How to Use WordPress as a Bug Tracker

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WordPress began as a blogging platform, but it now powers regular websites that rely on the separation between code and content to simplify site development. WordPress implements various tracking systems to monitor its own code. Other tracking products work within WordPress at the theme or plugin level. You can turn all or part of a WordPress-powered site into a bug-tracking facility that captures input from users about what works and what fails to function in a product such as a piece of software.

Simple Bug Tracking

For short-term bug tracking that involves just describing a problem with a software or hardware product and inviting users to chime in with details and experiences, you can use a standard WordPress theme. After an individual post sets out the specifics of where and how the bug appears, reader comments can specify observations from the perspective of product users. WordPress tags correlate individual posts with the product and problem they cover. This arrangement quickly becomes cumbersome if you want to track bugs in large, complex applications or you want to enable site visitors to create bug reports.

Bug-Tracking Themes

Themes control the appearance of a WordPress site and can add custom features to basic functionality. To specialize a WordPress site, you can invest in a customizable premium theme that makes your installation function as a bug tracker, such as App Themes' Quality Control or WordPress Jedi's FaultPress (see Resources). These themes can manage reports on multiple projects, enable contributors to upload screen shots of software problems, coordinate related tickets and govern login access. Whether you want to crowdsource the process of troubleshooting a piece of shareware or collect reports of problems with tangible products, these themes can simplify the process of setting up a centralized reporting station based on WordPress.

Using Plugins

WordPress plugins expand what the content management system can do. Third-party developers create modular pieces of add-in code that target specific features or objectives beyond the scope of WordPress itself. WordPress supports shortcodes, single-word pieces of text that act as placeholders indicating where a module of plugin code will appear on a page. Bug-tracking plugins replace their shortcodes with lists of current problems and areas for site visitors to add new reports. Like many WordPress features, these plugins use Captcha codes to cut down on spam and site abuse. Captchas display scans of text, deliberately left hard to read, for would-be bug reporters to type into a text box. The process stops automated spam bots from misusing a feature that lets visitors contribute to a WordPress-based site. To add bug tracking through a plugin, look to modules such as Yannick Lefebvre's Bug Library (see Resources).

Tracking WordPress Itself maintains code and provides a place to download add-ons for self-hosted WordPress installations. Its codex describes the features and functions of the code itself. As WordPress grows and matures, its documentation must grow along with it and remain an accurate reflection of how the content management system works. As of December 2013, development moves forward on a tracking system to enable people who run websites based on WordPress to report errors and omissions in the online codex that explain how to use it. The new system will replace one that relies on individuals to report and follow up on bugs.