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March 22, 2009

Facilitating web page error reporting

Filed under: Idea,Software development — stigl @ 8:41 am

Are there currently any products for facilitating reporting errors in web pages?

Problem description

A end user is browsing through your site, and stumbles upon a page which for him has an error or bug. It might be a mother-of-all-stacktraces shining at him, a number which is wrong or single space missing. Often, the end user is the only one who can see the problem, and it is difficult and timeconsuming to report through email or on the phone.
Preferrably, the user can send a screen shot. But it is a difficult process to explain, several manual steps involved, and the state of the application cannot be captured by a screen shot.

Possible solution

A “report bug” link which can easily be placed on every page, that when pressed, creates a report containing
* The offending web page as html
* A dump of all relevant state for the page
* A field where the user can type in what’s wrong
* A crude marking device to easily tell where the error is located
The report can then be emailed and fed to an issue reporting system.

Relevant technologies

A javascript library or reusable SiteMesh decorator or similar. Preferrably as little intrusive as possible.

Does this already exist?

Please tell me if it does! 🙂



  1. This would indeed be very useful, but I’ve not seen any standard implementation so far.

    I believe ranking information for the content on the page (like 5 stars) could be used as one entry point for this functionality. However, in other cases it makes sense to have a separate “report bug” link.

    Wrt state it probably wouldn’t make sense to dump the html DOM, and in most cases you have no state on the server side either that it could be related to.
    Is it possible to standardize what kind of state information to collect? I think not
    However, there are some general information of the client such as browser, os and resolution which is very useful.

    For allowing the user to indicate where the problem is on the page, you could use the same functionality as http://userfly.com/ does through javascripting. Basically, http://userfly.com/ allows you to view exactly how users have interacted with your webpage. You could turn on this functionality briefly and ask the user to indicate with their mouse pointer where the problem is.


    Comment by Dagfinn — March 22, 2009 @ 10:32 am | Reply

  2. We did this on Ontopia.net, very simply, by using the error page functionality in JSP. So any exception is mapped to an error page. Some, like OOM and NoSuchObjectException, give messages explaining the error to the user and giving some advice. The rest produce a “would you like to report this error?” page with a form that users can fill in. This automatically includes stack trace, server name, etc etc.

    Unfortunately, it got picked up by robots at some point, and had to be extended with anti-spam protection.

    Other than that it’s worked very well for us.


    Comment by Lars Marius Garshol — September 15, 2009 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  3. I just read this blog post after reviewing the app gallery on the google apps page. You may be interested in this: http://appgallery.appspot.com/about_app?app_id=agphcHBnYWxsZXJ5chQLEgxBcHBsaWNhdGlvbnMYvaAVDA

    Comment by Dan Speck — January 17, 2010 @ 2:02 am | Reply

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