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Hi there! I am Federico Trotta

Technical WriterFreelance

How To Measure Documentation Quality?

Febbraio 19, 2024
By Federico
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In engineering, measurement is the only way to improve. But when we talk about documentation, a question arises: how do we measure the documentation quality?

When it comes to quality, I like to maintain a “manufacturing” approach, in the sense that I understand quality as something that makes the customer happy.

But how do we know what makes the customer happy in terms of documentation? First of all, it is worth specifying that the quality of the documentation (but in reality, this applies to anything) can only be verified a posteriori.

In other words, we can only verify it when it has been put into production and enjoyed by customers for a certain time. In my experience as a Technical Writer I have found and tried 3 types of approaches to documentation quality, and this article covers all three.

Measuring documentation quality through analytics

A first approach to measuring the quality of documentation is through analytics.

The idea is to connect your document site to tools like Google Analytics and measure traffic. You can take into account as many metrics as you want, just as you would for a site.

For example:

  • Bounce rate.
  • Average and minimum time spent on a page.
  • Geographical origins of users.

And many more.

The idea to keep in mind is that we are studying the quality of documentation through traffic, which is a little different than studying traffic on “any website”.

What I mean is that we need to ask ourselves specific questions, like:

  • Users spend “X” minutes daily on this page. This value is much higher than the average time spent on other pages. Is this a positive or negative sign? That is: do users spend a lot of time there because this page is very long or because the text is not clear on the process to follow?
  • Users land on this page and spend very little time there. Does this mean that this documentation page is very clear or that it is useless?

Measuring documentation quality through support tickets or customer care contacts

Documentation is always important, but one of the clear signs that demonstrate that your company needs technical documentation is the countless requests that customers make to support, customer care, sales, or anyone who interfaces with them.

A great way to check for documentation quality, therefore, is to evaluate the difference between the support tickets (or emails received from customer care or sales) since you started implementing the documentation.

In general, good documentation will ensure that the number of tickets or emails decreases over time.

However, you need to pay attention to one thing:

It is naturally impossible that the number of tickets or emails will exactly go to zero. Take into consideration that people don’t read and want immediate solutions. There is nothing wrong with your documentation, then, if the requests do not go to zero. But think that, once the documentation is in production, many requests will be able to get a response like “Dear customer, to find out how to best use this feature, we invite you to read the documentation for our product at this link”.
Zero effort, ticket closed in one touch.

Measuring documentation quality through direct response surveys

The best way to get answers is…to ask questions!

In this specific case, documentation quality can be verified by sending surveys to customers.

In this case, it is worth keeping in mind that your customers are very busy, just like you are. So, those who use your software will certainly want to help you understand how to improve the service towards them, but don’t create a half-hour survey.

The basic idea, at least for a very first survey, is to ask questions about the parts of the documentation that you think may be a little dubious and leave space to ask customers directly about possible areas to improve that have not been mentioned.

Of course, this type of approach to documentation quality works when you have enough customers that the survey responses make statistical sense. To give you an idea, it makes sense to do this when you have a few dozen customers (because some won’t respond!)

Conclusions

Great, so what method should you use to verify the quality of the documentation?

The answer is…it depends!

In general, a combination of all three can be decisive. For example, if you want to directly answer the questions that have arisen in the study of analytics, a good way to answer is through a direct response survey.


Hi, my name is Federico and I am a freelance Technical Writer:

Federico Trotta

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Federico Trotta

Technical Writer: I document digital products and write articles about AI & Python programming.

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