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What Is Important in Software Documentation?

Contiem | October 16, 2023

Even the most useful software programs are doomed to failure if they don’t include effective documentation. Software documentation provides essential information to everyone involved in its creation, deployment, and use.

From the development perspective, software documentation allows current and future developers to maintain code, learn from past mistakes, and reduce time spent on bugs. Organizations also get value from documentation because it improves user acceptance and reduces over-reliance on support teams. Before you publish new software documentation, make sure that you fully understand everything it should include.

Types of Software Documentation

Most organizations use multiple kinds of software documentation. It helps employees, administrators, and users better understand the purpose and function of every piece of software.

Technical Documentation

Technical documentation provides detailed information about software design and specifications, such as application programming interfaces (APIs) and algorithms. It also describes how to develop, test, and maintain a specific product.

To achieve those goals, technical documents use more complex language that developers and other internal employees understand. Common examples include:

  • API documentation, which describes what an API can do and how it functions
  • System documentation that explains the technical aspects of the software, such as the system architecture, components, and modules
  • Developer documentation that explains the process of developing the software and allows for ongoing maintenance

Creating effective technical documentation requires an in-depth knowledge of the industry and advanced writing skills. Most organizations rely on technical writers, but they may not have the capacity to bring one on full-time.

Unfortunately, working with a rotating roster of freelance writers makes mistakes more likely, which can have a major effect on your organization. A study by Google found that documentation quality directly correlates with improved organizational performance. Contiem gives you access to a reliable team of technical writers who can learn the ins and outs of your software and create higher-quality documentation.

User Documentation

Internal team members aren’t the only ones who need good documents. To make end-users aware of the full potential of a piece of software, you’ll also need to create user documentation.

These documents should have straightforward language that doesn’t require any special knowledge or expertise. They help users understand what software has to offer and how they can benefit from it.

These are some of the user documents you can create:

  • How-to guides that teach users how to carry out a specific task
  • User manuals that provide an overview of the software and its features
  • Installation and setup guides that explain how to start using the software

Each of these documents makes it easier to onboard new users and reduce customer support expenses. They also benefit organizations by cutting costs and saving time during product launches.

Best Practices in Software Documentation

Poorly written or inaccurate software documents do far more harm than good. You can avoid those pitfalls by following a set of documentation best practices.

Software Requirements Documentation

Outlining the features and intended behavior of a piece of software is one of the most common steps in software documentation. To capture and explain requirements more effectively, break them down into categories.

Additionally, aim to include all the information a designer or developer would need to implement the requirement. Otherwise, they’ll have to guess how to proceed and might inadvertently cause problems that you have to go back and address later.

Process Documentation

Documenting the entire software development lifecycle can feel tedious, but it’s a critical task. This is especially true when using the Agile methodology, which focuses on collaboration and continuous improvement. In those cases, software documentation helps keep everyone looped in on what’s expected and what’s happening during each iteration of development.

Why Documentation Is an Essential Part of the Software Development Process

Documentation makes it possible to keep track of how developers go about creating new software. Once a project is complete, they can create more efficient and standardized processes. That translates to better quality and lower costs for your other software products moving forward.

Documenting Software Design and Architecture

A software design document describes the overall architecture of a piece of software. It’s a crucial tool that the software development team uses to understand what they need to build and how to make the concept a reality.

A design document enables more effective coordination between team members, including those who are split across different departments. It’s a stable, reliable reference point that empowers developers to meet stakeholder expectations.

Architecture and design documentation is also important for maintaining software integrity in the future. Making changes without awareness of the underlying components and connections can create costly flaws and failures.

Incorporating Documentation in Product Development

Regardless of what type of software you’re creating, documentation should be a core component of your product development. Beyond assisting developers, it also allows you to explain how users can and should use a product clearly.

This makes them less reliant on customer support and IT and increases customer satisfaction. Studies show that customers associate the quality of user manuals directly with the quality of the product itself.

Choosing the Right Partner for the Project

Software documentation may not be the most exciting part of software development, but it’s essential nonetheless. It keeps software developers and stakeholders on the same page and lets them establish a shared vision. It’s also beneficial to end-users who might struggle to use software safely and correctly without guidance.

Successful projects depend on good software documentation, and Contiem is here to help. We’ll conduct a deep-dive analysis of your needs and set you up with a team of specialists, including content creators, software developers, and information architects. Reach out to the Contiem team to see how our full-service approach to content can enhance your software documentation.