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Measuring documentation quality -- a rubric for developer docs

by Tom Johnson on Jan 12, 2021 •
categories: writing apidoc-site-updates

I recently added a much-needed topic in my API course: a list of criteria for assessing API documentation quality. This list has 80 characteristics sorted into the following categories: Findability, Accuracy, Relevance, Clarity, Completeness, and Readability. I also describe ways to score and assess the docs for quantitative measurements.

Here’s the intro:

As you set goals for your role or team, you might want to measure your impact on documentation quality in some way. The main reason for measuring your impact should be to evaluate your progress against documentation improvement goals. If you don’t have any data to provide feedback on your efforts, it’s hard to know if you’re making a difference.

Also, metrics are essential for business reasons: upper management will invariably ask you for metrics of some kind (because what you can’t measure, you can’t manage). Metrics will also be key if you’re making the case for a promotion (leveling up) or defending your performance during annual review time. Ultimately, though, you need metrics to answer this question: Is what I’m doing making a difference?

Despite the importance of metrics about documentation quality, they are an elusive, holy-grail type task that almost no one in the industry has nailed down. How do you know if your docs are any good? Few can answer this question in any objective way. In this section, I’ll provide a strategy for making metrics more approachable by scoring docs against a rubric of best practices.

Read more here: Measuring progress against documentation quality goals – a practical checklist to evaluate documentation.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.