Software bugs are a strange thing: To people with less experience in development, they can seem like a big deal, and in some cases they are.
Major bugs, for instance, can be enough to make users uninstall apps in mere seconds.
However, there’s a balance to be struck: Bugs aren’t always as big of a problem as you might think. In fact, they’re often beneficial.
Before we go into the specifics, one thing to keep in mind is that all software will inherently have bugs. And often, the bugs will be more noticeable in custom software than commercial software.
Here’s our guide to software bugs, and what you need to know about them
There are a number of reasons why bugs make their way into software projects. And it’s less down to simple human error than you might think.
Here are some of the most common causes of software bugs.
A lack of communication
It’s vital that teams communicate effectively with each other during the development process.
Bad communication – or simply a lack of it – can lead to requirements and requests being misinterpreted. One developer interprets an unclear instruction one way, their colleague interprets it a different way, and suddenly you’ve got two bits of code that don’t mesh!
This isn’t just limited to the developer team itself, of course: stakeholders, senior management, testing teams and developers all need to make their requirements simple and clear if they’re to minimize the risk of any issues occuring.
Complexity of software
Software in 2017 is more complicated than ever before. Applications are larger and more in-depth, and take more time to put together.
How does this contribute? The larger the project, the larger the team required to handle it. In turn, larger teams mean more data moving back and forth and larger databases in order to store the information.
Even relatively basic modern applications require a huge amount of work to develop. More issues arise as a result.
Developers, as with all people, can make mistakes. Within code, even one misplaced character can prevent the line from working.
This can be minimized, of course, by having a rigorous testing procedure in place. A firm testing process should catch the simpler mistakes.
This is a very common cause of bugs and errors.
Managing any large development project can be tricky, but if you know at the beginning exactly what’s required, the whole process is much easier.
Software development is complex, and making changes halfway through – even if they may seem like minor alterations – can have a big impact on other areas of the project.
Think of it like adding a garage extension to your home: it’s not complicated in itself, but everyone on the project still needs to take it into account!
One or two changes can usually be dealt with easily, but every change will impact the software in some way. The more changes there are, the more likely something will slip through the cracks.
Software development is a time-consuming process: producing a clean, fully functional application takes a lot of man hours. So does planning an app.
Unfortunately, too many people – often those with no development experience of their own – under-estimate just how long it can take, and try to do too much in too little time.
The key to success here is, again, communication. Specifically, communication with the developers who’ll actually be building the software.
If you ask your developers how long something will take, accept their answer, even if it results in a later deadline than you’d like.
Rushing a project will always result in software bugs. Why? Because while developers will be able to deliver the software with no major errors, they simply won’t have enough time to iron out the smaller problems.
Allow enough time for your project and you’ll get less bugs. Simple.
Not Allowing for Testing
Skilled testers are an invaluable part of the build process. A good tester will help to iron out a huge number of bugs across a project.
Despite this, many people still try to skip what’s a vital step of the building process.
Trust us: don’t skip it.
What? A good thing?
While we’re not suggesting you shouldn’t care about some issues (you should, and your users certainly will) it’s worth re-iterating that software bugs can really help you achieve success in the long run.
Here are some of the main reasons why:
You can learn from every single one
Learning anything is about making mistakes and learning from them: that goes for everything from learning a language to playing the piano.
It’s just as applicable to coding.
Every single error that comes up is a chance to learn about your build process:
- If you have compatibility issues with your framework, you learn more about how to structure your app around it
- If you make an assumption about the code and an error comes in, you learn not to make that assumption again
- If your tester manages to break the software by thinking in a way you hadn’t anticipated, you learn something about the end user
And so on. Every single software bug can teach you something, if you’re prepared to learn.
Over time, it becomes easier to debug
The more you work on a project, the more you understand the ins and outs, and the more you’re able to pre-empt any potential errors.
Each bug that gets fixed gives you the chance to look at how your build is structured, and to ask what can be done to make it stronger in future.
By documenting each bug, developers can build up a portfolio of valuable information about the project and then refer to it down the line.
The end result? That your app will be strengthened with every update. Each and every time you deal with the bug, you’ll have a better, stronger product.
Don’t believe us? Check out the details of any software you love using: we bet it’s in its second or third iteration at the very least.
It means you’re constantly improving
We’ve used the word ‘process’ to describe software development several times in this guide, and it’s worth highlighting.
Software development is an ongoing thing. It’s not a matter of finishing it and going ‘done’. The best software is always, always being worked on.
Bug fixes are little victories along the path to a brilliant product.
The important thing to take away from this guide is that ‘perfect software’ simply doesn’t exist.
If you’re going to move into software development, bugs are simply something you’ll need to adjust to.
As we’ve mentioned above, this is a good thing. Bugs – and fixing them – is part of the hard work that takes your product from something that people like to something that’s used by thousands of people around the world.
Through good testing and fixes, you’ll be able to excel in your market, especially if your competitors have a negative, short-term view of the development process.
Of course, you don’t have to take our word for it. Look at Apple: almost unrivaled in terms of the amount of resources available to them, Apple still suffer from errors.
To give an example, the current mobile iOS at the time of writing is 9.3.4: it’s the ninth major version of the software, and that’s not including the hundreds of other minor changes they’ve carried out to ensure iOS works as well as it can.
Also, take a look at Facebook, who’ve openly stated that ‘Even with a strong team, no company can ensure 100% prevention of bugs’.
And that’s a company with Facebook’s thousands of employees and monstrous budget!
Indeed, Facebook even launched a bug bounty program that paid $500 to any independent researcher that could find an error: they’ve paid out millions so far.
(PayPal, Dropbox, Microsoft, Google and Mozilla have all done something similar.)
What does this all mean?
Simply that when it comes to bugs, there’s nothing to gain by worrying about them and everything to lose by treating every single minor issue as a disaster.
Ensure you hire great developers and skilled testers, and commit to building a great application over time. The rewards can be huge.
An effective app can win you customers and increase your profits on auto-pilot. If you’d like to learn more, pick up the phone and call Iconic Solutions today.