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A technical writer

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A technical writer s role in software quality an experiment Asha Mokashi, SCT Software Solutions, Bangalore Objective Share the experience of playing other ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: A technical writer


1
A technical writers role in software quality
an experiment
  • Asha Mokashi,
  • SCT Software Solutions, Bangalore

2
Objective
  • Share the experience of playing other roles in a
    product team, highlighting the methodology
    followed

3
Contents
  • Going Beyond Roles Why ?
  • Going Beyond Roles How?
  • Moving Forward
  • Constraints and Benefits
  • Conclusion

4
Going Beyond Roles-Why?
5
Our Unique Advantages
  • View from both sides possible users
    perspective and Development/Design teams point
    of view
  • Overall view of product across functions
  • Interaction across Development and Quality
    Testing teams

6
Why go beyond roles?
  • Helps utilize other talents/abilities
  • Reduces the Us-Them divide
  • Results in improved content in Help as you get
    other perspectives, more co-operation
  • Creates ownership over product, not just over
    Help
  • Explores new avenues and aids in career growth

7
Going Beyond Roles How?
8
Company/Work Profile
  • SCT Software Solutions administrative software
    for the higher education market
  • Approximately 1,300 higher education clients
    around the world
  • Product based company - offshore development
    center in Bangalore
  • Direct interaction with client rare

9
My Work Profile
  • Part of team that creates a financial aid
    application
  • Complex application, vast domain, sole technical
    writer
  • 3 years experience in company, worked with other
    applications

10
Going Beyond Documentation
  • Understanding processes
  • Identifying lacunae
  • Undertaking responsibilities

11
Understanding Processes
  • Understanding the Design, Development, and
    Quality
  • Testing Process
  • Reading design documents, following mails between
    Development team and Product Manager that are
    copied to the team
  • Attending design and planning meetings,
    discussions
  • Interacting with Product Manager, Development,
    and Quality Testing teams
  • Discussions with Project Leads to understand
    areas of improvement

12
Identifying Lacunae
  • Insufficient information about users, usage, and
    usability
  • Insufficient awareness about implications of
    incorrect usage and error
  • Insufficient information about business processes
  • Communication gaps resulting in insufficient
    clarity and understanding at design stage

13
Undertaking Responsibilities
  • Providing feedback on user interfaces,
    navigation, and error messages
  • Gathering and sharing information on product and
    business processes with the team
  • Participating in the teams effort to improve
    product quality team divided into various
    groups concentrating on different areas.
    Volunteered to work in the Usability group, as
    the contact person

14
Usability Group Work
  • Methodology followed
  • Identify deliverables
  • Submit a list of deliverables with dates
  • Keep an activity log
  • Consolidate learning
  • Give recommendations to team
  • Plan for future activities

15
Deliverables
  1. Presentation on usability to increase awareness
  2. Presentation on usability testing
  3. Prepare profile of a typical user and identify
    conditions of product usage
  4. Conduct usability testing
  5. Give feedback, from a users point of view,
    during Functional Specifications meetings

16
Deliverables (Contd.)
  1. Go through all the screens and log errors,
    inaccuracies
  2. Give feedback and raise usability issues in
    functions being developed
  3. Identify lacunae in Functional Specifications,
    give feedback to Product Manager
  4. Create a Finding Your Way chapter in Help
  5. Present findings and process to company

17
1. Presentation on Usability
  • Introduced Usability as a concept to the team,
    its history, its growing importance, and related
    it to our products
  • Introduced Human Factors Engineering, User
    Centric Design
  • Pointed out myths about usability, why it is
    neglected, and why we cannot afford to neglect it

18
2. Presentation on Usability Testing
  • Introduced methods of Usability Testing, Test
    Plans, Usability Management
  • Presented Usability Testing report prepared by a
    Product Manager for another product

19
3. Preparation of User Profile
  • Sent Audience Analysis questionnaires to Product
    Manager - for example, got information on
    educational level, age group, computer
    proficiency of users, familiarity with student
    aid, familiarity with other aid-related software
    etc.
  • Collected job profiles from the Net, especially
    those from the sites of our client universities
  • Collected first-hand information from
    implementers and support people

20
Preparation of User Profile (Contd.)
  • Some findings
  • Most users are not familiar with Windows
  • Financial Aid counselors work under a lot of
    pressure, handle huge amount of data, are
    frequently interrupted
  • Evaluated on ability to complete tasks on time
    panic when errors occur This is my fault, not
    the applications

21
4. Usability Testing
  • Identified people in office who came closest to
    the user profile we prepared using methodology
    learned, assigned tasks to them, and made
    observations
  • Presented results to team with recommendations.
    For example, error messages could provide
    solutions, so the user is not stuck without
    knowing what to do next

22
5. Feedback during FSP Discussions
  • For Functional Specification (FSP) discussions
    read the FSP from a users point of view
  • Raised issues that could create confusion or
    difficulties for the user

23
6. Logged Errors
  • Went through the product screen-by-screen, logged
    UI errors, and suggested improvements
  • List sent to the Product Manager who approved
    these changes
  • Changes implemented during the next release

24
7. Feedback during Development
  • Gave feedback and raised usability issues in
    functions that were being developed or to which
    enhancements were being made
  • Pointed out improvements, suggested better error
    messages, and navigation that saved time and gave
    more choices to users

25
8. FSP Feedback
  • Identified lacunae in FSPs and made a feedback
    list
  • Collected inputs from all team members and
    feedback sent to Product Manager

26
9. Finding Your Way chapter
  • Created a Finding Your Way chapter in Help that
    helps users to configure the application from
    scratch
  • It takes them step by step through the various
    tasks that they can perform with the application
  • Helps users associate business processes with the
    application

27
10. Presentation to Office
  • Presented the whole process to the entire office
    as a model process, describing the methodology
    followed
  • Stressed the importance of Doing it right the
    first time, and how important it is to build in
    quality right at the design and development stage
    itself, as it is impossible to catch all errors
    in testing

28
Moving Forward
29
Moving Forward
  • Initiate usability work across teams a
    Usability Group has been formed with
    representatives from all teams
  • Get more user feedback on product and Help
    identify usability-related requirements
  • Make checklists at FSP, Design, and Development
    stage, build in more processes for quality check

30
Moving Forward (Contd.)
  • Focus on usage scenarios, anticipate problems
  • Make our applications usable for physically
    challenged users

31
Constraints and Benefits
32
Constraints
  • Insufficient availability of time due to project
    pressures. In the initial stages had to put in a
    lot of work after office hours and during
    weekends
  • Breaking established beliefs and practices
  • People need to be convinced of the necessity to
    change - biggest challenge

33
Benefits
  • Heightened awareness of usability and usage in
    team becomes everyones concern
  • Time wastage due to insufficient information in
    FSP, or errors corrected very late, is reduced
  • Better and more informative error messages

34
Benefits (Contd.)
  • Findings about usage used to create better system
    test plans
  • Finding Your Way chapter made a standard across
    all applications
  • Better working relationships and more
    co-operation from developers as far as
    documentation is concerned

35
Benefits (Contd.)
  • Better Help due to my improved understanding of
    business processes and user requirements, and
    more information flow from developers
  • Usability group created with members from all
    teams. This has the potential to make a great
    difference across all products in the company

36
Conclusion
  • Going beyond roles - learning experience that
    opens up new possibilities constantly

37
Thank you for your time !
38
Questions
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