People often overlook the importance of technical documents, sometimes due to ineffective writing. The end goal of technical documentation is to benefit both the readers and the team responsible for publishing it.
This article will discuss the purpose and best practices for writing technical documents. Use these methods to create the best resource materials for your company.
Why Is Technical Documentation Important?
Technical documentation serves as the backbone for product and service information. Its goal is to make people’s lives easier by turning complex terms and concepts into easy-to-understand guides.
Customers refer to it to learn more about a product and how to use it. Clients and potential business partners use it to gauge if a service is worth investing in.
The success of a company or organization also depends on technical documentation. The internal teams can’t function properly without a shared knowledge base that defines the company’s goals and objectives.
What Are the Benefits of Having Technical Documents?
While people often ignore the importance of technical documents, they still serve a purpose and are meant to make life simpler. As such, a technical writer’s responsibility is to create valuable and easy-to-understand documents.
Here are some of the notable benefits of writing technical documents:
- Promote team unity and alignment
- Boost customer and client experience
- Saves time by having readily accessible resource materials
- Improves a company or organization’s efficiency
- Enhances sales and marketing
8 Best Practices for Creating a Successful Technical Document
Writing technical documents doesn’t have to be complicated. With today’s advanced technology, it’s become easier and more accessible.
With that said, we should take advantage of these advancements to improve technical writing. Here are eight best practices you can follow to create a successful technical document:
1. Reevaluate Existing Documentation
It’s possible your company already has a few technical documents that were previously used and are just collecting dust in the archive. You can use these documents as a basis for future documentation by updating them to fit today’s standards.
They might’ve been helpful before, so there’s nothing wrong with tweaking their content and updating formats. Not only does this save time, but it also helps you identify what info the company already has and what else is lacking.
2. Prepare and Create Outlines
If you’re an experienced technical writer, you know better than jumping right in and writing technical documents. The planning stage is just as important as the execution, so take time to prepare and create outlines.
It’s best to keep a checklist ready to know what you should include and consider the document. You don’t need a complex or detailed list. Here’s what it can look like:
- What are the technical document’s goals and objectives?
- Have you drafted an outline for this particular document?
- Who is your target audience?
- What are the available resources and references?
- What tasks do you need to accomplish?
- What kind of content are you working on?
3. Study Your Audience
The reason why you write technical documents is for them to be read and understood. That’s why it’s crucial to consider who your audience is to pattern your writing accordingly.
Knowing your audience helps you create a more personalized and easy-to-understand reading experience. Customers, clients, and business partners have different needs. The more you cater to them, the better your chances are at boosting your company’s sales and marketing.
4. Utilize Technical Documentation Templates
Writing technical documentation isn’t one-size-fits-all, and you’re bound to create more documents in the future. You can save time and effort by drafting templates and having them approved, so you don’t always have to start from scratch.
Remember to tailor your documents according to their purpose and audience. Templates are meant to promote consistency within the company’s documents. It can also help brand the company’s identity across different customers and clients.
5. Find Your Writer
Not everyone can produce efficient technical documentation, so it’s important to determine who fits the job best. Ideally, it should be someone with sufficient knowledge and experience in technical writing.
The writer must know how to write well without being too technical for the target audience to understand the document. It’s also a huge bonus if the writer has good people skills, especially if the documents need interviews to gather data.
6. Make It Less Technical and More Human
Technical documentation can already be a heavy read, to begin with, so try not to write it like an AI or robot. Your goal is to convince readers and deliver your company’s message. You can write it casually, as long as you’re not compromising on the important points.
The documents should leave a lasting impression on whoever’s reading them. Cite real-world examples and utilize visual aids where necessary.
Try using hyperlinks to relate relevant documents if you’re writing technical documentation software.
7. Incorporate a Documentation Management Software
Documentation management software makes your technical documentation easy to manage and access. It’s like a library of readily accessible resource materials, except everything’s easier to control with just a few clicks.
An efficient technical documentation software should have features such as:
- Editing permissions and restrictions to keep your documents safe
- Team collaboration for editing the documents (since two or more heads are better than one)
- A robust search system for an organized knowledge base
- An archive section to save documents for future use or reference
- Version control to manage changes
8. Create an Update Plan and Schedule
Last but not least, consider creating an update plan and schedule. People’s needs and business demands change over time, so you might need to update your technical documents now and then.
With an update schedule, you can ensure your documents are always accurate and relevant. Remember to run through the changes with your team to align everyone with the necessary updates.
Technical documents aren’t something you can master and whip up overnight. Creating relevant, effective, and easy-to-understand documentation takes practice and extensive research.
Use the best practices above to hone your technical writing skills. They should help you and your company or business achieve desired results in technical documentation.