Writing technical documentation is no easy feat. While the intention is to explain the purpose or the use of a product or service concisely, the process of explaining can often get lost in translation. Whether it is due to a staff member being tasked to do the job suddenly, or an expert creating a jargon-filled document only understood by their colleagues, or you may be new to technical writing and you are trying to do it yourself but unaware of all the key components that make a useful technical document. Regardless of your expertise or your reason, here is some basic information to understanding how to create technical documentation.
Who Creates Technical Documentation?
Industry experts tend to create these types of materials. A technical writer should and usually writes technical documents. However, it is commonplace for companies to use in-house staff that is available to create any necessary documents at a moment’s notice. Whether they are qualified or not. For other businesses hiring a technical writer may be an added expense so they too write their documents. Those who can hire a technical writer have the knowledge and skills to make high-quality technical documents users can fully understand because they can interpret and unpack complex subjects into information that is easier to digest. Also, they collaborate with the subject matter experts such as developers, engineers, project managers, and others within the company to help assist them in producing functional and straightforward documents.
How to Write Technical Documentation:
All technical documentation must be written in a clear, concise, and consistent manner so users can achieve their goal of understanding how a product works or solves a problem. Also, technical documents must constantly be up to date and be accessible to users in all devices and formats to remain useful. Technical documentation is dynamic documents that are constantly changing and that always need editing.
What is a Documentation Checklist?
A documentation plan checklist will help outline and manage the development cycle of a technical document. This guideline can be applied whether you are making documentation for a product or software. Here are some questions that should be in your checklist to help create a technical document.
- What is the goal or the purpose of the documentation project?
- What should be documented?
- Who is the target audience? And what are their needs?
- What are the deliverables?
- What type of format?
- How will the documents be published or distributed?
- What software will be used?
- What style guide, templates, visual design, or additional conventions will be used?
- Who are the members of your project team? And their roles?
- What are the risks?
What are the Stages of Creating Technical Documentation?
There are two ways in which to create or develop technical documentation. The first is called the waterfall methodology. This is a more traditional approach where a project is formed in stages. This process is incredibly detailed and structured. Once one stage is completed in the development cycle then you can move on to the next stage.
The stages of the waterfall method are:
Requirements, Analysis, Design, Development, Testing, and Maintenance.
The second methodology is called Agile. This development process involves sprints. Sprints are short cycles about how to complete a project. Sprints require constant testing and communication among project teams, customers, and executives to determine what is successful and what is not and make appropriate adjustments until the desired outcome is achieved. This method is often preferred over the waterfall because businesses can respond quickly to any abrupt changes.
The stages of the Agile method are:
- Inputs from executives, team, customers, users followed by
- Product Backlog
- Sprint Planning Meeting
- Sprint Backlog
- Scrum Master
- Daily Scrum Meeting
- Sprint Review
- Finished Work
- Sprint retrospective
What are the Tools Used to Create Technical Documentation?
The type of document will determine what tools you will use making the overall process of writing technical documents easier, faster, and simpler to create. These tools can vary from authoring tools, desktop publishing tools, graphic editing tools, and more. As technology continues to advance so has the tools for creating technical documentation.
For more information on tools for technical documentation, click here.
The creation of technical documentation requires thorough planning. No matter who you are, whether that is an expert or a novice if you do not know or understand all the key aspects of developing technical documentation, you will not produce high-quality material that helps users improve the success of your business. Whether many believe they can do it on their own or some have no choice, having technical writers will ensure every message is communicated how it’s supposed to be clear and simple.
Whether you need a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation or a single technical writer for a brief project, Essential Data’s Engagement Manager will lead the project from start to finish. At Essential Data Corporation, the quality of our work is guaranteed. Contact us today to get started. (800) 221-0093 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Kimberly Jones