Re: How much documentation for 1000 hours of programming?

Subject: Re: How much documentation for 1000 hours of programming?
From: Mary Deaton <knowware -at- MSN -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 29 Mar 1996 16:15:18 UT

I'm a little distressed at the answers one poster is getting to whether you
can estimate documentation time needed based on hours of programming done.

Nowhere in the responses I have seen so far has anyone addressed an approach
that says how you decide what your end user needs to have documented and how
long it will take to produce what the end user needs. Windows 95 is a highly
complex product that took several years to develop. It's end user
documentation is contained in a book of less than 100 pages and a Help of less
than 1 meg. The time it took to accomplish the documentation was based not on
how many hours of programming time went into Windows 95, but how many hours of
the documentation groups time was needed to design and produce highly
effective documentation. In their case, it included designing and building a
new Help engine, of course, but they did that in order to produce more
effective documentation.

In my experience, the more hours spent programming, the less I may need to
document--the program is well-designed with a highly intuitive interface and
workflow that does not require me to make up for its deficiencies. On the
other hand, I have worked on programs done with no thought for interface
design which were literally slapped together in a couple of months, and it has
taken twice that long to write the docs because it takes forever to figure out
how the damn thing is supposed to work.

Now, I'm talking end-user docs here. System documentation may bear a closer
relationship to the number of hours spent developing the system. But for
end-user docs, it is irrelevant to me how long it takes them to develop it.

My starting point is what tasks will the user be doing using this piece of
software, what do they already know about either the task or the use of
software to do it, how can I best support them in doing these tasks quickly
and accurately, and what amount of time do I need to accomplish this? Those
are the questions you need to ask when you want to know how to schedule a
documentation project.

Mary Deaton

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