How do you measure technical documents?

by Ivan Walsh on November 21, 2009

One of our tech docs team was fired yesterday. Why? Technical documents provide no value.

This is how Management sees it.

Tech docs are nice to have but NOT essential.

Tech docs are useful but LESS important than development, user interface and marketing.

Are they right?

It’s hard not to get defensive in these situations. But maybe they have a point.

I was asked – “what metrics do you use to tell if the documents are successful?”

I did.

But they didn’t like (or agree) with my interpretation.

Do you even have any metrics?

How can you tell (objectively) that your documents are worth the money?

If not, maybe you next to be called into the office.

“Look , your documents are great but…”

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  • KaranSachar

    Hi Ivan,

    What are these success metrics? Kindly explain.

    Karan

  • KaranSachar

    Hi Ivan,

    What are these success metrics? Kindly explain.

    Karan

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Hello Karan,

    There are different ways of approaching this.

    For example, how can you tell how successful users are when reading your documents?

    Do they understand the instructions?

    Are they able to follow the material without getting lost?

    Do they know where to find the material? I.e. indexes, sitemaps.

    The reason I ask this is two-fold.

    1. Companies have approached me to test how ‘efficient’ their documents really are. There is a growing concern that ‘documentation’ needs to be tested more rigorously – otherwise, it’s a luxury.

    2. The more I move into consultancy and away from day to day tech writing, the more these type of questions come up. How can we save money with our tech docs? How can we use them to generate sales, leads, endorsements etc.

    So, it’s an open question.

    How do you test documents and how do you justify their use?

    If you don’t test them…

    Regards,

    Ivan

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Hello Karan,

    There are different ways of approaching this.

    For example, how can you tell how successful users are when reading your documents?

    Do they understand the instructions?

    Are they able to follow the material without getting lost?

    Do they know where to find the material? I.e. indexes, sitemaps.

    The reason I ask this is two-fold.

    1. Companies have approached me to test how ‘efficient’ their documents really are. There is a growing concern that ‘documentation’ needs to be tested more rigorously – otherwise, it’s a luxury.

    2. The more I move into consultancy and away from day to day tech writing, the more these type of questions come up. How can we save money with our tech docs? How can we use them to generate sales, leads, endorsements etc.

    So, it’s an open question.

    How do you test documents and how do you justify their use?

    If you don’t test them…

    Regards,

    Ivan

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