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When it comes to product documentation and other forms of user assistance, everybody wants high-quality content. But what does “quality” mean, exactly?

When user assistance development architect Jordan Stanchev (SAP Bulgaria) started asking this question, he discovered many different answers. So he started looking for patterns. He surveyed more people – with varying degrees of expertise in the field of technical communication – asking them, “In your opinion, what makes software documentation a high-quality deliverable?”

Over time, some key aspects of quality emerged. Eleven, to be precise. Jordan gathered these characteristics into a framework for creating the ideal user assistance document.

Here’s a quick summary of these quality characteristics:

  • Helpful: Is the content relevant to the readers and focused on solving their problems?

  • Comprehensive: Does it cover all aspects of using the application?

  • Searchable: Is it easy to find, and to navigate?

  • Visual: Does it meet the needs of visual learners by providing graphics, diagrams, videos, and more?

  • Usable: Is it direct and well-organized?

  • Readable: Does it use clear, simple language?

  • Reliable: Is it up-to-date and accurate?

  • Grammatically Correct: Is it free of typos and grammar mistakes?

  • Translatable and Localization Friendly: Is it easy to translate and localize?

  • Accessible: Is it available in various formats, to meet the needs of all users?

  • Appropriate Tone: Is it simple and personable?

Jordan uses a radar chart to identify the qualities where more work is needed to get to what he describes as “perfect documentation”.

Jordan used these criteria to visualize and compare document quality.

For more about Jordan’s quest for quality, see the presentation he delivered at the latest TEKOM (European Association for Technical Communication) convention.

More about Quality

The SAP UA editing team is also looking for innovative ways to define and promote quality. We’ve designed a “quality audit” that teams can run on their content to determine a quality score that they can improve over time. The audit consists of many of the eleven qualities defined here by Jordan, but also considers technical quality, including broken links, search engine findability, and navigation issues.

To read more on the series “How to Improve Quality,” follow the tag SAP Help Portal. You’ll learn how SAP is continuously looking for ways to improve your user experience with SAP Help Portal. (Read our previous post here.)

If you have questions/concerns/suggestions about quality, please reach out to the SAP-UA-Editors or ask a question on the SAP Community. We’d love to discuss your input.

UA CSI Content Quality & Guidance team