Re: High-speed, low-cost testing of documentation

Subject: Re: High-speed, low-cost testing of documentation
From: "Russell H. Whyte" <russell -dot- whyte -at- SHERIDANC -dot- ON -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1993 09:45:26 EDT

I have all my docs tested before being released. I write user and
reference guides aimed at students, faculty, and support staff at a
community college. We have skill levels from Ph.D. Professors down to
new students asking where the "any" key is. (I have been asked this on
occasion!). Since I spent two years running one of the computer labs,
and worked on the upgrade project, I was given the task of documenting

Management has been very supportive of the idea. They would rather wait
a few weeks/months and make sure the document is as perfect as possible
rather than just send it out and revise later.
The feel is it easier than trying to send out a revised version a month
later due to user complaints.

As for convincing management, I had no problems. Everyone from the
director down supported the idea. They see the documentation as a
resource or tool, just as a computer is a tool that a user has access
to. In order to better use the tools available, they have a manual
explaining those tools.
This has greatly reduced the number of questions in certain areas, such
as how to log into the comuter network, what printer and applications
are available, etc. This frees up time for the lab staff for other work.
This has the extra advantage of us not needing the same level of staff
to run the labs since eveything is automated and documented.

The other big advantage is political. Communications between departments
has not always been good, due to poersonal conflicts. Having a a set of
documents, each one aimed at a particular group, has opened some doors.
Including some of the users as part of the testing group has also made
them feel as if we are trying to all work together. So far it's been

As for how to test, it depends on what your document is describing. In
my case, we grabbed several groups of students in a variety of
disciplines and skill levels, gave them the manuals, and turned them
loose. Afterwards, we asked them for feedback. What did they
like/dislike, Why, what info was most/least useful, what should be
added, improved on. The feedback was excellent. We also did the same for
instructors. It also succeeded.

If at all possible, get the user/customer to test the document. Nobody
else will give you a better evaluation.

I hope this helps you out. Let me know if you hear any other
suggestions. I may need them down the road!


Russell H. Whyte russell -dot- whyte -at- sheridanc -dot- on -dot- ca
Technologist, End User Services
Sheridan College, Information Technology
1430 Trafalgar Road
Oakville, Ontario
L6H 2L1

Previous by Author: Jobs, Video?
Next by Author: Hijack software info
Previous by Thread: Re: High-speed, low-cost testing of documentation
Next by Thread: Increasing Customer Contact

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads