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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?