Monday, December 31, 2007

Logging Bugs Politely

I've been testing a portion of our software lately that has a lot of potential error messages - that's right, I've been testing a GUI. One of the things I've been looking for is consistency and quality of error messages.

I found a bunch of error messages that look roughly like this:
CommandFailedException: Could not connect to server The username or password was not correct.

The actual errors were usually a mis-entered (or unspecified but required) field. It's a bug, certainly. But you need to be a little careful about how you log it. Usability issues, when you're not doing formal usability analysis (or if you're doing it after the fact) are a bit of a touchy subject because they can come close to subjective opinions.

Make sure your bug does this:
  • Be clear about what the error message should say. Consult the product manager or designer if necessary.
  • Be considerate about the structure of the system. Don't ask for information that the system doesn't have at that point. 
Make sure your bug avoids this:
  • Be rude, even if it's funny. "Incomprehensible error" will not make you any friends.
  • Point out in excruciating detail what's wrong. Just say what it doesn't do briefly and move on to what it should do.

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