The Importance of Documentation

The title of this post comes off a lot like “The Importance of Eating Your Vegetables”, but I think when you work for a non-profit this really is important.

During the process of researching our users, listening to our stakeholders, developing scenarios and personas, drawing wireframes, and all the other good stuff that goes into developing our website we’ve made a ton of decisions. We’ve weighed different alternatives, had great insights, and ditched some ideas we used to think were great insights. The ramifications of those decisions are obvious to us, but what about the people who follow us?

If we’re replaced, we want new people to at least understand where we were coming from even if they decide to go in a totally different direction. Thus, it’s important that we properly document all of our UX activities. I’m not talking about writing a thick binder that will sit on a shelf somewhere and never get read.
Our web team uses an Assembla wiki to track our activities, describe our research results, and explain the rationale behind our UX decisions. Anyone who comes along later and wonders what questions we asked during our user interviews, or why we made certain changes to our site navigation will be able to get those answers.
That helps the organization by reducing the impetus for new web staff to re-invent the wheel because they don’t understand the history of our site development. The less re-inventing our organization does (without a good reason) the more efficient it is at accomplishing its goals in the real world.

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