University of Limerick
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Digital content development: the impact of global content development guidelines on the usability, readability and translatability of online user assistance documentation

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posted on 2023-01-20, 14:11 authored by Lorcan Ryan
The original contribution to knowledge from this study is a set of evidence showing that the application of global content development guidelines (GCDGs) has a measurable impact on the human usability, readability and translatability of online user assistance (UA) documentation. A second important research input is the development of the Localisation Knowledge Repository (LKR), the first demonstrable system capable of both checking source content for guideline transgressions and using XML Localisation Interchange File Format (XLIFF) to add, store and reuse metadata throughout the entire global content development value chain. Although the fields of technical communication and localisation are not new, there is still no consensus, either in academia or industry, about which is the most effective technique to optimise documentation quality. This study investigates the impact that one such technique, the application of GCDGs, has on three quality aspects of the online UA documentation that correspond the requirements of a global audience: human usability, readability, and translatability. A mixed method approach is taken, employing seven different research methods: systematic analysis, online survey, feasibility study, content rewrite, controlled experiment, readability testing, and translatability triangulation. The research implementation involves creating an original data set from real world online UA documentation, rewriting the UA to conform to the directives of a set of carefully-selected GCDGs, constructing an edited version of the data set with the rewritten UA material, testing the quality of both data sets, and comparing the quality evaluation results to gauge what impact the application of the GCDGs had on the quality of the online UA material. The research results show that the application of GCDGs improves the usability and translatability of the UA material compiled for this study, as well as some components of its readability. However, the findings also show deterioration in other aspects of the UA readability. The research results address the lack of empirical evidence demonstrating the impact of GCDGs on the quality of documentation, with the LKR offering a practical new approach to implement guidelines and address the quality of digital content upstream in the global content development value chain.



  • Faculty of Science and Engineering


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Cleary, Yvonne

Second supervisor

Schäler, Reinhard



Other Funding information




Department or School

  • Computer Science & Information Systems

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