Re: Flawed software

Subject: Re: Flawed software
From: "Jared M. Spool" <jspool -at- UIE -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 17 Feb 1996 13:43:05 -0500

On 31 Jan 96, you wrote:

> Greetings!

> Question: Is it possible to have perfect documentation
> for a flawed software product?

> I think I know the answer, but I just *had* to ask ...

Our firm tests dozens of products every year with hundreds of users.
With this information we've begun to see how documentation fits into
the user's usage patterns.

Users rely on documentation to supply information not provided by the
product itself. (When the product provides information, people often
refer to it as intuitive. It actually isn't intuitive, it just
communicates well.)

I would define perfect documentation as documentation that provides
all the information the user needs, that wasn't provided directly by
the interface.

Given this definition, I would say that it would be possible to
provide perfect documentation, regardless of software product
quality. This would be assessed by testing the product and
documentation under a wide variety of situations. If the user found
every answer they needed from one of those two sources, then the
documentation meets the definition.

There is, however, a constraint.

In my experience, any team capable of producing perfect
documentation would be capable of producing a perfect product. The
inverse is probably true: any team not capable of producing a
perfect product would probably not be capable of producing a perfect

Jared M. Spool User Interface Engineering
jspool -at- uie -dot- com 800 Turnpike Street, Suite 101
(508) 975-4343 North Andover, MA 01845
fax: (508) 975-5353 USA

If you send me your postal address, you'll get
the next issue of our newsletter, Eye For Design.

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