How to write (and file) a usability bug

We once thought that filing many bugs would get the attention of the development manager, and that they would have no choice but to address our concerns about the interface quality-or lack thereof.

We did learn that in order to get anything fixed, you do have to have it filed as a bug (or enhancement) in a bug tracking system and that the bug has to be clearly understandable, and be actionable.

Here are some of the elements that we have found make a good bug:

  • Provide a catchy title (Like the “Mexican jumping bean” bug) so that your bug is discussed — at least in jest — during the bug triage meeting.
  • Write a very clear description section — Make sure that your description explains the bug in simple terms. Make sure to also provide an indication about how pervasive this bug is
  • Identify which UX principle the bug violates. — I often use Jakob Nielsen’s well-known heuristics. ( )
  • Explain how the bug can confuse/cause the user to make a mistake.
  • Provide very specific instructions on how to replicate the bug. – This is probably the most important, because if someone cannot see the bug on “their” computer, this bug will be ignored.
  • Provide a recommended solution to the bug – You don’t want to get trapped into an interface Q/A role, so make sure that you are always provide easy ways to solve the issue.

You have to keep in mind that most development teams have a daily or weekly triage meeting where they examine the current bug stack, and then rank and hopefully assign resources to work on them.

If your bugs do not stand out as important, they will be assigned to the next release, or worse get assigned the dreaded “will not fix” tag and be completely ignored. (ouch!)