Effectiveness of a document?

Subject: Effectiveness of a document?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 26 Feb 2002 14:13:52 -0500

Rohini Gogi wonders: <<I need your inputs on how you would measure the
effectiveness of a document against a set of parameters. What are the
parameters that would kind of certify a document?>>

We can't answer that until you define what you mean by effectiveness. In my
way of thinking, which may not be yours, an effective document is one that
meets the needs of its readers. In that context, the only useful parameters
are those that express whether readers can understand a document well enough
to accomplish something (e.g., a series of tasks), and the only people who
can tell you whether these parameters are being met are the actual readers:
if they can complete the task, then the document is effective.

You can certainly get far more sophisticated in measuring this (check the
archives under "usability testing" for discussions of this), because an
effective document may still be ugly or inefficient. But simple tests are
often the best. One thing that might be worth doing is to set a maximum time
for completing a task, then measure whether readers can complete the task
within that time frame using your documentation. But that kind of study gets
complicated, since setting the initial time is very subjective, and there
may be many factors other than the document that interfere with task

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

Hofstadter's Law--"The time and effort required to complete a project are
always more than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's

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