Creating technical documentation has become more critical in today’s fast-paced technological world. The process helps software engineers, different company departments, stakeholders, and consumers understand the product developed.
So, what is technical documentation?
Continue reading this article to learn about this process’s types and importance. We’ll also guide you through three steps to creating proper technical documentation. So, stick around for all the details!
What Is Technical Documentation?
As the name suggests, technical documentation is a process that involves documenting information related to the design, operation, and function of a product.
Typically, those with extensive knowledge of the technology create these documents. Such material aims to provide technical users with detailed information to understand the product better and troubleshoot problems quickly.
You might think that technical documentation is specific to developers and software engineers. However, that’s not the case. Not only does the former process include information related to the software development team, but it also contains external documentation written for all users.
So, these documents are crucial for stakeholders, other departments, and end users.
Why Is Technical Documentation Important?
From the above, you can see that technical documentation is vital. It explains how the technology works behind the scenes and helps your software team better understand the product development process.
Sure, writing these files isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. In a CS project, it’s safe to say that most engineers would rather focus on the technical aspect of a project than on documentation.
After all, the former process requires specific skills, such as writing and critical thinking. As you might know, most developers are busy with programming and meeting deadlines, so they won’t feel the urge to write documentation.
Still, the former process is essential for the software team for several reasons. Here are some of the benefits of technical documentation:
Save Time and Effort
As you know, technical documentation covers all the details regarding a software product. This information is handy for many users, particularly developers.
Think about it. The same developer that worked on the product might forget some work-related intricacies after a while.
Without the proper knowledge, troubleshooting and fixing problems will take longer than usual. That’s because a lot of time is spent searching for critical information needed to solve the issue.
That’s when technical documentation comes in handy. Not only does it help developers access old information, but it also helps bridge the knowledge gap for new team members and other technical users. Consequently, this process helps save time and effort, eventually increasing productivity.
Facilitates Maintenance and Updates
As we advance in technology, the amount of data keeps multiplying. That makes it impossible for humans to read and tag all the information.
More than 50% of knowledge workers spend more time looking for information than on actual work. That can be a problem when accessing operating procedures and maintenance history for future upgrades.
However, thanks to technical documentation, finding information that matters is no longer like finding a needle in a haystack.
By providing quick access to detailed information about the technology, developers can perform regular code refactoring and add new features to the product, improving the product’s functionality.
Enhances Communication Across All Departments
As mentioned earlier, technical documentation doesn’t only benefit the software department. It contains other forms of documentation, such as user manuals. The former allows other departments to access software information in an instant.
Additionally, technical documentation ensures the developer team and the stakeholders are on the same page since everyone uses the same knowledge source. As a result, it reduces confusion and errors.
Examples of Technical Documentation
Here are some examples of technical documentation types:
As the name implies, process documentation describes the development of the product or service. It explains every stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC). Those include project proposals, timelines, budgets, and more.
Typically, internal members and clients are the target audience of process documentation.
Application programming interface (API) is a type of software interface that enables the integration of other pieces of software into your product. It typically includes information about the available endpoints, data structures, and error codes.
That’s why the former usually contains technical jargon only understood by experts in the field.
This documentation type targets the end user. It provides step-by-step guides, diagrams, and other visuals to help customers understand how the technology works.
Repair documentation includes guides and troubleshooting manuals that explain how to diagnose and resolve common problems.
Like user documentation, those manuals target the end user and are easy to understand.
How to Create Technical Documentation
Creating technical documentation might seem like a daunting task at first. However, it doesn’t have to be.
You need to decide on the type of document you want to create, plan an outline, and start writing!
Since that is easier said than done, here are three steps to help you create technical documentation:
Step 1: Determine the Document Type
From the above, you can see that technical documentation is an umbrella term that includes different types of documentation.
So, before writing, you need to identify the target audience and the documentation purpose. That’ll help you determine the level of technical detail and writing tone you should use.
Step 2: Plan the Structure
Once you know the audience and purpose, start planning the design of your documentation. You should plan the files in a well-organized, visually appealing way.
Create an outline with headings and subheadings to make the document easy to navigate and ensure you cover the necessary topics. Additionally, try incorporating images, diagrams, and other visual tools to make your content more understandable.
Step 3: Write the Content
Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when writing technical documentation:
- Use simple, clear-cut language.
- Avoid using jargon, acronyms, or other complex terminologies.
- Always provide as much information and context as possible to make the documentation understandable for non-experts.
- Have people review the content to catch errors and confusing sections.
- Before publishing, edit the content to improve its clarity, accuracy, and consistency.
As you can see, technical documentation is a critical process for any software product or technology. It allows quick access to essential information and bridges the knowledge gap between developers, stakeholders, and end users.
Consequently, the former process enhances communication across different departments, increasing productivity.
However, that’s only achievable with proper technical documentation. You can follow the three steps above to create effective documentation that benefits your company’s internal members and end users!