This question occurs every time an InfoDev embarks upon a new project. Quality requirements actually reflect what the target audience wants you to deliver. Hence, it is vital to determine the relevant quality measures before you start and follow them throughout the document development life cycle.
Today we are well equipped with a number of orthodox guides and regulations that provide us with theoretical knowledge. However, having one of them at hand does not make you a master of technical communication. Solid analytical skills paired with a sharp mind are the only means that we can rely on while doing our job. The key is to be able to think deeper than just choosing the right guide to follow.
A good InfoDev should be able to break down the project goals into smaller particles and transform them into key quality indicators. In other words, you should be able to create KPIs that show your success.
From the perspective of technical communication, the overall quality of a document can be decomposed to the following elements:
- Usability: Why do they need it? Users want to use your document, rather than read it. Determine the needs and only after that choose the guide to follow. Even standard documents should be customized and adjusted for each particular project.
- Accuracy: Does the document describe the actual state of the product? It is vital to be as precise as possible because a small mistake in a manual for a tool at a nuclear power station might result in something a bit more complicated than just a puzzled user.
- Completeness: Have I documented all the features? Think from the audience point of view and always double check whether the user really wants to know about that little red button in the middle of the emergency generator control panel.
- Conciseness: Do I need Charles Dickens here? Logorrhoea is unacceptable in technical communication. Being inebriated with the exuberance of your own verbosity while writing a document might turn the whole thing into a disaster for the target audience.
- Expandability: What if? Think about the future of the project and make the modules of the document customizable. Sometimes they just change the UI and it destroys everything. Maintenance is always easier when your deliverables are flexible.
These are just the general measures. Every project is different, so is the impact of these measures. Moreover, technology will reach the next milestone of development faster than you finish reading this post and you will have to adapt. The correlation between the development of technology and the evolution of the society turns our trade into a stormy ocean. The deeper you dive into analysis, the better the quality of your documentation is. You are always welcome to break down each of the above-mentioned measures into even smaller particles. You are the one to decide the level of precision and assign the appropriate quality indicators. I just gave you a hint on how to think. Analyze, evolve and be flexible.