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Understanding the Difference between Bugs and Errors

Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack -

Table of Contents

All software testing is conducted with the intention of identifying 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.

This article will discuss the difference between bugs, errors, and issues so that QAs can be sure about how to catalog, analyze and resolve the various aberrations that are bound to show up when running tests on a website or app.

What is a Bug?

The term 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, unpredictable failures, system crashes, etc. Essentially, it is a programming error leading to software malfunction, which has been detected before the website or app is deployed to production.

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 is supposed to, However, when clicked, the button opens a window leading back to the product catalog, rather than the payment page as it should. This unpredictable and irrational behavior is a bug that needs to be fixed.

What is an Error?

The term Error refers to coding or programming mistake that usually shows up due to incorrect syntax or faulty loops. Errors emerge from the source code itself, 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 functioning of the software itself. 

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.

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

Issue is a term used by clients and managers to indicate that something is going wrong with the software at hand. It is used when they aren’t sure where the problem emerges from. Once an issue is detected, it needs to be analyzed to verify its nature, and then assigned to the relevant team for resolution.

Difference between Bugs and Errors 

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

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

The Role of Real Devices in Debugging and Issue Resolution

Whatever the anomaly in question (bug or issue), identifying and eradicating it requires comprehensive software testing on real browsers and devices.

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. To be more specific,

More than 4 billion people access the web through combinations of:

  • 9000+ distinct devices, shipped with
  • 21 different operating systems (vendor + version)
  • 8 major browser engines that power hundreds of browsers.

Browser & Device Fragmentation Guide: Source

In other words, there are 63,000 possible browser-platform-device combinations (with numbers increasing rapidly) that must be tested in order to guarantee a positive user experience across the board.

Run Tests on Real Device Cloud for Free

Naturally, bugs may show up 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 needs to be tested across said devices and browsers.

In the absence of 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. BrowserStack offers 2000+ real browsers and devices for manual and automated testing. Users can sign up, choose desired device-browser-OS combinations and start testing.

The same applies to apps. BrowserStack also offers real devices for mobile app testing and automated app testing. Simply upload the app to the required device-OS combination and check to see how it functions in the real world.

Additionally, BrowserStack offers a wide range of debugging tools that make it easy to share and resolve bugs.

  • 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

With real devices and browsers for testing, 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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