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Documentation Usability


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Published in: Technology, Business
  • 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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Documentation Usability

  1. 1. Documentation Usability Vidisha Bhardwaj Technical Writer, Team RMS
  2. 2. Agenda of This Presentation <ul><li>What is Usability? </li></ul><ul><li>Typical documentation usability issues </li></ul><ul><li>Approach for a technical writer to ensure usability </li></ul><ul><li>Available techniques to verify documentation usability </li></ul>
  3. 3. What is Usability? <ul><li>The effectiveness , efficiency , and satisfaction with which specified users can achieve specified goals in particular environments . </li></ul><ul><li>ISO 9241 usability definition </li></ul>
  4. 4. Why Usability in Documentation? Your free-flowing salt has it!
  5. 5. Why Usability in Documentation? <ul><li>Your flexi-toothbrush has it! </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Your trim computer screen has it! </li></ul>Why Usability in Documentation? iMac vs PC
  7. 7. Then, Why Not in the Documentation You Create?
  8. 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. 9. <ul><li>We All Know That!  Still… </li></ul><ul><li>Documentation Usability Ails!  </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Inability to find the “right information” in right time </li></ul><ul><li>Lengthy manuals </li></ul><ul><li>Poor search results </li></ul><ul><li>Illegible figures </li></ul><ul><li>Formatting errors </li></ul><ul><li>No index </li></ul><ul><li>Issues beyond testing and review! </li></ul>Usability Ails… Few Examples
  11. 11. Usability Ails… Few Examples <ul><li>Nested Pop-ups </li></ul>
  12. 12. Usability Ails… Few Examples <ul><li>Language and grammar creates barriers </li></ul><ul><li>Developer language may not be the user’s language </li></ul>
  13. 13. Why Documentation Usability Ails? <ul><li>It’s not assumed to be a part of the basic product. </li></ul>Would you ever dump this because of poor documentation?
  14. 14. <ul><li>It needs an extra effort: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>More resources (time, money… man hours) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>And, usually, a different approach to be in the shoes of the user </li></ul></ul>Why Documentation Usability Ails?
  15. 15. Why Documentation Usability Ails? <ul><li>Compared to other aspects of software designing, we have not done enough in studying users and usability </li></ul>Deadlines Impress my Manager? How to deal with developers? Tools
  16. 16. Why Documentation Usability Ails? <ul><li>We have not justified the cost of enhancing usability (ROI) </li></ul>? User Manual
  17. 17. Why Documentation Usability Ails? <ul><li>TW – An emerging discipline </li></ul>
  18. 18. The Need of the Hour is…
  19. 19. Addressing Documentation Usability <ul><li>Two-way approach: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Defining your approach to address usability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Performing usability testing and analysis </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Setting Right Expectations Beforehand <ul><li>Users are impatient and time pressured varied </li></ul><ul><li>Users take shortcuts </li></ul><ul><li>Clean documentation cannot improve messy systems </li></ul>
  21. 21. Defining Your Approach to Usability <ul><li>Availability Users should be able to find the documentation for usage </li></ul><ul><li>Suitability Work towards task oriented, modular documents </li></ul><ul><li>Accessibility Providing the information that users need </li></ul><ul><li>Readability Reduce the effort made in reading </li></ul>Availability Suitability Accessibility Readability
  22. 22. Availability <ul><li>Easily available </li></ul><ul><li>Available whenever required </li></ul>
  23. 23. Suitability <ul><li>Doing audience analysis </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify users </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>+ what they need to know </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- what they already know </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Creating task-oriented documentation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Generate a list of tasks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>IBM's &quot;Universal Task Architecture&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Small and clear topics </li></ul></ul><ul><li>User task matrix </li></ul>
  24. 24. Accessibility <ul><li>Anticipate the information that users will want </li></ul><ul><li>A page laid out like a map </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Outline: Conventional vs. modular </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Define modules: Task matrix becomes list of topics, sub-topics </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Multiple ways to use document (TOC, indexes, and search) </li></ul>
  25. 25. Readability <ul><li>Reader should be able to make out what he/she is reading </li></ul><ul><li>Function (purpose) of text should dictate its form </li></ul><ul><li>Replace prose with graphics (action table, decision trees) </li></ul><ul><li>Edit the document (word, phrase, sentences) </li></ul>
  26. 26. Usability Heuristics Techniques <ul><li>Heuristics: Set of rules to increase the probability of solving a problem </li></ul><ul><li>Nielsen’s Ten Heuristics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be easy to search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on the user’s task </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>List concrete steps to be carried out </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not be too large </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Techniques: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chauncey E. Wilson </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>DonnDe Board </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Vesa Purho </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>TechEd </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Wilson’s Techniques to Evaluate Usability <ul><li>Provides a list of all-possible techniques that can be used to evaluate usability </li></ul>
  28. 28. Vesa Purho’s 10 Documentation Heuristics <ul><li>Majorly qualitative </li></ul><ul><li>Does not replace careful planning and user-centered design </li></ul><ul><li>Best used to derive company-specific statements </li></ul>
  29. 29. Donn DeBoard’s Heuristics for Online Help <ul><li>Heuristic checklist based on ISO 9241 standard </li></ul><ul><li>Based on 5Es to understand users: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Effective </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Efficient </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engaging </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Error-tolerant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Easy-to-learn </li></ul></ul>
  30. 30. Few Last Words <ul><li>Usability is not impossible, but: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There is a tendency for usability to become a commodity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Usability evolves… </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. References <ul><li>'If We're So Smart, Why Ain't We Rich?‘ Journal of Computer Documentation August 1998/Vol. 22, No. 3 </li></ul><ul><li>Usability and User Experience Community An STC community </li></ul><ul><li>Documentation Usability Techniques Chauncey E. Wilson </li></ul><ul><li>Is UA in Your QA? Carol M. Barnum </li></ul><ul><li>Studying Document Usability: Grasping the Nettles Judith Ramey </li></ul>