Finding and fixing JavaScript errors that no one tells you about

Earlier this month I saw an interesting article on logging client side JavaScript errors, and then another one that showed how to do it using Google Analytics. The idea was clever and easy to implement, so I decided to try out the Google Analytics version when I posted up my new Keyboard Layout Analyzer last week. When an error occurred, I’d log the file it happened in, the line number it happened on, the browser’s user agent string, and the error message itself. Below you can see a screen shot of the error log after 1 week.

Google Analytics Panel

I’m unsure what errors 2-5 are. There’s no associated file, and the error message is simply “Script error”. The Analyzer gets an average of 90 visitors a day, so these account for a small percentage of users, though it is a little peculiar. Error 1 is definitely a real error though. I had been checking the stats every day, so when it popped up I actually got a little excited.

Usually when I discover an error, it stings. Users don’t often tell you about errors, unless they really like the app or are feeling unusually nice. Often times they may not even know something’s wrong. If the app wont work correctly, they just move on to another page without another thought.

This time, I caught it right after it happened, so I was actually a little happy. The error was pretty easy to pinpoint. Luckily it only occurred if AltGr keys were used, which doesn’t effect users unless they decide to add customizations for foreign layouts, which is why it didn’t show up until later in the week. I should have caught this while testing, but over sights are made sometimes.

So far I’m happy with this little experiment, and am thinking about possibly adding client side error logging to my other apps. For now the only draw backs I see are that this method of discovering errors can be a hassle if your scripts are minified and concatenated, and that users could abuse this if they knew you were doing it (though then again, they could abuse any kind of data saving request you were doing).

One thought on “Finding and fixing JavaScript errors that no one tells you about”

  1. It’s a bit more complex to log the clientside errors, supporting all the major browsers and mobile devices. We built to take care about that. It’s also possible to log the backend errors with the NodeJS library. Worth to give it a try.

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