again and again for years.

It's also very easy to make the difference between automated and human-made answers. Example (let's imagine we deal with a customer we know for years and are very close with her):

Response by a human

Bug report 256: Hi. I requested yesterday to modify the links because of the changes in the requirements, but half of the links are still the same. Is there a problem?

Answer to the bug report 256: Oh, I'm sorry, but what are precisely the links you are talking about? I've checked the ten pages affected by the requirement and don't see any problem.

Response by a bot

Bug report 256: Hi. I requested yesterday to modify the links because of the changes in the requirements, but half of the links are still the same. Is there a problem?

Answer to the bug report 256: Your bug report was not accepted by the system for the following reason:

· The URIs of the affected pages are not specified.

We apologize for the inconvenience. You can submit the bug again by providing the requested information.

Guide people who submit bug reports

Again, if you are able to customize the bug reporting system, it may be a good idea to add some guidance and hints.

Instead of letting the user fill the textarea and click "Submit", make a few wizards or just forms with mandatory fields for common situations.

For example, for a website project, create a form "Rendering issues" with following fields:

  • What is the affected page? (mandatory) (Set to "All" if every page of the website is affected)
  • What do you see? (mandatory)
  • What do you expected to see instead? (optional)
  • What browser do you use [FF|IE|Opera|Safari|Other:_]? (mandatory)
  • What is the version of the browser you use? (mandatory)
  • Is it a beta or a release candidate version of a browser, if not specified above [Yes:_|No]? (mandatory)
  • Have you checked the same page in other browsers [Yes|No]? (mandatory)
  • If you answered "yes", do you observe the same issue in other browsers [Yes|No]? (...)
  • Do you have JavaScript disabled [Yes|No]? (mandatory)
  • Do you have custom options, like larger or smaller text, custom colors, etc. [Yes:_|No]? (mandatory)
  • Please, provide a screenshot of the full page or a part of the page showing the rendering issue. The screenshot must be a PNG or a JPG image. To learn how to make screenshots, visit our <a href="...">online help</a>. (mandatory)
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the customer understands more or less quickly that it will be easier to do it by herself the next time. Sexist yet true. –  Baboon Aug 24 '12 at 9:52
    
this seems to be a very passive aggressive approach, I'm not sure it would be suitable for all. –  jk. Aug 24 '12 at 10:32

Hey.
It may be hard to do this on organization level, but it would be useful to take people that submit reports like that and do workshop with them. You pair them, and ask to 'submit' bug reports to each other. After one gives bug report to other person, ask person that received bug report to reproduce the issue. Let them work out the details to see what information is important. Than switch roles between them.

If you need something like guideline, create document based on your experiences, and simple Google search results, like:

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Sometimes you just need to sit down with users either individually or in a seminar and walk them through your ticketing system. And, when a user files a bad ticket, call them up and talk to them and explain how to fill things out.

We made a push on that sort of effort over the last couple years. Sure, it was a lot of one-on-one time, but on the long term, we now have a user base that is really good at filing tickets. And I think from the users' perspective, they do see that better tickets mean faster turn-around times on bug fixes and feature implementations.

Also, you can shore up your bug-tracking by adding automated crash reporting to your applications. It can be really useful to mine crash report data to find the crash bugs that users do not report, or the ones that are reported with fuzzy information.

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Use a bug database and update missing details ad hoc. It doesn't matter much if you use bugzilla or just an excel sheet as long as you have some sort of list where you can populate the fields. I use just an excel sheet for a simple bug database that you handle yourself: enter image description here

You can also use www.reqtest.com which I think is a very good testing and bug tracking system.

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