Measuring documentation quality?

Subject: Measuring documentation quality?
From: Geoffrey Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 12:39:39 -0500

Poppy Quintal has <<... been able to come up with information on
various quality methods, metrics, etc, but so far nothing that
"specifically" allows the measurement of quality as a comparison
between different sets of documentation.>> Her colleague is
<<...attempting to attain an accepted and proven form of
measurement, if not an actual formula, as it relates to the "quality"
of technical documentation. The assumption is that this "yard
stick" could be a vehicle that will allow us to grade the quality of
our technical manuals, compared to those of our competition.>>

Strictly speaking, there's only one meaningful measure of
documentation quality: can our audience accomplish what
they need to accomplish using your documentation? And the
only meaningful reason for measuring quality is so that you
can improve what you're doing and make life easier for your
audience. Comparisons with other people's documentation are
only meaningful to the extent that they suggest ways to
improve your own documentation.

That being the case, you need to do a usability study of some
sort to identify the problems users are having with your
documentation, define why the problems are occurring, and
determine how to correct the problems. If you can provide
specific details of what you're doing, then we can provide
more specific guidance on how to go about doing this.
--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Patience comes to those who wait."--Anon.

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