Tips for Bug Reporting in eLearning and Websites

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Tips for Bug Reporting in eLearning and Websites

Testing and reviewing an elearning course or website, isn’t exactly the sort of thing that makes you giddy to get out of bed in the morning. It can be easy to pencil-whip a review, and basically do whatever you can to be done in the shortest time possible.  But you’re only doing yourself a disservice when doing so because if you don’t effectively communicate a bug or issue to the developers, they won’t know what’s broken which leads to wasted work, a lot of back and forth emails, confusion, and frustration for both of you.

So, here are a few tips for reporting issues with an elearning course or web page.

Tip 1: Be Specific About the Issue

Saying, “The page is broken,” is not very helpful.  There’s a lot of things that can go wrong with a page.  It’s like pulling your car into the auto repair shop and telling the mechanic, “it’s broken.”  If you want something fixed in a timely and cost effective manner.  Be specific about the issue.

Good Examples:

  • I received a “Page Not Found” error when I navigated to the home page.
  • The header on the Contact Us page is left aligned in the browser window.  It should be centered horizontally.

Poor Examples

  • The home page is doing something crazy.
  • The blog post is still broken.

Tip 2: Provide Directions

If you’re testing a webpage, provide a link to the page where the bug is.  This makes it very easy to find.  If a link isn’t specific enough (for example if the error is in a video) provide a time stamp for when the issue occurs, or some other indicator.  In order to fix an issue, a developer must first find it.  So give good directions.

Good examples

  • The error is found at www.mywebsite.com/products/pajamas.htm
  • The bug occurs on page 5, 7, and 12 of the slideshow within the footer.
  • The screen blacks out in the video at google.com at 5minutes and 32 seconds.

Poor Examples

  • The error occurs on the pajama product page.
  • The bug is in the footer on several pages.
  • The video blacks out.

Tip 3: Include Technical Details

If you encounter an error in any internet accessible object, it’s not only possible, but common, that this error may not occur for other people.  Depending on the hardware, software and plugins you are using, an elearning course or website will appear differently on your computer then it does on someone else’s.  This is especially common with browsers, an elearning may look great when viewed in Firefox or Chrome, but when you look at it in Internet Explorer it might have issues.  So it’s important to provide your developer with some technical details about the device you’re using to when you encountered the error.

IMPORTANT: If a developer cannot replicate the issue, they cannot fix it.  In order to replicate issues, they may need to know what internet browser, operating system, Flash plugin, etc. that you are using.  Otherwise, any changes they make to fix an error you describe may do nothing, or may make things worse.  It’s like blindfolding an auto-mechanic and asking him to fix your car.

Good examples:

  • The error is found at www.mywebsite.com/products/pajamas.htm (Internet Explorer 8.1, Windows 7)
  • The bug occurs on page 5, 7, and 12 of the slideshow within the footer. (iPad 2, Safari 6.0.4)
  • The screen blacks out in the video at google.com at 5minutes and 32 seconds. (Firefox 19.0, Flash Player 11.2)

Tip 4: Be Thorough

When reviewing anything, be thorough.  Try to find all the errors and issues, and compile and report them all at once.  Sure, it takes more time now, but it’ll save you headaches down the road because if you don’t find the issues now, you can bet one of your users will once the elearning course or website is live for use.  Additionally, this approach will often save you money as developers tend to estimate projects based on a certain number of reviews.  So if you submit bugs after the official launch, or more rounds of revisions then are included in your project, it may likely cost more to make the changes.  So be thorough in your review.

Tip 5: Take a Breath

Issues can be frustrating, especially when the same issue seems to crop up, or takes longer to fix then you’d like.  So when you’re reporting errors, take a second, breath, and then type your email.  And before you fire that email off, reread it to make sure your frustrations aren’t coming through.  Honey attracts more bees than vinegar, my friends, and you’ll find technical types respond well to people who treat them respectfully because a lot of folks don’t.

Hope that’s a little helpful, at least.  Any comments, tips, or things you’ve learned in your own projects are more than welcome.  So do share.

-Dustin.

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