Reviewer Role in Technical Documentation
Accurate and up-to-date documentation is the key to success for every company. As a technical writer, you are responsible for creating a document, but who is accountable for a correct document being published? It’s a reviewer’s role to provide a credible resource for how to use your product. Everybody wins in this situation: a company develops a high reputation and a user gets a positive experience in using a product.
A reviewer evaluates documentation based on the requirements of that document, predefined criteria, and the quality, completeness, and accuracy. They provide feedback, suggest improvements, and make a recommendation about whether to accept, reject or request changes to the document. Reviewers play a significant role in determining the outcome.
Reviewers have the following responsibilities:
- To provide constructively, written, and unbiased feedback in a given period of time.
- To indicate whether or not writing is clear, and relevant, with technical accuracy.
- To avoid some personal criticism and comments.
- To provide a constructive and informative critique of the submitted work.
- To determine the scope of the work.
Technical review is not that simple, so here are some tips to improve the technical accuracy of your company’s documentation:
- Develop a checklist. A review checklist is intended to keep the reviewers on track and focused on the technical accuracy of the documentation. List the technical facts to verify that the technology works as documented. Verify the technical accuracy of all procedural steps included and all screen captures in the document.
- Enhance the technical level of expertise. Encourage the technical writers to read more about the technologies behind your products.
- Provide access to internal releases of the product during the documentation development cycle. Enable tech writers to practice with the product to get a new perspective and not rely only on interviewing the experts. It can give a fresh perspective that developers and project managers may not be able to see for themselves.
- Work with the document authors to identify the sections of the document that absolutely must be reviewed. Provide the reviewer who has a stretched schedule with a list of exactly what you need them to review in the document.
- Assign technical reviewers for documentation in the project plan so that the technical reviews won’t be disregarded.
- Use the special help authoring tool. In ClickHelp, for instance, there’s a special user role for reviewers. Users of this type have their UI that is focused on review functionality. You can set up a custom review process with features like ToDo lists, customizable email notifications, and review comments. If you have a Reviewer but lack a real review workflow, you are not maxing out this process. The approach when you send a ready text to some person who should be responsible for reviewing will take you nowhere. You need is a stable workflow. Ideally, it should be supported with your help writing software.
In ClickHelp you can set up a review process using:
- Customizable email notifications
- Flexible user roles and permissions
- Topic statuses
- To-Do lists
- Review comments
Make sure to have a review process aimed at eliminating old topics or parts of topics that became useless.
Some companies do not have a dedicated reviewer role. Not having a reviewer means that there is either no serious review process involved which does not promote documentation quality or that these responsibilities are split between different team members. Reviewing requires specific skills and it certainly takes time to refine a technical text. So, having a dedicated employee to do this job is preferable.
A thorough technical documentation review benefits both external and internal customers. The quality of the documentation has a direct impact on how the product is perceived by the customers. Keep that in mind building your relationship with reviewers. All parties should share this goal. Your SMEs should remember the value of reviewers in technical writing. It will make working together much easier.
“Follow the river and you will get to the sea.”