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How to report bugs to web developers

When software or web sites break, it's easier to tackle the issue if the person reporting it can give a clear and detailed description of what's gone wrong. Following these steps when you're reporting a bug should help your developers diagnose and fix a problem more quickly.

Things you'll need

  • A basic image editor (eg MS Paint)
1

Try to make the bug or error happen again.

This is the first thing that developers will try to do. Save time and try to recreate the error yourself.

If you can’t, then either:

  • it’s not really a bug
  • there’s another factor you don't know about (yet) - do you know what the user is actually doing? Maybe they did something different or are using a different browser...

If you can’t make the error happen again,  you can still report a bug, but you and your developer will probably need to do more work to find out what's going wrong.

Say that you can’t replicate the error in the opening paragraph, and ask them to look at it and maybe ask if they can add error logging to help work out what's going on.

2

Have a descriptive subject line

In your email, or the title of your help desk ticket, include the:

  • website
  • feature which is giving you grief
  • reported error.

Eg:

mywebsite.org.uk > members' area > registered member unable to log in

3

Pin down the context (the three 'W's)

When…

did this happen? Provide a time and date.

Where…

is this happening? Provide a full URL.

Your developers may have many clients or support lots of products, so don't assume they'll recognise what you're describing, and give as much detail as you can.

  • If you mention a page, link to it.
  • Screenshots with highlighted areas work better than words when you want to talk about a particular feature/part of a page.

Who…

did it happen to? Provide the username/email of user accounts involved (if applicable). Also find out what browser they are using (and which version) by sending them to whatbrowser.org

4

Provide a numbered, step by step, guide with screenshots for the journey that results in the error

Clear language is important here, but often pictures are the tools that you need - showing is more effective than telling.

Highlight bits on screenshots to demonstrate what you’re doing and any errors that you encounter.

On Windows

Do this using the 'print screen' key, then paste your screenshot into a basic image editor (like MS Paint) and highlight important areas, eg what you're clicking or error messages.

Finally, paste your customised screenshot into your email.

On a Mac

Follow Apple Support's instructions on how to take a screenshot on your Mac.

There are lots of image editors for Mac, but Paintbrush will be familiar to anyone who has used MS Paint.

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Page last edited Aug 07, 2018 History

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