July 2017
Text by Sandy Bartell and Brian Traynor

Image: © Ian Allenden/123rf.com

Sandy Bartell is a professional technical communicator and the convenor of the ISO Systems, Software, and IT Services working group.


sandy.bartell[at]boeing.com
www.boeing.com




Brian Traynor is an Associate Professor in the Information Design program at the School of Communication Studies at Mount Royal University in Canada. Brian has research interests in user satisfaction measures and the attribution of blame by users.


btraynor[at]mtroyal.ca
www.mtroyal.ca


 


 

ISO/IEC/IEEE Standard 26513 calls for early testing of user documentation

For every product or service launched, thousands of words are written for technical manuals, product guides, marketing documentation, software help, websites, blogs, articles, health and safety warnings, and more. Taking a few steps to incorporate usability, accessibility, and localization early in the documentation process can save time, resources and money.

The "ISO/IEC/IEEE Standard 26513, Systems and software engineering – Requirements for testers and reviewers of user documentation" assists those who are involved in the testing and reviewing of information for users in the context of software and systems development. The standard reinforces the need for end users to receive information about software and systems that is usable, complete, consistent, and accurate. A strong emphasis is placed on the need for testing information products with real users during the development cycle.

Originally published in 2011, the standard has been revised to include a stronger focus on document evaluation strategy, usability testing, accessibility testing of user information, reviewing and testing of translation and localization, a new annex with user-centered testing and reviewing guidelines, and an extended bibliography. Publication of this new revision is expected in 2017.

Content

This standard provides specific guidance regarding the processes for testing and reviewing end-user information. However, it is not concerned with evaluating the software or systems themselves. While the standard primarily focuses on the testing and reviewing stages of the software or system lifecycle, it covers all of the activities of the information management and documentation management process.

The standard applies to printed and online information developed for:

  • Systems (operating, integrated)
  • Applications (user-driven, role-based, task-based)
  • Hardware (machine instructions, embedded content)
  • Documentation created for users who are not end users such as computer operators, system administrators, and installers
  • Maintenance information for systems software internal operation

Target group

While the standard mainly applies to testers, reviewers, and related roles, others may also be involved, for example:

  • Information developers and architects
  • Usability and business analysts
  • Test participants
  • Managers of the software development process
  • Project managers
  • Computer operators, installers, or system administrators
  • Customer support professionals including help desks, repair, return, and training

What's new?

Testing and reviewing user information (including the user interface, navigation, organization and labeling systems) should be part of the product development lifecycle and should be performed in conjunction with the development of the software and systems. The testing of all documentation should be a part of the product development and not a separate exercise. Although accurate user documentation cannot be completed until the software product has been fully developed, the user documentation and the product both benefit from concurrent development and testing. Exposure to end-user feedback can identify design and comprehension issues early, demonstrate performance expectations, provide guidance on learnability, and assess user satisfaction/experience.

The updated areas of this standard are listed and described in the following table:

 

Documentation review

Planning for reviews, defining criteria, resources needed, administration of reviews; issue identification and record-keeping expectations

System test of documentation

Establishing elements for system test, planning, designing and execution of tests, defining entrance and exit criteria. Tracking problem severity and resolution should align to normal project change control processes.

Note: While testing of the information for users may uncover issues with the software or system being developed, this standard does not cover the resolution of these problems.


Accessibility testing of documentation

The scope and importance of accessibility testing is covered. This is particularly important for integrated product content. Assistive technologies and automated validation tools can provide confirmation of appropriate standards being achieved.

Review and testing of translation and localization

Translation may require additional resources and time in order to achieve coordinated release. Some key areas for review and testing are identified.

Annex A - User-centered test and review guidelines

These guidelines suggest user-centric approaches to test activities that will allow information products to be developed so they satisfy the primary user:

  • Support for an action-oriented approach
  • Support for real tasks
  • Support for error recognition and recovery
  • Support for information access
  • Content for translation

Bibliography

A comprehensive list of related ISO standards as well as selected references to support information developers with their test and verification processes.