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Test Management

Bug Reports in Beta Testing

December 6, 2013

Bug reports are the first thing that comes to mind when many people think about beta testing, and for good reason. Since beta tests are all about improving product quality, almost all betas involve collecting bug reports to give to their development and quality teams. Even if your beta test isn’t focused on collecting detailed user feedback, it’s still a good practice to have a mechanism in place to collect bug reports. So let’s look at what makes bug reports so fundamental to beta testing.

What Are Bug Reports?

Bug reports are the forms your beta testers fill out when they come across an error, mistake, or issue as they’re testing your product. This could be as simple as a missing link or as egregious as the product failing to install. Bug reports are distinct from other pieces of feedback because they are purely objective reports of problems, while other feedback (such as surveys or feature requests) asks for testers’ opinions or subjective thoughts about the product experience.

Bug reports serve an important role from both a development and a support perspective. Each is distinct and important to consider when planning how you’ll collect your bug reports.

1. Development & Quality

As previously mentioned, collecting bug reports helps your development and quality teams track down and fix bugs in your product, improving the quality of your final product. There is no way that a quality team can replicate all of the diverse real-world environments your product is going to be thrust into. Bug reports are an opportunity for them to collect feedback about how the product functions in the wild from a large group of testers using it in different ways. Using a big group also gives your teams a much better idea of the scope of these bugs and gives them a ready pool of people to test bug fixes.

2. Support

Bug reports also serve a support function both during and after your beta. If your testers run into a serious bug, they might not be able to continue testing your product. By submitting a bug report, you’re getting the opportunity to help them find a workaround or figure out another way to keep contributing to the test even though they’ve run into a bug.

Bug reports can also help your support team prepare for the product launch. Your development team may not be able to fix all of the bugs found in your product. Bug reports give your support team a heads up on these bugs and when users run into them. This way your support team can prepare the documentation and processes to support customers who run into those bugs after the product is launched.

The Challenges of Bug Reports

  • Getting clear information about the bugs. This is by far the number one challenge of bug reporting. If given free reign, some testers will submit bug reports that say nothing more than “it’s broken!”, while others will walk you through everything they did that day leading to their encounter with the bug. This can create a lot of frustration for your development team as they try to figure out how to reproduce the bug in question.
  • Dealing with repetition. If many of your users are experiencing the same bug, you could be sorting through lots of repetitive bug reports looking for the critical ones that your development team needs to know about as soon as possible.
  • Developing a process for handling them. Figuring out how to get the right information from the testers, triage it, and send just the useful data to your development team can be a frustrating exercise.

How to Use Bug Reports in Beta

With bug reports playing such a crucial role in your beta, but also being associated with such substantial challenges, it’s important to make sure you get them right. Here’s some advice to help you.

  • Think about what you need. Most dev teams need detailed information about a bug so they can reproduce and fix it. Think about how you’re going to build your bug report form so that a tester can get you the data you need without the form becoming overly cumbersome. Giving them the chance to attach screenshots or device details to their bug reports can go a long way in helping your internal teams reproduce and fix those pesky bugs.
  • Educate your testers. Most of your testers aren’t professional testers, nor should they be, so they usually don’t know how to write a good bug report. Take the opportunity at the beginning of the test to give them some tips on how to write good bug reports. This way they can start giving clear, useful feedback right from the start.
  • Allow two-way communication. Chances are that you’re going to need some way to talk with your testers about their bug after they submit it. Maybe you need clarification, screenshots, or want to tell them about a workaround your team found for the bug. Whatever it is, it’s helpful to have some way to talk with your testers about their feedback. Usually this is built into the bug reporting interface, so it’s clear what bug you’re referring to.
  • Have testers report everything — then triage. With the frustration that comes from dealing with mountains of bug reports, it can be tempting to ask testers to only report show-stopping bugs, but then you’re only getting part of the customer experience. It’s better to encourage your testers to report all of the bugs they encounter, then develop a system on the back end to efficiently triage the reports.
  • Use frequency for severity. While dealing with repetitive bugs can be frustrating, it can also be a great indicator for how widespread and serious a bug is. This can help your development team prioritize which bugs to tackle first.
  • Something is better than nothing. If you’re running a large public beta test and aren’t necessarily focused on collecting feedback as part of your test, it’s still a good idea to have some sort of bug report form available, even if it’s just a basic text box or email link. If testers are running into bugs and have no way to tell you about it, they’re going to get frustrated and disconnected. Allowing them to at least submit bug reports is a very easy way to show you care about their experience with your product.

Hopefully these tips will help you leverage bug reports while avoiding some of their inherent frustrations. In our next post, we’ll go into detail on how you can use the functionality of Centercode to build easy-to-use forms and strong workflows for your bug reports.

If you enjoyed this, take a look at our post on feature requests!

For more beta best practices, visit our resource library!

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