Does documentation improve quality?

Slashdot logoSunday I read a Slashdot post on (software) Documentation As a Bug-Finding Tool. The object was a blog entry on detecting quality problems by documenting code.

Wherever you stand regarding the practice of documenting code, you might agree that writing user documentation can uncover quality issues.

  • As perhaps one of the first “users” of new functionality, a writer can expose usability problems.
    Sometimes a good way of exposing a usability problem is to document thoroughly and correctly how to use the software.
  • When creating examples, writers sometimes break the software.
    Breaking software when creating legitimate examples is a source of helpful bug reports. If the writer finds severe bugs, software that breaks on a legitimate example is also a sign that the software is not finished.
  • Sometimes careful documentation uncovers discrepancies in how the software works vs. how the builders really want it to work.

If you also get the people building the software to review what you write thoroughly, you no doubt will manage to uncover more issues in the software, not only in the documentation. For active projects, even just reviewing the list of known issues in the release notes can help expose things everybody might otherwise fail to notice.

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