April 2, 2022

What Makes a Good Bug Report for a QA Analyst

Qudsia Khan |


Bug reporting is a QA’s most valuable skill

For every device you own that has kept working years past the end of the warranty, and every app that never shuts down at random, you can thank a Quality Assurance (QA) Analyst. Their job is a never-ending fight to not be noticed by the end-user. 

In software, QA does this by identifying bugs. This is similar to testing for manufacturer defects when you produce physical goods. The QA analyst identifies when an application does not perform as expected, then reports that bug to the development team. A QA hangs their hat at the end of the day knowing they have successfully prevented a bug, or quickly fixed one before it affects more end-users. 

Successful and quick bug fixes depend on the quality of the bug report that is submitted. That’s why it is important that everyone on the team knows what makes a good bug report, and helps enforce the quality standard for bug reports coming from QA.

“QA analysts are the specialists that assess the functionality of the software and look for any bugs and issues”

Vladlen Shulepov, CEO, Riseapps

The art of communication in bug reports

While you might not expect it, what makes a good bug report lies in the art of communication. The bug ticket is a message from a sender to a receiver – the QA to the development team member. 

Miscommunications can start wars, end careers, and in our industry, waste valuable time and money. Messages are easily misunderstood, especially in the technical landscape of software development. QA has a very difficult job of ensuring the issue they are describing will be easily understood by the development team. Being unclear in a bug ticket could result in a costly project delay or bugs remaining unresolved.

Illustration showing how the message of a sender is coded and then must be decoded by the receiver - a process that can often cause miscommunication. Understanding this relationship is what makes a good bug report

When should bug reporting happen and who’s involved?

Bugs may be found at any stage during the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). They should be reported immediately because the earlier they are found the cheaper it is to fix them. The time it takes to fix an issue usually increases exponentially as the software moves forward in the SDLC. 

QA & Development Team

Once a bug is reported, the QA informs the development team that the bug ticket has been submitted.  Ideally, an automated Jira command would message the team members instantly when a new ticket is created. 

Project Manager & Client

If the bug is highly complex, a Project Manager will get involved to ensure proper steps and assignments are being taken. Additionally, the client is usually involved with any bugs that are found after the software is released.

Illustration how the cost of fixing a bug increases greatly over a period of time in the software development life cycle which is why good bug reporting practices are important.

What makes a good bug report (or a bad one) and why it matters

The developer receives a bug report and can’t fully understand the issue or reproduce it for themselves.

How can this happen? Usually, the report has incomplete information, insufficient details, poor wording, or even the wrong version number listed. 

The result is confusion, delays, and redundancy. The bug ticket still must be dealt with though so it gets pushed back to the QA. This process will continue until the ticket is clear enough to the developer. Errors and redundancy are kryptonite in the eyes of the QA and developer.

Bad bug tickets delay project releases, especially if you are running on a tight deadline. This impacts the entire team and the client – no one likes unnecessary delays.

The developer understands and can reproduce the bug as well as knows what the anticipated end result looks like.

It doesn’t have to be a scary process. When handled with care and tact, bug reporting can be one of the greatest assets to a project team. Clear information, accurate details, concise and complete communication – that’s what makes a good bug report. 

A well-written bug ticket brings the developer up to speed as quickly as possible, which means they can quickly fix the issue. The pursuit of excellence in bug reporting will not only save time and money but also create a good relationship between QA and the developers. Through proper documentation, the fixes can be implemented and re-tested in time to meet release deadlines and keep the client happy. 

“The more effort I put into testing the product conceptually at the start of the process, the less effort I had to put into manually testing the product at the end because less bugs would emerge as a result.”

Trish Khoo, Director of Engineering, Octopus Deploy

7 Things to Remember for Making a Good Bug Report

When writing bug tickets, remember that the sole audience is the developer who will be implementing the fix. Reports must be concise and exceptionally clear about what is going wrong, and what the expected end result is. All important details should be put on the table to ensure the developer can diagnose and fix, allowing the QA to re-test and close the ticket in the right time frame.  

In practice, the bug ticket looks like a recipe. Miss one ingredient and the dish won’t turn out as expected.

So here is our recipe for the perfect Bug Ticket:

Reporter & Assignee

List the name of the individual reporting the bug.  If the defect is raised on a current ticket being tested, QA can assign it to the same developer who worked on the original ticket. If a new issue is raised that is not related to any current ticket, the assignee field can be left for a project manager to find the right developer.

Title & Description

Write a specific title relevant to the nature of the issue. This is the first thing a developer sees, even before opening the ticket and reading the details. The description should be a short summary of what the problem is. It is usually between one to three sentences long. It should state exactly what is happening.

Steps to Reproduce

Clearly describe the steps that need to be taken to witness this bug happen in real-time. Steps should be thorough and easy to follow. Do not assume or skip any reproduction steps. For complex issues or bugs that are not reproducible all the time, it is best to meet one-on-one with a developer and discuss further.

Actual Behavior vs. Expected Behavior

Detail the actual behaviour – what happens after the reproduction steps have been executed. Include screenshots, URL’s, and any other supporting information. Then specify the expected behaviour – how the system SHOULD behave in real time. It is necessary to outline what the user should expect.

Severity & Priority

Evaluate and describe the severity of the bug’s impact on the tested system: critical, major, minor, or trivial. Priority indicates the urgency of the reported bug – how critical it is for the business. High, medium, or low priority assignment determines the order that bugs will be worked on after they are reported. If there are many bugs in the backlog, a bug triage meeting should be held that includes the Product Owner or Project Manager to review the severity and priority that is assigned.

Environment & Devices

List the environments where the bug was detected to ensure the developer can replicate it. This is because the application may behave differently in different environments: test, UAT, or production. It is equally important to define the type of platforms and devices used: URLs, mobile devices, and the operating system.

Affects Version

List the application version where the issue was detected. For example, you found a bug in your software that affects versions 1, 2, and 3 of your software. You should put 1, 2, and 3 for the “Affects Versions” field. This allows the development team to track bugs or defects that exist in already-released code, and trace back to where the bug originated.

Video scrolling through a bug report showing the 7 things to remember for making a good bug report.

Are You a Yardstick of Quality?

Be a yardstick of quality.
Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.

Steve Jobs

Throughout the SDLC, QAs have a big impact on the excellence and quality of software that gets produced. Not everyone knows what makes a good bug report and how to write an effective one – but now you do! 

You should always review your bug report before hitting send. Read all the sentences and steps that are used in the bug report. See if there is any ambiguity in the language you used that could be misunderstood. The problem should be reported immediately and reproduced at least three times before a ticket is created.

Bug reports can often be the single line of communication between the QA and developer for a particular issue. When QA is accountable for knowing what makes a good bug report, it not only saves the resources of the company but also creates greater team productivity and the ability to deliver higher quality products to the end client.

Illustration how the cost of fixing a bug increases greatly over a period of time in the software development life cycle which is why good bug reporting practices are important

Measuring success in your bug reporting

Knowing what makes a good bug report is a science, writing one is an art.  Following a template structure such as our above recipe for the perfect bug ticket will ensure your reports hit the mark every time. You’ll see results that you can measure in several ways.

Faster Bug Fixes – Your team will notice effective bug reporting as issues get fixed, re-tested, and closed in less time and with increased velocity

Fewer Bugs Overall – This will also reduce the number of bugs found in future releases as a consequence of the team working on a more stable codebase. 

Less Development Time Overall – It will also minimize the time spent on refactoring and architecture improvements. Additionally, the risk of a particular bug resurfacing will be dramatically reduced.  

The end result will be continuous, successful releases and the creation of a remarkable experience for every single end-user.  This is the ultimate measure of success.

When you are willing to go the extra mile for your team, company, and client, you make sure each and every bug report is written with care. Mastering the art of effective bug reporting will guarantee a remarkable product delivered to your client.

Qudsia Khan, QA Analyst, FreshWorks Studio

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