6 qualities of good documentation

"Incorrect documentation is often worse than no documentation." - Bertrand Meyer

Why is it important to have good documentation? How can I know if a document is of good quality? These are just a few questions that may come to mind when you're thinking about creating documentation, no matter what project it concerns.

Some common errors in poor documentation include that it is hard to understand, ambiguous, inconsistent, inaccurate, incomplete or outdated. If your documentation is lacking, it can result in erroneous information that can frustrate and drive away customers. It can also confuse and cause problems for users, which is why investing in good documentation is so essential. Good documentation provides information needed by the user that will allow them to do their work efficiently while also answering their questions.

Documentation plays a significant role in the success of a project, and just having documentation is not enough. What is important is the quality of the documents. Documentation is available in various forms, including digital, written or published online. Regardless of its structure, here are the six qualities of good documentation:

  1. Easy to Understand and Inviting - Documents are written based on their target audience, who contribute significantly in producing an easy-to-understand document. Other factors that contribute are proper punctuation marks, grammatical accuracy, numbering and what template to use. Lastly, arranging the paper's content chronologically helps make the document inviting and easy to understand.
  2. Accurate and Comprehensive- The information in the document is correct and detailed, making the documentation reliable and trustworthy.
  3. Consistent - The terminologies and format used throughout the document are uniform.
  4. Complete - All information must be in the document regardless of its size. It provides well-explained content with no gaps, missing requirements or information. If necessary data cannot be found, then the record is incomplete.
  5. Traceable - The ability to track the document's history, such as who first created the document and when changes were made. This also includes the ability to track resources or reference documents used.
  6. Up to Date - As web and software products evolve, so do their correlating documents. If there are changes in the product, service or process, it is essential to update its documentation to include the changes, thus, reducing the risk of making mistakes.

There are different types and forms of documentation; writers have unique writing styles and techniques; users have specific preferences about documentation. We cannot please everyone, but if you know the qualities of good documentation and your audience, you can create good documentation that is useful to most users.

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