SW Documentation

The effective use of software can be greatly boosted by well-designed and user-friendly documentation.

ISO 26513:2009, Systems and Software Engineering: Requirements for Testers and Reviewers of User Documentation, defines the process through which user documentation products are tested. This new standard will help to ensure that software users are provided with consistent, complete, accurate, and usable documentation.

The standard provides the minimum requirements for the testing and reviewing of user documentation. It applies to printed user manuals, online help, tutorials, and user reference documentation. The standard only deals with the evaluation of documentation, not the evaluation of the software supported by the documentation.

The standard was developed to assist those who test and review software user documentation during the software life cycle process. The standard will also be useful for information designers or architects involved in planning the structure and format of the documentation set, as well as, usability specialists and business analysts who identify tasks the intended users are expected to perform with the software.

Documentation evaluations are conducted throughout a document’s development, production, and maintenance. These evaluations include methods such as:

  • Documentation review
  • System testing
  • Usability testing
  • Accessibility testing
  • Localization and customization testing

The standard also contains informative checklists for use at each phase of the verifying process that will allow testers and reviewers to highlight any defects or nonconformities.

ISO 26513 is the second of a new series of standards for software user documentation especially developed for those involved in the documentation design and development process:

  • ISO 26514: 2008, Systems and Software Engineering: Requirements for Designers and Developers of User Documentation, is already available.
  • ISO 26511, Systems and Software Engineering: Requirements for Managers of User Documentation, and,
  • ISO 26512, Systems and Software Engineering: Requirements for Acquirers and Suppliers of User Documentation, are being developed.

For a more complete description of ISO 26513, and to order the standard if interested, see this ANSI Standards Store web page.