One of the projects I’m currently working on uses ActiveReload’s LightHouse application for bug tracking. Its a fairly straightforward web application written in Ruby on Rails that sells itself as “Simple to the bone” bug tracking.

This week I was tasked with working on several bugs and went into Lighthouse, ticket number in hand, ready to get started. Once I log in, I navigated to the “Tickets” page and the search form I’m presented with looks like this…

Lighthouse Search Form

My first inclination was to put the ticket number right into the search box. No go. That didn’t work, so I checked out the dropdown to the right of the search box with no sticking out at me. I then moved on to the “help” link at the end of the form where I learned they provide some pretty cool ways to search tickets… by tags, milestone, status, and even provide natural language date-based searched such as “5 days ago” or “since 1 week ago”. All of these you can combine to form fairly complex searches. However, I still couldn’t find a way to put in a simple ticket number and find my ticket.

The next thing I did was start to look through other tickets and notice the that the ticket number shows in the url like this: "/projects//tickets/-ticket-title". Knowing the app was written in Ruby on Rails, I figured I could put my ticket number into the URL and find my ticket. Sure enough it works.

Although I was finally able to locate my ticket, it seemed as though I wasted a whole lot of time for something that should have been very simple. I mean after all, its supposed to be “simple to the bone”. So, I asked a few co-workers if they knew of the “correct/easy” way to lookup tickets without having to manipulate the URL. They all told me, “use the URL”. One of my coworkers, Erica, said she had even sent a request to lighthouse asking for the same feature, but never heard anything back.

Now, I know that manipulating the URL to find tickets by ticket number isn’t difficult. However, I did feel that this was such a basic and common search feature that it should be built into the application. Users who don’t bother to look at the URL or who don’t understand how URLs work would never have figured this out. So I sent an email to Lighthouse requesting this be part of the application. I didn’t really expect a reply to my email since Erica never heard back. But, I sent my email thinking that, a) surely they’ve received numerous requests for this feature and one more couldn’t hurt, and b) its probably ridiculously easy to add into the application.

This morning I receive a reply from Rick Olson at ActiveReload saying, “It’s built into the URL actually”. His response is slightly perplexing given the whole premise of the application, “SIMPLE bug tracking”. So, you can do all these complex ticket searches, but you can’t do the most simple of them all - searching by ticket number. Instead, you’re forced to manipulate the URL. Their solution seems very user-unfriendly and not so “simple to the bone”. Also, if that is the solution, perhaps they could add something in their “help” page to inform other users of how this is done.