Measuring Doc. Quality?

Subject: Measuring Doc. Quality?
From: Lori Lathrop <76620 -dot- 456 -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 1994 15:43:26 EST

In response to Karen Mayberry (LRSSPFLD!LRS!MAYBERRY -at- LRSMAIL -dot- ATTMAIL -dot- COM),
who asks about measuring documentation quality ...

Karen -- I worked for IBM in Charlotte, NC, for over 12 years and was
involved in quality improvement efforts, including the effort to measure
the quality of our documentation. At that time, I was the lead
instructor for an indexing course through IBM Technical Education, and I
was particularly interested in users' efforts to retrieve information in

Since then (about 3 years ago), my husband accepted a position in
Colorado, and I have been freelancing as a technical writer, editor, and
indexer. My clients include many corporations as well as publishing
houses throughout the U.S. I also present indexing workshops at client
sites and at various professional conferences throughout the U.S. and

Now, with that background information out of the way, my main point is
this: Information is useless unless readers can retrieve it easily.
Another indexer I know says, "If it isn't indexed, it *isn't*."

A *quality* index contains entries for every useful nugget of
information. Quality indexes promote customer satisfaction also reduce
customer calls to Hot Lines and Customer Support. That relates to *real*
cost savings because, when most users call a Hot Line, the information
they need is actually in the documentation but *not* in the index. By
the way, I've heard that calls to Hot Lines cost corporations anywhere
from $75 to $150 per call. So ... when you evaluate the quality of your
documentation, be sure you also evaluate the quality of your indexes.

As a rule of thumb, a quality index for technical documentation should
represent at least 5-8% of the text. That generally corresponds to a
minimum of one double-column index page per twenty pages of text.

Of course, there are many guidelines (which I haven't listed here) for
creating a quality index. If you want more information, please give me a
call or send me an e-mail message.

Lori Lathrop ----------> INTERNET:76620 -dot- 456 -at- compuserve -dot- com
Lathrop Media Services
P.O. Box 808
Georgetown, CO 80444
(Author of _An Indexer's Guide to the Internet_ published by the
American Society of Indexers, P.O. Box 386, Port Aransas, TX 78373)

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