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How to get your developer to fix bugs

"When I used the software today, I got an error. Can you fix it?"

This is the exact text of the email I received. No specifics on what she was doing when she got the error. No information about the error message itself.

Even worse, this particular user helps other users setup their software. So I can't even try to log-in as her - frankly she could have been using any number of accounts.

If you have ever felt that a software developer wasn't being responsive to a bug you have encountered in the software, stop and think for a moment. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I provide specific steps to describe what I was doing before the problem occurred?
  • Did I provide specific information on what the system did versus what I was expecting?
  • Did I provide enough login/account information that will help them trace something that might be unique to me or my data?

If you answered No to any of these questions, then I'm not surprised you are frustrated. The developer is probably frustrated too.

If you really want to solve the problem, here are three tips that should help you give that developer enough information to troubleshoot your bug:

  • Write down at least the last 3 things you were doing before you encountered the problem. (More steps are better, but 3 is a good start.) If you were looking at a specific record (customer, order, file, etc.), then include that in your description. (i.e. "I used the 'Find' menu to search for customer 'Johnson', but when I clicked on 'Go' I got an error."
  • Write down specifically what happened. If it wasn't an error but it also wasn't what you expected, then provide that information too. (For example: "No records were found, but I just entered the 'Johnson' record, so it should have come up in the search results.")
  • Give the developer details about your situation and/or environment. If it is a web app, tell them what browser you were using. If it is a Windows app, tell them your operating version. And if you log into the application, make sure they know which account is yours. Don't assume. They probably support a lot of applications and users, and they aren't going to have your set-up memorized.

Providing specific information about your problem will mean that it will be solved much more quickly. That should make everyone happier.

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Avonelle is a rare IT professional who can communicate with business users on a level they can understand, and who can recommend creative technical solutions that are in line with the business goals and the business budget. Avonelle is conscientious not only about meeting deadlines, but also exceeding her customers expectations around quality software while providing superior customer service. Avonelle is an inspiration to me.

Valerie Vogt, Director of IT Advisory Services @ Inetium