General Software

New ISO/IEC Standard Available

15 Sep, 2008

Standards aim to help designers and developers of user software documentation.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) announced late last week the release of ISO/IEC 26514, a new suite of standards to address software user documentation. These standards were developed to address the needs of user documentation designers and developers; three further standards are being developed that will address the needs of managers; acquirers and suppliers; and testers and assessors of software user documentation.

The standard defines the documentation process from the documentation developer's standpoint. It covers the phases involved in designing, specifying, and producing. It applies to both printed documentation and on-screen documentation.

ISO/IEC 26514 is divided in two parts. The first part covers the user documentation process for designers and developers. It describes how to determine what information users need, how to select the best way in which that information is presented to the users, and how to prepare the information and make it available. It is not limited to the design and development phase of the life cycle, but includes activities throughout the information management and documentation processes. The second part provides minimum requirements for the structure, information content, and format of user documentation, including both printed and on-screen documents. It applies to printed user manuals, online help, tutorials, and user reference documentation. The standard recommends that development of the user documentation should be part of the development of the software product and follows the same processes as the software product life cycle.