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Documentation Usability

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  • We are revising/rewriting an overview guide for an educational software product. We want to move it online, and we want to provide the information our users need. This is not a task-based document but on informative one. How would you suggest approaching usability testing?
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  • 1. Documentation Usability Vidisha Bhardwaj Technical Writer, Team RMS
  • 2. Agenda of This Presentation
    • What is Usability?
    • Typical documentation usability issues
    • Approach for a technical writer to ensure usability
    • Available techniques to verify documentation usability
  • 3. What is Usability?
    • The effectiveness , efficiency , and satisfaction with which specified users can achieve specified goals in particular environments .
    • ISO 9241 usability definition
  • 4. Why Usability in Documentation? Your free-flowing salt has it!
  • 5. Why Usability in Documentation?
    • Your flexi-toothbrush has it!
  • 6.
    • Your trim computer screen has it!
    Why Usability in Documentation? iMac vs PC
  • 7. Then, Why Not in the Documentation You Create?
  • 8. Usability is like oxygen — you never notice it until it is missing… Anonymous Usability is like oxygen—you never notice it until it is missing… Anonymous
  • 9.
    • We All Know That!  Still…
    • Documentation Usability Ails! 
  • 10.
    • Inability to find the “right information” in right time
    • Lengthy manuals
    • Poor search results
    • Illegible figures
    • Formatting errors
    • No index
    • Issues beyond testing and review!
    Usability Ails… Few Examples
  • 11. Usability Ails… Few Examples
    • Nested Pop-ups
  • 12. Usability Ails… Few Examples
    • Language and grammar creates barriers
    • Developer language may not be the user’s language
  • 13. Why Documentation Usability Ails?
    • It’s not assumed to be a part of the basic product.
    Would you ever dump this because of poor documentation?
  • 14.
    • It needs an extra effort:
      • More resources (time, money… man hours)
      • And, usually, a different approach to be in the shoes of the user
    Why Documentation Usability Ails?
  • 15. Why Documentation Usability Ails?
    • Compared to other aspects of software designing, we have not done enough in studying users and usability
    Deadlines Impress my Manager? How to deal with developers? Tools
  • 16. Why Documentation Usability Ails?
    • We have not justified the cost of enhancing usability (ROI)
    ? User Manual
  • 17. Why Documentation Usability Ails?
    • TW – An emerging discipline
  • 18. The Need of the Hour is…
  • 19. Addressing Documentation Usability
    • Two-way approach:
      • Defining your approach to address usability
      • Performing usability testing and analysis
  • 20. Setting Right Expectations Beforehand
    • Users are impatient and time pressured varied
    • Users take shortcuts
    • Clean documentation cannot improve messy systems
  • 21. Defining Your Approach to Usability
    • Availability Users should be able to find the documentation for usage
    • Suitability Work towards task oriented, modular documents
    • Accessibility Providing the information that users need
    • Readability Reduce the effort made in reading
    Availability Suitability Accessibility Readability
  • 22. Availability
    • Easily available
    • Available whenever required
  • 23. Suitability
    • Doing audience analysis
      • Identify users
      • + what they need to know
      • - what they already know
    • Creating task-oriented documentation
      • Generate a list of tasks
      • IBM's "Universal Task Architecture"
      • Small and clear topics
    • User task matrix
  • 24. Accessibility
    • Anticipate the information that users will want
    • A page laid out like a map
      • Outline: Conventional vs. modular
      • Define modules: Task matrix becomes list of topics, sub-topics
    • Multiple ways to use document (TOC, indexes, and search)
  • 25. Readability
    • Reader should be able to make out what he/she is reading
    • Function (purpose) of text should dictate its form
    • Replace prose with graphics (action table, decision trees)
    • Edit the document (word, phrase, sentences)
  • 26. Usability Heuristics Techniques
    • Heuristics: Set of rules to increase the probability of solving a problem
    • Nielsen’s Ten Heuristics
      • Be easy to search
      • Focus on the user’s task
      • List concrete steps to be carried out
      • Not be too large
    • Techniques:
      • Chauncey E. Wilson
      • DonnDe Board
      • Vesa Purho
      • TechEd
  • 27. Wilson’s Techniques to Evaluate Usability
    • Provides a list of all-possible techniques that can be used to evaluate usability
  • 28. Vesa Purho’s 10 Documentation Heuristics
    • Majorly qualitative
    • Does not replace careful planning and user-centered design
    • Best used to derive company-specific statements
  • 29. Donn DeBoard’s Heuristics for Online Help
    • Heuristic checklist based on ISO 9241 standard
    • Based on 5Es to understand users:
      • Effective
      • Efficient
      • Engaging
      • Error-tolerant
      • Easy-to-learn
  • 30. Few Last Words
    • Usability is not impossible, but:
      • There is a tendency for usability to become a commodity
      • Usability evolves…
  • 31. References
    • 'If We're So Smart, Why Ain't We Rich?‘ Journal of Computer Documentation August 1998/Vol. 22, No. 3
    • Usability and User Experience Community An STC community
    • Documentation Usability Techniques Chauncey E. Wilson
    • Is UA in Your QA? Carol M. Barnum
    • Studying Document Usability: Grasping the Nettles Judith Ramey