All software products, whether created by a small team or a large company, need technical documentation.
Throughout the whole Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), documenting is a must for various reasons and goals. So, learn more about technical documentation as you read this article.
Technical documentation is one of the most crucial parts of software development. In addition, a technical document serves many purposes from development, knowledge transfer, and maintenance. For this reason, the technical documentation must be error-free as it might lead to gaps between stakeholders.
However, producing reliable technical documentation is one of the main headache-inducing processes for a software development team. As a result, development teams now include a technical writer. Therefore, software development teams ensure that the technical document is accurate.
So what is technical documentation? And, why is it important in software development?
What is Technical Documentation?
By definition, technical documentation is the document that carries all the information and data about a product or service.
There is a need to do technical documentation whether the product is in development, use, or upgrade. In short, the document presents how to use and maintain the product.
In software development, technical documentation records all the processes throughout the SDLC. It catalogs API (Application Programming Interface) routes and endpoints. It also explains integrations, libraries, and software development kits (SDK).
The main goal of technical documentation is to make sure that developers and other stakeholders are on the same page. Thus, the document helps everyone involved in the project achieve the same objectives.
Types of Technical Documentation
Technical documentation in software development is categorized into two main types: Product documentation and Process documentation. Let’s discuss these types.
This type of documentation involves describing the product and instructions on how to perform tasks with it. For instance, product documentation includes project manuals, requirements, specifications, and business logic. There are two types under this type of documentation.
User documentation is for end-users and system administrators. Examples of these types are user guides, tutorials, and manuals such as installation, reference, and troubleshooting. Some examples are:
This documentation aims to help the end-users. These are documents that provide instructions, whether in print, online, or offline.
- Quick Start Guide
- Troubleshooting Guide
- Video Tutorials
- FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
These guides need to be precise and easy to understand. In addition, well-written end-user documentation will help provide the best user experience.
System Administrator’s Documentation
This technical documentation addresses the system administrator’s needs. Usually, this document contains information that will help in product maintenance, such as installation and updates. The standard contents for this record are:
- Descriptions of functions
- System admin guide
On the other hand, system documentation is the documents that describe the product’s system and parts. Architecture descriptions, requirements, design decisions, FAQs, and program source code are examples of this documentation. Here are some types of system documentation:
Product Requirement Document (PRD)
PRD should contain user stories, business rules, etc. Moreover, this document must outline the product’s purpose, features, behavior, functionalities, and maintenance. Overall, this document should state what the system will do. Hence, it should contain the following:
- Roles and responsibilities
- Business and team goals
- User stories
- Criteria of acceptance
- Design and user interaction
- Questions (Frequently Asked Questions)
- What it will not do
This document must be comprehensive. One way to do this is to make use of diagrams, graphics, links, and anchors.
User Experience (UX) Design Documentation
The UX design process starts from the requirements stage through the post-release stage. Thus, the process requires a lot of research, testing, prototyping, and designing. Expectedly, the UX process produces many technical documents, such as:
- User personas
- User scenario
- Scenario map
- User story map
- UX style guide
Also, the most common technical documentation style used for UX design is site maps, frameworks, prototypes, etc.
Source Code documentation
This documentation explains how the product’s code work. Thus, this document’s audience is software engineers. Usually, this technical documentation includes:
- Frameworks (HTML generations and more)
- Data binding types
- Design pattern
- Security measures
- Other principles
This technical documentation helps in informing the software developers which and how to connect the required APIs. In addition, these documents can be tutorial guides for the developers.
Maintenance Guide Documentation
This document contains the records of all the problems in the system. It should also have the solutions for each issue encountered. Additionally, it shows the dependencies and relations of all the systems.
Another type of technical documentation is process documentation. As its name suggests, process documentation records the development and maintenance of the product. Documents under this category are:
- Project plans, meeting minutes, and test schedules
- Reports and metrics
- Working ideas
- Standards (coding, design, etc.)
Most of the process documentation only applies in specific development phases and becomes outdated quickly. However, these documents are essential as they may be helpful in future tasks. In addition, process documentation helps make the whole SDLC process transparent and manageable.
Primarily, the difference between the two is that the former are the documents that describe the product in development. While the latter documents the development process.
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Why Is it important?
Technical documentation is a must for software engineers, stakeholders, and everyone involved in the project. These documents save time and effort. These documents record all the information, requirements, dos, and don’ts throughout the process. Thus, documentation is the guide and rule book for project stakeholders.
Aside from these, well-written technical documentation serves as a knowledge-transfer tool. Thus, it will guide developers on their tasks and help new users learn how to use the product.
Technical documentation is not just a part of SDLC that you need to check off. As a matter of fact, it is as important as the code in your software. Hence, for all the people involved in the project, a successful technical document provides insights and value.
In addition, well-crafted technical documentation will help you present your product in an excellent light to your target audience.
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