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What Is Important in Product Documentation?

Contiem | November 16, 2023

For businesses that want to market, sell, and deploy their products successfully, product documentation is a must-have. It’s an essential source of information and education for everyone, from designers and developers to end-users.

Product engineers and managers contribute to documentation, but technical writers handle most of the work. They explain complex details in language that a broad audience can understand. With capable writers and a solid understanding of product documentation, you can optimize your operations.

Types of Product Documentation

Product documentation doesn’t refer to just one thing — it includes a variety of document types. Each one takes a unique approach to conveying information about a product’s development, use, and features.

User Documentation

Most consumers dread making customer support calls, with 69% preferring to resolve issues independently. User documentation empowers users to address problems on their own.

User Guides

When a customer buys a product, they usually receive one or more guides explaining certain tasks. Step-by-step start-up guides, for example, teach customers how to use a product for the first time. They typically have simple, straightforward language and diagrams.

User Manuals

User manuals give a more detailed look at a product, explaining every feature and capability. Most manuals also include installation instructions and troubleshooting recommendations.

Online Documentation

Many modern customers rely on business websites for support, meaning the days of searching through bulky manuals are long gone. Online interactive guides, knowledge bases, and product walkthroughs are popular options.

Technical Documentation

Product documents often focus on end-users, but technical documentation also serves an important role for internal employees. It has the power to improve efficiency and productivity.

API Documentation

Application programming interface (API) documents identify security concerns and provide user instructions. Well-written API documentation helps increase revenue and build new business partnerships.

Technical Documents

Technical documents include operating procedures and product requirements, and they’re crucial to improving your business processes. They’re useful to programmers, engineers, and stakeholders because they dig into a product’s finer details.

System Documentation

Companies need system documentation to maintain, upgrade, and expand their products. Team members use it to understand a product’s underlying technology and make changes and updates that don’t create system flaws or errors.

Key Concepts to Keep In Mind When Creating High-Quality Product Documentation

Product documentation solves and prevents problems, but it also creates a host of other challenges. Keep these points in mind to create a hassle-free documentation process.

Meeting the Needs of Different User Personas

Users with very different levels of experience often turn to the same document for support, so direct language and streamlined content are critical. Consider incorporating instructions for specific use cases so each person can find information that’s relevant to their situation.

Incorporating User Experience (UX) Principles

Create documents that focus on UX principles, including:

  • Consistency
  • Simplicity
  • Visual architecture
  • Context

Documentation should be user-centered and tailored to your audience.

Addressing Customer Support Concerns

Customers will feel less frustrated and say more positive things about your business if you include solutions to common issues in your product documentation. As an added bonus, you’ll alleviate the strain on your support teams and build a stronger reputation for your company.

Alignment with Product Strategy and Roadmap

Refer back to your planning documents when you create other product documentation. Identify central points and goals in your strategy and roadmap and make sure your documents reflect them.

Collaboration with Product Managers and Development Teams

Leverage the expertise of different team members to create stronger documentation. They have insights into how a product works and what questions or concerns users might have.

Integration with Marketing Materials

Good product documentation attracts and converts more customers. Use it to address questions people have about products before they purchase them.

Best Practices: Documentation Process and Tools

Take advantage of every opportunity to simplify and standardize your documents. These strategies and resources are a good place to start.

Reviewing Product Requirements Documents

The product requirements document is the starting point for a product, but it’s just as valuable down the line. Use it to inform your content and identify points of emphasis, such as the product’s purpose, features, and functionality.

Working with Knowledge Base Software

Knowledge base software helps you organize and manage your documentation, including tutorials, how-to guides, and frequently asked questions. Giving users access to an online resource that answers common questions inspires loyalty. More than 60% of consumers consider taking their business elsewhere if they can’t find answers on a company’s website.

Updating Documentation Pages

Software and technology change every day, which means your documentation could be out-of-date the second you finish writing it. Create a schedule to review and update documents so they accurately reflect a product’s status and features.

Releasing Effective Documentation in Sync with Software Updates

Modify your documentation during each software update and release them simultaneously. Include a revision date so users can tell that the documents are aligned with the most recent changes to your product.

Best Practices: The Importance of Internal Documentation

Internal documents are the heart of a thriving business. They create long-term consistency across your operations.

Process Documentation for Product Development

Use process documentation to track product development. Your team can learn from their mistakes, adjust their strategy, and improve their process with this document.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) describe the steps employees use to perform a routine task. They optimize performance and reduce inefficiencies and errors.

Capturing Product Information for Future Reference

Employees at a business come and go, so it’s vital to hold on to organizational knowledge. Team members can look back on all the information for a product, from its development to its launch.

Collaboration Among Product Team Members

Internal documents keep team members in the loop and create a shared vision. They eliminate confusion and serve as a single, comprehensive resource for the entire team.

Enhancing User Experiences with Product Documentation

Customers who want to get the most value from a product have a lot to gain from good documentation. It also benefits businesses, positioning them as reliable industry leaders. Reach out to Contiem to learn more about how to optimize your company’s performance with better product documentation.