It worked on my machine - Communication Trap

“I don’t see it on my machine!” said every developer ever. Every QA professional I have talked to in my career has heard this at least once. But why? Have we asked what’s in a bug? The answer can either be what gets your team on the road to efficiency, or it can become a kink in the delivery hose. Let’s discuss how your QA can help the team deliver faster by providing a consistent language to keep everyone on target.

Don't Let The Bad Bugs Bite...

Over the last decade, I have seen issues that have almost no noted content in them (seriously, some have just declared something to the tune of “This feature is… not working”). Then there are tickets that are the golden standard, that have all the information you could possibly want (and probably some with more than you need that turn out to be a few bugs in themselves). But what happens when you don’t have a common way to report a ticket, and why is it important? I just came across an issue recently that seemed to have some steps to reproduce, but the setup was not included. Try as I might, I could not replicate the bug. The only way that I could come close to the reported result did not match the steps provided, and I could only guess that the setup I created was what the reporter had done. I will let you guess how long this issue took. Hint: It wasn’t a few hours. Or perhaps you have an offshore team. I’ve seen many, many instances when someone reports a bug that just doesn’t have enough information in it. If the engineer cannot figure out exactly what the issue is, and has to place it on hold, back to the reporter, the engineer waits another night while the person on the other side of the world hopefully notices the ticket is back in his or her queue for more details. That is another full day that the bug exists, delaying when the root cause can be identified and the issue fixed. Depending on the makeup of your team, and whether you are in an automated or manual setup — you need to consider how the issue will be verified. The person testing the fix (or writing the automated test to ensure the issue does not occur again) may not be the one who reported it. (Again, more time is spent figuring out how to test if the fix is correct.) The bottom line? The back and forth that occurs from a poorly reported bug is costly in terms of time and resources.

Cut The Chit Chat

Having a uniform language/template will help reduce uncertainty across the board, and reduce the time a bug is spent unresolved. But what should be included in a bug report to cut out this back and forth, and keep the team on track?  There are several other things you may want to consider adding, but these are some of the top things I like to see from a tester:
  • Summary/Title: This should be succinct yet descriptive. I almost try to make these sound like a user story <user> <can/cannot><do x action> in <y feature>. When I sit in a triage meeting, can I tell what the issue is just by reading the summary?
  • Environment: every now and then we come across bugs that are very specific to the OS, database type, browser, etc.  Without listing this information, it’s all too easy to say ‘Can’t reproduce’, only to have a client find it in the field.
  • Build: Hopefully you are testing on the latest build, but if for some reason you have servers that are updated at different rates than others, you need to pinpoint when exactly the bug was found.
  • Devices: if you’re doing any type of mobile testing, what type of device were you using? What version? If you found a bug on the web app, do you see it on the mobile app too? Which one? Android or iOS?
  • Priority: The priorities are all relatively standard across the field — Critical, High, Medium and Low. Have criteria defined up front so everyone is on the same page as to what constitutes each selection.
  • Steps to reproduce: Not just ‘When I did this, it broke.’  Really break it down, from login and data setup to every click you make.
  • Expected Result vs. Actual Result: What were you expecting, and why?  What happened instead?
  • Requirements and Wireframes: This helps to point to why testing occurred, and why someone wrote up a bug and linked it back to the originating artifact, though hopefully you are on the same page upfront, before development begins. Sometimes things slip through and perhaps an engineer has a different understanding of a feature than the tester. Being able to point back to why you think an element is a bug is helpful, and gets you all on the same page.
Of course, there are people other than your traditional testers writing bugs, and it is essential to use your QA to drive conformity. Perhaps your UX team is performing audits, or you have bug bashes where people from other departments are invited to test the system and find bugs, or you have someone new to the team that simply needs training. Having a template will ensure clarity and reduce inefficiencies, regardless of who enters the ticket. Utilize QA to promote consistency, get bugs out of purgatory, and drive faster delivery.

Ashley Hunsberger is a Quality Architect at Blackboard, Inc. and co-founder of Quality Element. She’s passionate about making an impact in education and loves coaching team members in product and client-focused quality practices.  Most recently, she has focused on test strategy implementation and training, development process efficiencies, and preaching Test Driven Development to anyone that will listen.  In her downtime, she loves to travel, read, quilt, hike, and spend time with her family.

T: @aahunsberger L: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashleyhunsberger

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Ashley Hunsberger

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