The three C's rule: clear, concise, and comprehensive
FEB.11.2022

How to Сreate Technical Documentation: Guide & Tips

Semyon Scherbak
Business Analyst at Freshcode
Alexandra Lozovyuk
Content Strategist at Freshcode
All digital products, services, and business processes on the most initial development levels require some input data. Structured and well-prepared this data transforms into technical documentation. It is a kind of a map that masters complex navigation tasks for the captain its user.

How to provide clear directions for users to find their way as well? What is the purpose of technical documentation and how to write it professionally?

Let's explore this terra together.

WHAT IS TECHNICAL DOCUMENTATION?

From the medieval Chaucer's user manual to the astrolabe to today's app guides — technical documentation is an essential part of our life since man began to invent great things and mastered writing.

Technical documentation in the software development world is the umbrella term that encompasses the scope of documents created through the whole software development lifecycle. These documents contain information about the product from its purpose to the full architecture.

Tech documentation goals are to:

Unify project-related data
Prevent from getting stuck if some issues occur
Explain product/service in a comprehensive way
Be a 'mediator' for discussing project-related questions
Different specialists may be responsible for writing technical documentation: technical writers, project managers, engineering team members, or other subject-matter experts on the product in question.

Even if your app is complex, your documentation should be concise and clear. Next, we will describe how to achieve it.

WHY IS TECHNICAL DOCUMENTATION IMPORTANT FOR BUSINESS?

According to the target audience and described subjects, technical documentation in software development is divided into different types (they'll be discussed below). But the main purpose is common — a good tech document should be searchable and useful for the intended audience to use your product and understand your processes.

Good technical documentation conveys information in a simple and clear way so that anyone can understand it. It shouldn't require a Ph.D. to make sense of it (highly-tech system documents for engineers as an exception). A good one is going to get you using the product or handle processes right away, while the other will make your brains puzzle over it.

Finally, good technical documentation covers all necessary scope of project-related data in a concise manner. It shouldn't be a Royal Annals and Chronicles. Brevity is the soul of wit (and of a great tech document too).

Well-written technical documentation allows all parties to achieve their goals:

  • Enjoying a product while optimizing its functionality and maximizing its life span for end-users
  • Saving costs on customer service (if end users follow the documentation/use the products correctly/refer to the user guide to troubleshoot issues)
  • Improving communication between all stakeholders and avoiding the Chinese Whispers effect

    TYPES OF TECHNICAL DOCUMENTATION

    The main goal of software documentation is to ensure that all stakeholders and the project team keep on the fairway. In other words, such documents let you be sure that all parties go in the same direction to accomplish project goals. So, it's your lighthouse, roadmap, and guiding star on the path of the software development process.

    Documentation in software development is an omnipurpose thing. From the end-user point of view, it is essential because it helps them use a product properly. From an internal point of view, it is crucial because it gives the development team the information to effectively work on a product, whether it is highly technical data or an overview of planning.
    Software technical documentation types
    Tech documentation is divided into two main groups:

    • Product documentation
    • Process documentation

    The main difference between product and process documentation in software development is that the first one describes a digital product, while the second one fixes the full development process providing all additional data.

    Let's highlight technical documentation types in more detail.
    PRODUCT DOCUMENTATION
    Product documentation is a broad term that includes multi-purpose documents describing essential information for:

    • internal users (system documentation available for the engineering team, product owner, business representatives, etc)
    • external users (end-user documentation for product's customers)

    Well-organized system documentation provides a number of benefits — namely it:

    • offers a fast review of the system architecture/new features/product changes
    • helps new team members to deal with codebase more quickly
    • provides useful references during bug fixing and maintenance
    • outlines the purpose and value of a given product
    Product documentation is a broad term that includes multi-purpose documents describing essential information for internal users (system documentation available for the engineering team, product owner, business representatives, etc) and external users (end-user documentation for product's customers)

    In its turn, end-user documentation covers such documents as tutorials, user guides, installation, and reference manuals, that are mainly prepared for end-users of the product.

    These documents provide an insight into the system without exposing the full codebase but allow comprehensive info about product usage.

    Also, this type of documentation is useful for different auditing activities, e.g. due diligence before a funding round.
    PROCESS DOCUMENTATION
    Process documentation represents the scope of documents produced during all development stages, from the discovery phase to the maintenance. Each process document is specific to the particular phase and covers its particular goals. Also, it:

    • accompanies all product development stages with relevant data
    • makes software development transparent and easy to manage
    • reduces the amount of system documentation
    Well-organized process documentation accompanies all product development stages with relevant data and makes software development transparent and easy to manage
    The common examples of process-related documents:


    Please note that there is no one-tech-documentation-fits-all. The above classification of technical documentation in software development is not exhaustive. Each of the described types can be changed and customized regarding the particular use case.

    7 STEPS TO CREATE TECHNICAL DOCUMENTATION: FRESHCODE EXPERIENCE

    Wall of text and unstructured data is bad documentation. Even worse is the lack of documentation.

    We at Freshcode follow highly structured stages of the technical document preparation process. Here we are going to describe them briefly and share some tips on how to write good technical documentation. An example of our step-by-step guide may become a perfect how-to for your use case.

    So, let's start.
      How to create technical documentation software development
      1
      Set Communication Channels and Introduce Team
      Communication is the backbone of any management process, and in terms of remote collaboration it takes on new importance. The first ingredient in the recipe for great documentation is well-established and thoughtful communication. This implies frequent messaging and video calls to keep abreast of all changes and possible issues and avoid miscommunications.

      The involvement of all key stakeholders and development team members is crucial. To provide effective communication we pick the most suitable channels for the client, including:

      • video meetings
      • management dashboards
      • email
      • messenger apps

      Every stage of communication, from team introduction to the product demo, is a crucial point for providing transparent cooperation. That's why a preliminary detailed agreement on a suitable format for all sides is the key to the successful development process.
        2
        Analyze Business Requirements and Define Project Vision
        Clearly agreeing on what IT company is going to deliver and what product the client is going to receive is the key to success. That's why we try to prevent all possible situations where mismatches between what has been designed, what is actually needed, and what we have as an outcome occur.

        We discuss with clients their business needs, expectations, and pain points to define a common project vision and its goals. Capturing stakeholder requirements, their further interpretation, and the record is the first basis for creating tech documentation.
          3
          Write User Requirements & Create Use Case Diagram
          Users are key contributors to the achievement of your business goals. Therefore, one of the main responsibilities of a product owner with the involvement of the development team is breaking down and refining user requirements.

          Before moving on to functional and non-functional requirements, we have to identify all user requirements in order to satisfy their needs, prioritize the functionality of the system, and exclude unnecessary features.

          User requirements document and use case diagram cover different project needs. Namely they:

          • set achievable goals and connect product development initiatives to business value
          • become a basis of communication between stakeholders and the dev team
          • make it clear why certain features or business models are being prioritized over others
          • provide accountability for hitting specific targets
          • reduce costs and increase future profits
            4
            Create Clickable Wireframes
            Сlickable wireframes give a visual representation of the future product's UI. It is one of the most important tools for creating project documentation, as it allows you to:

            • assess the potential UX of the system
            • identify missing requirements
            • be on the same page will all parties involved

            It is the cheapest way to try and check an interactive experience very similar to a finalized product version.
            We share wireframes with the client, gain comments, and edit screens as amended. Wireframes convey the essence of the future product and become a first pass of creating proper UX documentation.
                5
                Write Functional Requirements
                Functional requirements doc (also called a functional specification) contains a description of operations and activities that a system must be able to perform. A function is an input to the system, its behavior, and output: calculation, data manipulation, user interaction, or any other specific functionality.
                    6
                    Write Non-Functional Requirements
                    Non-functional requirements (also known as quality attributes) describe the general system properties. It may be security, compatibility, reliability, capacity, performance, scalability, usability, environment requirements, etc. Well-written non-functional requirements specify the quality attribute of the digital product, ensure good UX, and minimize the costs.
                        7
                        Draw Technical Architecture Diagram
                        This diagram provides an overview of the available systems and interaction illustrates how components in a system interact with one another. It's kind of a technical blueprint concerning the interaction, and interdependence of all elements so that system-relevant requirements are met.

                        Well-drawn architecture diagram consists of 3 main components:

                        • Standardized process flow of information (top-down reading)
                        • Sufficient information in components with logical groupings
                        • Annotations with additional information to facilitate the implementation of solutions

                          WRAPPING UP

                          Technical documentation gaps provoke misunderstandings between the product development team and client representatives. As a result, the software product won't meet initial requirements. Consequently, all parts of the software development process should care about technical documentation quality.

                          Freshcode provides a deep look into the different technical details that make up a product involving different subject-matter experts. Our team creates technical documentation following the 4 key rules:
                              Need
                              Verification
                              Clarity
                              Attainability
                              We've invested a significant amount of time and effort to create a step-by-step technical documentation template suitable for various types of products and business domains. And we know for sure that well-written technical documentation speeds up the product development process and makes it thoughtful, effective, and safe.

                              Freshcode specialists provide partners with deliberate and comprehensive project data and consult clients on how to write technical documentation and what tools to use. Our representatives are always ready to discuss this in detail. Please, fill out the form on our website or contact our representative on Linkedin.
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