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Why I Don’t Report Bugs

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

 

Be still, your beating heart.  I’m a tester, of course I report bugs.  But what about when I’m not being a tester, and I’m just a normal user?

 

I can only remember four occasions when I’ve reported bugs to the people that could actually do anything about it, but I actually find bugs, as a consumer, several times a week.  Bugs that really annoy me!  But I still don’t report them.  Why is that?

 

 

Are Bug Reports from Users Welcome?

 

I personally don’t feel that most providers actually want me to tell them what issues I’m having, especially the bigger / more established ones.  I work in a relatively small company that makes an effort to connect with users (some might argue that this is a luxury only smaller companies can afford), and I do think we’re in the minority.

 

As a user, here are some of the reasons why I don’t think my software / service providers want my feedback:

  1. They want my money, not my mind.   They’re far more likely to email me about upgrades and other services than they are to send out tips on how to best use the product, or get in touch.
  2. Direct support is replaced with “communities”.  If I want to contact a provider, it’s not the easiest journey.  Lots of companies have moved towards a community / self-service support framework, and I do think this makes sense, but if I actually want to speak to someone then I need some detective skills, technology confidence, and a lot of patience to jump through all the hoops to find any contact information – if they’re even out there to be found.  A lot of the community threads I’ve searched through are also years old, with lots of people complaining that staff still haven’t responded or fixed the issue.
  3. The media controls the masses.  I cringe at how so many seem to believe social media is the answer to everything.  Unfortunately, this is sometimes the case for consumers; I often stumble upon comments from people complaining that they’ve been ignored by support / customer service teams only to get an instant reply after bad-mouthing a company on social media, where the bad review is available for public consumption.  It seems that a lot of companies are more interested in trying to look good online than they are in trying to build a reputation the old fashioned way – by treating their customers well.  I don’t want to have to “go public” with my issues to have them heard, but sometimes it feels like the only way.
  4. People don’t like to hear about problems.  As testers, we know this already.  An inherit part of our jobs is being the bearer of bad news, and we’re often deflecting bullets aimed at the messenger.  Even for small things, I’ve personally found that people don’t appreciate comments like, “I noticed a typo in the article that was just published,” or, “I think a link might be missing from your last post”.  Where I would be grateful that someone had pointed that out to me so I could correct it, a lot of people don’t seem to feel the same way, and I start to worry that I’ve caused offence.  It’s not part of my job to review their articles or posts, so why am I getting involved where I’m not wanted?  So, even when I want to feed back to smaller players that might have more time for me, I often keep quiet to avoid the hassle.

 

 

Does Being a Tester Help?

 

Perhaps fellow testers are in a better position to appreciate bug reports from peers.  This is the logic I used recently, when I decided to tweet the team at UKSTAR (testing conference organisers) to let them know about errors I was getting on their website.  I was pleased to have received a polite and positive response but, in my mind at least, it could very easily have been received negatively.

 

 

Do Other Users Report Bugs?

 

Where I work, we try to make it as easy as possible for users to report any issues they find with the software, as well as coming to us with general questions / training needs.  The people we hear from seem pretty happy to get in touch with us when they need to, but what about those we don’t hear from?

 

I had a quick nosy around and found that, in the last 6 months, only around 14% of our users actually got in touch with us online (main channel).  Of those contacts, only 12% were related to bugs in the software.  After more calculator magic and extrapolation based on real contacts, I deduced that our average user only finds one bug every three years – happy days!  Great work, guys, everybody go home.

 

…But that’s not actually true, is it?  Surely it can’t be!  I’d feel much more correct in guessing that the vast majority of our users do find bugs more often than every three years; they just don’t report them.  What they experience and what they report can be very different, and my own behaviours are proof of this.

 

Even my partner, who has never worked in the technology industry, is frequently complaining about long-standing bugs, easily reproducible through normal use of software.  That’s when I try not to go on too much about my theories on why the software providers aren’t fixing said issues.  But by not reporting them, are we part of the problem?  Would speaking up be enough to spark action, or is money really the only motivator?

 

 

Do You Report Bugs?

 

Truth be told, I do think somewhere in the back of my mind that I should just get over all this stuff and report bugs wherever and whenever I find them, even when I’m “off duty”.  But it feels like an effort, and one that will probably go unappreciated and unaddressed, even if that’s not how bugs are handled in my working life.

 

What are your thoughts?  As a user, do you report bugs?  If so, what kind of response did you get, if any?

17 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Report Bugs

  1. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. Years back as a product owner for a blog/podcast app I loved the user’s that found bugs , was able to work with many of them to make it better and even enlist their assistance in doing so. that was a niche app and manageable. I could read every comment, mail, listen to calls and reach out to people to help. I’ve found that I get a fairer hearing in niche markets E.G., Audio software than I ever do with the main site of a bank, social network or other mass market site. If their product isn’t tech related the chances of you getting a defect report even acknowledged, let along acted upon, are slim.

    Still I report issues when they are repeatable and objectively incorrect, E.G., logic error that just lost me work, or kicked me out of session,etc. Why? Well the last restaurant i worked for often based what to fix on A customer noticing it.Yep one person with an external bug could move the kind of mountains 5 QA and their manager couldn’t.

    It’s like saying QA please have a friend fill out your biggest peeves on the contact form and we’ll get right on it 🙂

    1. Hi Hal,

      Thanks for your comment. That’s a great observation about one report from a user meaning more than the team’s word sometimes.

      With the non tech companies you’ve reported bugs to with this thinking in mind, have you ever found that your issues were addressed?

      Thanks,

      Cassandra

    2. Outwith tech they remain mostly unresolved or fixed so far into the future there’s no way of telling.

      There just doesn’t seem to be a culture that can take a report and pass it along , even if they wanted to most can’t get the files/ pass it on. When I was at company events it was always fun hearing about the people that made all this awful software, when I asked, whom did you tell? They hadn’t and I’m projecting that it’s more than one company that has that issue.

  2. In and out of work, I feel that if I don’t say something, then possibly someone is aware of the problem, but if I report something as a problem, and it’s not fixed, then I’ll know at least the problem was raised.

    I have reported bugs in software and in processes (Amazon or Uber) and have various responses. I also submit suggestions for improvements. I find that if there is no real flow between what customers report and what development has in their pipeline, customer support is only thinking about fixing my immediate issue and not automatically thinking about how to pass that information along in a useful way back to the web development team.

    Possibly social media is a form for submitting bugs because social media is integrated in the user base for some products so pervasively. I personally have never reported a bug that way and am also frustrated when I cannot find any direct contact information.

    1. Hi Miranda,

      Thanks for your comment. I think you’re one of these lucky ones if customer support are at least fixing your immediate issue!

      I think you’re right that it’s hard to know if your information is even getting to the right people. I remember when I worked for a bank in a sales role. Sometimes customers would report issues out with my department and I’d always pass the information on to a manager, but I was never convinced that it went any further. It’s a shame but sometimes it’s the company structure and culture that stops user feedback from going anywhere useful.

      Cassandra

  3. I almost never report bugs. If I report, they are ones blocking my use and I title them as ‘reclamation’. In Finland that has, by law, a different reception than ‘bugs’ and several reports have ended up with financial compensation in service costs.

    I don’t feel like working for free.

    1. That’s really interesting. Why are they viewed differently?

      It’s also really interesting that you’d consider it “working for free”. Would it still be working for free if a user who had never worked in any testing capacity reported a bug to the provider? This is where I wonder if maybe we, as users, have a responsibility to report bugs if we want them to ever get fixed. I’m sure we’ve heard, “no one’s reported it, it can’t be that important,” before…

  4. I do report bugs, especially for my Windows 10 Mobile phone. As a late/slow-Beta user Microsoft provide an easy channel for me to report bugs. And they have actually fixed the zingers, although not always as soon as I would like. But that’s Beta, when there’s still a budget for fixing bugs.Released software is another story.

    Unlike you, I’m not a tester. I’m in UX. I notice poor usability, and when I do it irritates me because, given my own experiences on development teams, I can almost see the absence of resources and skill that led to the release of these unusable features. Skype’s UI, for example, drives me nuts year after year, as they develop cool new features and new integration, but leave the window-thrashing UI problem unfixed. I only “report” Skype bugs on Twitter, a form of public whining, in an attempt to express my disaffection with a brand I used to adore and continue to use almost daily. There are other tools, more usable, but the people I want to chat with would also have to install these tools, and that’s the hurdle that keeps Skype’s users fenced in the pig pen.

    1. Yes, I would certainly hope that feedback is welcomed from beta users, at least!

      I’m really big on UX too and always push usability in software. It’s really difficult though; I feel like most people don’t understand its value and it’s mostly an afterthought once the product has been built and it’s almost too late to make it more usable because then it would need redesigned to make the most of UX feedback.

      Yes, I have the same UI frustrations too. I recently switched to Virgin Media and their UI and UX are absolutely terrible. I don’t have one good thing to say about them 🙁

      Do you post on Twitter to the provider? Do they ever respond?

      You’re right about that; it’s hard to move away from these products when you’re need others to move with you. And I think providers know that…

  5. I always report issues that I find. Maybe because I mostly work for open source projects which (should) always appreciate user feedbacks. You probably know the “contribute nothing, expect nothing”. When you don’t have to pay, the less you should do is to contribute with bug reports, or patch. Not the same for commercial products.
    And sometimes, yes this is true, you may receive not polite answer. In this case you’d better try to find an alternative 😁

    1. Yes, it seems as though you can expect a different response depending on who has built the product and what you are or aren’t paying to use it.

      Do you ever report issues about products that you pay to use? Do you notice a difference in reaction?

  6. I rarely report bugs. I’ve done it when I can’t do a thing that I’ve needed to do, so I have to contact them to do what I need to do. I normally get assistance if needed, a polite thank you, and that’s it. I don’t think it’s ever gone badly for me, though it wouldn’t surprise me.

    It’s once gone really well for me: I use libsyn for my podcast hosting, and when they released their wordpress app there were…issues with it. I reported it, they asked for help figuring out the repro steps as they couldn’t reproduce it at their end, I helped them out, and got a year’s free hosting for my troubles 😀

    1. Wow! Sounds like you really lucked out with that one. And they’ve now given you a really positive experience to share with others.

      I was once told the reported issue was already known and I’d get a timescale for a fix soon… Five months and a chaser email later and I was told (in words not much more polite) to fix it myself. I’d almost rather they ignored me!

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