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What Is the Role of Technical Documentation?

Contiem | September 27, 2023

Technical documentation is vital to a wide range of organizations. It makes processes more uniform and efficient and helps customers avoid unnecessary challenges when installing and using products. 

As a result, offering user-friendly technical documentation can lead to higher levels of engagement and loyalty. Understanding the importance of technical documentation is the first step to creating quality documents.

What should be included in technical documentation?

The content of a technical document depends on what your organization is trying to achieve. The most common goals include:

  • Explaining how a product works
  • Describing product installation processes
  • Detailing product features
  • Answering common questions
  • Supporting users during troubleshooting
  • Documenting internal processes

It’s common to express this information with a variety of elements. For example, a manual might include text, diagrams, tables, and flowcharts.

Technical Documentation Standards

Some organizations create their own technical documentation standards based on their specific structure and preferences. Others follow standards established by external bodies. For example, many documents are designed to align with the International Organization for Standardization. In either case, the goal is to develop clear, well-organized documents.

What are the 5 principles of good documentation? 

In most cases, providing low-quality technical documentation is worse than offering no documentation at all. Effective technical documents follow a set of five principles of good documentation. 


Documents should be free of errors. A single mistake could have serious consequences. As a result, thorough editing is one of the core practices that every technical documentation department should follow. 


Technical documents should reflect current practices or product features. Outdated documents reflect poorly on an organization. They can also lead to improper use of a product or less efficient processes.


The language in the document should meet the abilities and knowledge levels of the target audience. For example, a technical document for internal employees will likely include industry-specific terminology. A document for customers will use less technical language. 


The document should be focused on the process or product being described. If it’s important to include supplemental information, it’s usually better to add a reference or link to another source. This helps keep the documentation concise and direct. 


Technical documentation should be stored in a location that is easy to find. Organizations often include printed copies of documentation inside the packaging of a product. A growing number also provide web-based documentation.

What are examples of technical documentation?

Organizations use technical documentation to explain processes, products, and projects. Some of the most common examples of documents include: 

  • User guides: These documents explain how a product works and what clients or customers need to do to use it correctly. 
  • Repair manuals: This type of document explains how to safely fix a damaged, malfunctioning, or broken product. 
  • Software development kit (SDK) documentation: SDKs help developers understand how to create apps for certain platforms or products. 
  • Business standards: Organizations use these documents during onboarding and as ongoing references that explain their rules, guidelines, and benchmarks. 
  • White papers: These in-depth reports reflect your organization’s expertise on a subject and include extensive data and detail. 

One technical documentation example might consist of a single page of text and graphics, while another might span dozens of pages.

Documentation Best Practices

To make their documents more effective, organizations employ certain strategies which differ based on the types of technical documentation. 

Project Documentation Best Practices

Many organizations use documentation to explain how a team will carry out a project. You can improve your documents by following practices that include: 

  • Asking for input from multiple parties 
  • Beginning with a charter that gives an overview of the project 
  • Creating a document hierarchy with different documents for separate user types
  • Using simple language 
  • Adding visual aids and graphics 

Project documentation usually includes the project schedule, activities, procedures, and guidelines. 

User Documentation Best Practices

User documentation helps an end-user understand how to correctly use a product. Organizations employ user documentation best practices, such as: 

  • Using plain, straightforward language 
  • Breaking down complex tasks
  • Using visuals to aid in understanding 
  • Including a table of contents for lengthy documents 

This documentation should also be formatted in a way that’s easy to skim, with frequent headings and breaks in the text.

Process Documentation Best Practices

Organizations often provide internal employees and stakeholders with documents that explain product development or activity steps. Process documentation best practices include: 

  • Using language that’s clear and concise
  • Creating templates for consistency 
  • Incorporating visuals 
  • Organizing the points in a logical order or hierarchy 
  • Linking to other relevant documents

Failure to follow these practices can result in technical documents that are useless or even dangerous. 

Benefits of Effective Technical Documentation

Unclear or inaccurate documentation can alienate and frustrate customers, making them less likely to make additional purchases in the future. Likewise, internal employees who struggle through ineffective process documents may lose respect for the organization and its leadership.

Technical documentation, potentially in combination with training, mitigates these problems. Providing users with clear product or process information fosters a sense of trust. 

Easy-to-follow documentation can also reduce the number of customer service calls, which can ultimately have a positive effect on your company’s bottom line. A 2021 survey found that 80% of people have switched brands because of poor customer service experiences. This highlights just how important proper documentation and communication can be.

Best Practices for Updating Documentation

After creating technical documentation, it’s important to regularly evaluate it with quality metrics. Your organization can use this information to decide whether they need to update or replace existing documents. It also helps improve the documentation development process moving forward. 

Getting the Most From Your Technical Documentation

Properly developed and distributed technical documentation serves a critical role in building relationships with customers, clients, and employees. Quality documentation leads to greater user satisfaction, less frequent complaints or support calls, and a more positive overall perception of your organization. 

Contiem can help ensure that your documents meet the needs of your organization. Contact us to find out how we can design a solution that makes sense for your business.