One of the first things I show a new tester is our bug tracking system (currently a modified Bugzilla – however, we are in the process of migrating to Jira). During this orientation, I discuss the difference between severity and priority. Severity is the subjective rating of how bad an issue is while priority is a decision of how quickly the bug should be addressed.

Bugzilla supports priority and severity out of the box. Jira does not support severity out of the box. My complaint is the default values supplied for the priority field:

Blocker – Blocks development and/or testing work, production could not run.

Critical – Crashes, loss of data, severe memory leak.

Major – Major loss of function.

Minor – Minor loss of function, or other problem where easy workaround is present.

Trivial – Cosmetic problem like misspelt words or misaligned text

To me, these are clearly severities and not priorities. (To be fair, Jira makes it easy to customize the priorities.) It is also true that generally, the more severe an issue is the higher priority it will have. The counter example I usually use is what happens is the company name is misspelled on the product splash screen. This is a low severity issue. However, in most companies I have worked for, this is a high priority issue to fix (especially when a demo before the executives is scheduled…)