How can error tracking and application monitoring save you time on development

Jan Grela
04 June 2020
4 min read

Discovering, tracking, and reporting errors in code is essential at every stage of your application's life cycle. It's especially true when software grows, integrates with other services, and gets more complicated. A good practice is to be ready to track bugs in the early stages of your app’s development. It also helps to find bugs before the end-user does. Nobody wants to test an application in production. 

There are many ways to discover bugs. Applications can be tested manually at every stage, or you can use an automated approach. One way is to have tests for your code. Another is to use error-tracking tools, which there are numerous out there.

What is application testing?

Why is application testing necessary?

From a developer's point of view, it's essential to define the parts of the application, which should be covered by tests during the early stages of development so you can compare the results from test data with the expected outcome. Ideally, app testing should include every feature, or at least, all the crucial parts for which complexity is significant, and for which tests are required on calculations and integrations. By using that approach, you can find bugs before even pushing everything to the repository. 

With tests, the application builds with much fewer errors in code. Developers can execute automated tests in local machines. As you can integrate tests with CI/CD tools, you can set up continuous testing in the software delivery pipeline. Fail-stops are tracked and reported to developers. There are many CI/CD tools available (like CircleCI, Jenkins, etc.), which can be integrated with software hosting platforms like GitHub and report failing tests to developers via Slack channels, emails, etc.).

How does application testing speed up development?

Writing tests takes time and effort, sometimes even doubling the time needed to implement a feature. But then imagine letting an application grow, getting more sophisticated, development teams changing and implementing new features with no tests to probe code. If someone modifies the implementation of one method, and it causes issues in other parts of the application, it gets harder to identify and fix the problem. 

When tests exist, developers know straight away that something isn't right as soon as they run the set tests. It's faster to improve, maintain, and add features to an application when testing it.

An example of a testing framework: RSpec

An example of a testing framework for Ruby worth mentioning is RSpec, which provides means to test every aspect of an application. It includes unit tests and integrations tests. RSpec has a domain-specific language that describes the behavior of objects. 

Why use a tool for application monitoring and error tracking?

Even applications tested for 99.99% of their code aren't bug-free. Error-tracking tools help to decrease the number of issues in the applications delivered to end-users. Think of web applications. Without tracking tools, the user would report every bug he encounters, such as Http 500 responses. Tracking tools give detailed information about what happened and when. With that information, developers can react quickly and fix the reported error before the user starts to complain. 

It is crucial to integrate an application with an error-tracking tool as soon as there is a deployable version (like in staging, beta, or production). This approach saves time development time. Fixing well described small issues is better than trying to reproduce them by digging in logs, and guessing what could happen.

How do error-tracking tools work?

Tracking tools monitor errors thrown by running applications. Usually, exception objects contain information about exception type, message, stack trace, and line number where the error occurs. It also tells the number of occurrences and much more information about the issue like a null pointer exception, no method error, or network timeouts.

How to choose the best error-tracking tool for your project?

Before you choose which tool to use, you need to decide the technology stack for your project. Every tracking tool supports specific technologies, programming languages, and frameworks. Some are easier to integrate with your project than others. Some give a helpful SDK, and others don't. Discuss it with your development team.

Another thing to consider is which other tools to integrate with the error-tracking tool you want to use. These include: 

  • Software host platforms like GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket to follow-up on issues reported by the tracking tool.

  • Project management tools like Jira or Trello.

  • Communication software like Slack to report issues in channels.

Besides this, depending on project size, you can select a plan that meets your needs. Most of these offer trial versions. Finally, it's essential to pay attention to what the software interface offers. Various graphs describing the issues over time or release environments are helpful.

A closer look at our two favorite error-tracking tools

Rollbar

Rollbar is a solution that provides excellent help in tracking web application errors. It's available for many languages and frameworks and is easy to set up. In addition to tracking errors, grouping, and reporting them, there are features like Rollbar Query Language (for extended searching of errors), REST API for extended integration, and custom messages reporting. You can choose from different pricing plans or go with the free plan. A trial version is available if you want to try it first.

Sentry

Sentry is an error monitoring, open-source platform open source available on GitHub. You can pick one of their plans they offer or get the source code and set up your sentry server instance. It’s Server and Python-based, but it works with many other SDKs.

A final piece of advice

To choose an error-tracking tool and save time on development, you need to think about your project size, your technology stack, your development team, the number of users, and your budget. Setting up error tracking at the beginning of development saves you time later on. There's no perfect solution for every software. However, one thing's sure is that the combination of CI/CD and error-tracking tools help to resolve issues quickly and contribute to users’ happiness.


Do you want to develop a thoroughly tested, bug-free and all-round great app? Let us help! Or get in touch at hello@start-up.house

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