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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Can We Measure the Quality of a Content Product?

2:41:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
When you talk about the quality of a product as a user / customer, I guess that you are talking about the overall impression you have of how the product performs. If it performs to your expectations, or even excels them, then it is of high quality. If it does not, then your are simply not satisfied with it. The same goes for content products, such as a web site, a whitepaper or a Flash animation. If it does not perform to your expectations, your leave the site, delete the whitepaper or close down the Flash animation.

“The quality of a product or service refers to the perception of the degree to which the product or service meets the customer's expectations. Quality has no specific meaning unless related to a specific function and/or object. Quality is a perceptual, conditional and somewhat subjective attribute.” (Wikipedia.org)

However, this definition of quality is very hard to use for a content producer. It might lead to that quality is not defined at all because it is too difficult to define it. And if it is not defined, it cannot be measured and assured.

To avoid this scenario, we must make a distinction between quality and value. The value of a content product is a subjective judgement by the user and how the benefits are perceived in relation to the cost (usually monetary, but could also be effort) of obtaining the content product. For example, a specific content product can be of high quality but of no value to me as a user. But it might as well be perceived as very valuable by other users.

So, seen from a creator / producer, we are definitely in need of more "universal" quality measurements - accuracy, timeliness and completeness.

Accuracy
The content is accurate if it is produced and delivered without errors or flaws. For example:
  • Text is free from grammatical, syntactic and style errors
  • The writing style, terminology, and style is consistent
  • The content adheres to established standards and guidelines
  • And so on

Timeliness
The strict definition of timeliness – sometimes referred to as “freshness” – is “occurring at a suitable or opportune time; well-timed.” The point is that content that is correct today might not be correct tomorrow. For a content product to be correct, it needs to be both accurate and timely. In many contexts, such as when making a business decision, timeliness is the most important quality factor. In other, it is less important. But it is always a factor that affects the quality of the content.

Completeness
Completeness is "the state of being complete and entire; having everything that is needed" or
"having all necessary or normal parts, components, or steps". It is about providing all the relevant content needed in one place, in one content product.

Obviously, the concept of relevance is closely related to the concept of completeness. Relevance is a subjective measurement of how well the content satisfies the user's need. It is about saying just enough and not forcing the user to filter out things that are irrelevant from the content. The content shall include all content that is relevant and exclude all content that is irrelevant.

Depending on what the requirements are, additional measures can be used to determine the quality of a content product, such as:

  • Readability – measure of the accessibility of the content and/or associated layout, indicating how effectively it will reach a given reading audience
  • Usability – how easy and convenient it is to use the content product
  • Reliability – if the content is worthy of reliance or trust, if it is perceived as a reliable source
  • Availability – if the content is ready for use by an authorized person
  • Accessibility – how accessible the content is to people with disabilities
  • Compliance – how well the content complies with relevant laws, rules and regulations

Simply put - if you can define it, you can measure it.

To sum up, a content producer can define, measure and ensure the quality of a product. To define, measure and ensure the value of a content product is another - and much harder - thing. But let's not make it unnecessary hard for ourselves by mixing quality and value.

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