To gauge the efficiency of your documentation, consider the time spent to create it plus the time it takes to use it.
That’s the lesson I learned from applying Scott Berkun’s make vs. consume ratio to documentation. Scott’s idea is generally that it takes time A to create a tweet or a poem, a book or a movie, and time B to read or watch it. Scott relates the two measures and points out how you can easily consume in a few hours what authors and publishers, actors and movie people have spent months fabricating.
“make + consume” in documentation
When it comes to documentation, I think you can add both measures to gauge efficiency of documentation – though not its coverage or quality!
But just for time, I try to keep in mind these tactics:
- Minimize the total time required for you to create your documentation and for customers to find, use and apply it.
- Consider spending more time to make your documentation faster and easier to use, especially if you find that customers have trouble with it.
- Consider spending less time with documentation tasks that do not help your customers in using the described product.
Of course, time isn’t the only yardstick. Accuracy, completeness, legal and contractual obligations are just some of the other factors.
Still, I’ve found “make+consume time” a useful benchmark to stay focused on what ultimately benefits the user and what doesn’t.
If you’re concerned about documentation efficiency, you might also find earlier posts of interest:
- How and why to estimate writing efforts
- Top strategies to embrace cost metrics
- Top 3 success factors in online help systems, one of which is speed
How do you gauge the efficiency of your documentation process and output? Can you credit your efforts towards making your documentation faster and easier to use? Please leave a comment.