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Bug vs Error: Key Differences

By Shreya Bose, Community Contributor -

All software testing is conducted to identify anomalies and issues that prevent software from working as expected. However, these anomalies are divided into categories to make it easier to plan debugging activities for each.

Learn the key differences between Bug vs Error and how to categorize bugs, details, and issues in software testing. This will help QAs catalog, analyze and resolve the aberrations that are bound to appear when running tests on a website or app.

What is a Bug?

Bug refers to any shortcoming in a software system that causes it to behave in unexpected and undesirable ways. These could range from irrational or incorrect responses to unpredictable failures, system crashes, etc. Essentially, a programming error leads to software malfunction detected before the website or app is deployed to production. Bugs usually result from coding mistakes, such as syntax, logic, or data processing errors.

Bugs can be of multiple types. A few of them would be:

  • Bugs affecting algorithms
  • Bugs affecting logic – e.g. infinite loops
  • Bugs emerging due to uninitialized variables

Example of a Bug

Let’s say that an eCommerce website has an Add to Cart button – as it should; however, when clicked, the button opens a window leading back to the product catalog rather than the payment page. This unpredictable and irrational behavior is a bug that needs to be fixed.

What is an Error?

Error refers to a coding or programming mistake, usually due to incorrect syntax or faulty loops. Errors emerge from the source code, caused by inconsistencies or outright fallacies in the internal code structure. They are anomalies triggered by misconceptions, oversights, or misunderstandings from the developer’s (engineers, testers, analysts, etc.) end.

Errors are also of various types:

  • Errors in calculation caused by wrong formulae
  • Data handling errors caused by overwriting necessary files
  • Configuration errors caused due to insufficient storage space

Example of an Error

Let’s say a dev has typed an incorrect variable name or mistaken a design notation. The result will be inconsistencies (incorrect login, syntax, or logic) in code, leading to an error. Needless to say, inconsistent code leads to undesirable or non-existent software functioning. 

What is an Issue?

The term Issue is a bit of a catch-all. In software testing circles, it denotes the existence of some anomaly or flaw in a software system that requires resolution. Therefore, an issue can be anything from a bug, missing or incorrect documentation, a request for changing a feature, or some other task to be accomplished. It can include bugs and feature requests, user feedback, design problems, documentation gaps, or project management challenges.

Generally, issues are assigned severity levels to signal their priority in the dev and QA hierarchy – high, medium, low, and cosmetic.

The issue is the term clients and managers use to indicate something is wrong with the software. It is used when they aren’t sure where the problem emerges from. Once an issue is detected, it must be analyzed to verify its nature and then assigned to the relevant team for resolution.

Difference between Errors and Bugs

  • Errors in software are mistakes made during development and can be more conceptual or logical.
  • Bugs are the manifestations of those errors in the functioning of the software and are specific instances of incorrect behavior within the program.
Occurs due to shortcomings in the software system Occurs due to some mistake or misconception in the source code
Detected before the software is pushed to productionDetected when code is to be compiled and fails to do so
May be caused by human oversight or non-human causes like integration issues, environmental configuration, etc. Is caused by human oversight

Difference between Bug and Issue

  • A bug is a specific issue related to a defect or flaw in the software code or functionality. Bugs are technical problems that need to be fixed by developers.
  • An issue is a broader term encompassing a range of problems, tasks, or concerns in a software project, including bugs and other types of requests or challenges.
Indicates a specific kind of problem in the software system (see above)Indicates anything from a bug, error, feature change request, documentation problem, etc.
Is a technical term used by devs and QAsIs a more general term used by non-technical stakeholders like clients and managers

Using BrowserStack for Debugging and Issue Resolution

Given the extent of browser-device fragmentation in the current digital landscape, any website or app will be accessed via multiple device-browser-OS combinations.

  • Naturally, bugs may appear on one combination and not on others due to the unique specifications of one particular browser, device, or OS.
  • To ensure that bugs and issues can be detected across browsers and devices, the software must be tested across said devices-browser-OS combinations.
  • Without an in-house device lab, the best option is to opt for a cloud-based testing service that provides real device browsers and operating systems.

Bug vs Error - Test on BrowserStack

BrowserStack offers 3000+ real browsers and devices for manual and automated testing. Users can sign up, choose desired device-browser-OS combinations and start testing.

Additionally, Teams can access the following on BrowserStack

  • Live: Pre-installed developer tools on all remote desktop browsers and Chrome developer tools on real mobile devices (exclusive on BrowserStack)
  • Automate: Screenshots, Video Recording, Video-Log Sync, Text Logs, Network Logs, Selenium Logs, Console Logs
  • App Live: Real-time Device Logs from Logcat or Console
  • App Automate: Screenshots, Video Recording, Video-Log Sync, Text Logs, Network Logs, Appium Logs, Device Logs, App Profiling
  • Test Observability: Fix errors in software faster with Smart Failure Analysis, which learns from your testing and identifies the causes of test failures. Test Observability intelligently identifies errors and tags tests with their causes of failure.
  • Test Management: Get a high-level overview or drilled-down details of your test cases and test runs on  a single dashboard.

Bug vs Error: Key Differences

With BrowserStack, QA teams can fully investigate potential bugs or issues in their software and identify the root cause faster than ever before. As a result, organizations can shorten test timelines while minimizing risks associated with releasing faulty code that may disrupt customer experience.

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