Written guidelines are indispensable for any device, project, or other undertaking. Before you start your engineering endeavor, a dedicated software development team should outline all the envisaged tasks in order to have a clear plan and track progress. Generally, this is what technical documentation for software deals with.
To be more specific, the term includes all written materials connected with software solution development. Technical software documentation allows all stakeholders to remain on the same page, control project fulfillment, and secure project goals.
This article overviews the types of software technical documentation and its significance for businesses, and offers recommendations on how to create project’s written materials properly.
Technical documentation is vital regardless of the project scope. It encompasses various types of materials created throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC), from the solution’s purpose to the complete architecture. Documentation is intended to consolidate all project-related information, describe product functionality, and enable discussions of all crucial questions among engineers and stakeholders.
The goals of software development documentation include:
Since technical documentation for software splits into several types, it can be composed by various specialists, from tech experts to project managers. You can conceive a very complex product and employ a software development service, but the documentation should be as clear and concise as possible.
Documentation in SDLC aims to make everyone’s life easier throughout the project life cycle. Its importance for a software company is hard to overestimate for several reasons.
Quick and easy access to the actual technical information helps a product team speed up the decision-making process. With the unified data source, team members don’t have to search continually for the information they need. Instead, they can immediately consult the required documents to create the proper background for efficient decisions.
Documentation that is displayed within the solution is exceptionally convenient to customers. It allows them to remove arising issues while staying in context, thereby enhancing usability and customer experience.
Comprehensive software development documentation can facilitate advertising since it provides detailed information about the product. By presenting your prospects with all of your solution’s characteristics and features, you simplify their path toward making a purchase decision.
If users encounter technical issues, they can consult technical documentation to solve them, thus reducing the number of tech support calls. This, in turn, cuts the budget on technical support and improves customer experience since many users prefer to solve issues themselves without waiting for someone to help them.
Documentation in software development can record ideas related to your software solution at all stages of the project life cycle. You can get back to them every time you might want to implement changes to your product and find a valuable source of insights.
Your tech documentation sets benchmarks for your future projects, displaying your plans, goals, and essential product features. This helps to consolidate the team around a single common goal.
Since documentation records all information about the product, it becomes a vital form of communication. Project stakeholders and developers have quick and easy access to critical data without contacting each other directly. Documentation also accumulates knowledge for further projects and decisions.
Technical documentation in SDLC embraces the key steps of the process:
This stage includes marketing research aimed to determine the viability of a solution. The respective documentation should help explain to developers which functions and services would attract the target audience most and how to construct those features.
Based on user requirements, stakeholders formulate technical specifications and set up tasks, terms, and test parameters.
This is where project managers and architects come into play. The documentation at this stage includes the distribution of responsibilities, budget, timeline, tech stack, architectural design, project limitations, and risk levels.
Here, developers make code scripts according to the product specification and requirements.
The finished software undergoes testing procedures to reveal bugs and check whether all functional and non-functional requirements are complied to and the performance matches users’ expectations.
The IT department tracks and maintains the software functionality after the release to guarantee that the performance meets key indicators.
Software engineering documentation acts as a lighthouse on the development path. Its fundamental goal is to ensure that all parties share the common vision and move in the same direction to attain the project goals.
Documentation holds multifaceted purposes. From the customer’s standpoint, it helps to use the solution properly. From the development team’s standpoint, it provides the unified information required for effective work. From the marketing standpoint, it helps promote the product by explaining how it addresses the users’ needs.
Based on the comprehensive nature of software development documentation, it is divided into two essential groups:
The major types of software documentation can be represented in the following way:
Let us proceed to discovering the types of technical documentation in more detail.
Documents from this category describe the solution and provide guidelines for working with it. Generally, product documentation comprises tech specifications, requirements, manuals, business logic, and more. The group is subdivided into:
Now, let’s delve deeper into each type of product documentation.
System documents deliver information about the whole system to software engineers and stakeholders, helping them comprehend the underlying technology. The documentation typically includes but is not limited to the description of requirements, architecture design, source code, quality assurance, testing reports, and a maintenance guide.
When composing documents, you can use technical documentation examples or technical documentation templates that are generally available. We will go through the essential characteristics of the main system document types.
This section collects the data about system functionality. Simply put, it describes what the system should do. The product requirements document also contains such general information as business rules and use cases. Its primary purpose is to state the product’s goal, functions, features, behavior, and maintenance.
The best practice is to adhere to a consistent technical documentation template that is unified for all team members. This is the optimal way to save everyone’s time and keep the document concise.
Software engineers work on the user experience design throughout all the stages of SDLC. The process encompasses research, prototyping, usability checks, and design itself. Every part requires respective documentation and deliverables.
While the product requirement documentation explains what needs to be developed, the architecture design documents describe how to construct it. Also regarded as tech specifications, these documents comprise a software engineer’s fundamental architectural decisions. The documentation overviews the product architecture, outlines the scope of works, and establishes the milestones. It explains how each product component will help the solution match the requirements and guides all team members in their choice of methods and strategies. Utilize technical documentation templates for architecture design to include all the necessary constituents.
QA engineers test user acceptance in different ways. Here are several common testing techniques:
These guides should provide usage recommendations and troubleshooting advice. The document also describes the dependencies between various parts of the system.
This group of product documents is directed to solution users. Users, in turn, are subdivided into user personas as well, since they may have different tasks and skill levels. The user documentation correspondingly splits into two big groups: end-users and system administrators.
In a nutshell, end-user documentation should clearly explain how the solution can help address user’s issues. Such guidelines may come in various forms:
Since system administrators are advanced software users, they don’t need instructions on how to operate the software. Docs for this group of users typically encompass the essential points of installation and updates. The standard system administrators’ documents include:
This software technical documentation branch includes all the activities connected with product development. Thanks to the properly organized process documentation, all development phases become transparent and easily manageable. Process documents are specific to each project stage and have particular goals. Basically, they do the following:
The common types of process documents include:
Every project starts with the planning stage. The respective documentation allows managers to allocate tasks and resources, with the opportunity to make changes according to the product evolution.
Without tracking and measuring progress, you’ll hardly achieve outstanding results. Reports demonstrate how resources were used at each stage, while metrics help assess the effects and determine whether the goals at each stage were attained.
Working papers are convenient tools for collecting software engineers’ ideas throughout the project life cycle. These docs can include certain information about code, sketches, and potential solutions to technical issues. They allow for storing valuable project details, which can be helpful throughout product development.
This part contains exhaustive coding and user experience standards that the team should comply with during the project implementation.
Most of the process documentation relates to specific project phases, meaning that the documents may quickly run out of date. However, they should be carefully stored since they can aid in performing similar tasks, troubleshooting, or maintenance in the future.
The main goal of process documentation is to lower the amount of system documentation. Therefore, you should create a minimal documentation plan and make your writing concise.
Here are the three main occurrences you should avoid when creating your documentation:
Let us help you structure the preparation process by providing several recommendations on producing effective technical software documentation and securing the software development life cycle.
Communication is the milestone of any project. Thoughtfully planned, efficient communication makes a conducive and friendly environment for enhanced cooperation. Moreover, frequent interactions between team members help avoid numerous issues and misunderstandings.
When selecting channels for communication, you should ensure that all team members and stakeholders are involved. This may require remote collaboration, so include the most convenient and effective means.
We can suggest live meetings, video meetings, management dashboards, emails, messengers, and online communication platforms.
Before you kick off the project, work out a detailed agreement on appropriate communication channels and format so that all parties can contribute to a fruitful development process.
A stellar solution starts with a clear understanding of what a software engineering company is going to deliver and what a customer will get in the outcome. Therefore, developers should achieve alignment between what they design, what the client needs, and what they will eventually construct.
The recipe is defining a holistic project vision and goals based on customer expectations and pain points. Together with the stakeholder requirements, this information constitutes the basis for documentation in software development.
Focusing on your customers will bring you closer to achieving your business goals. Therefore, a product owner and a development team should identify and record all functional and non-functional user demands. This would help to prioritize product features and exclude unnecessary ones.
A use case diagram is instrumental at this stage, as it models the solution’s functionality by displaying actors and use cases. The diagram visualizes the functional demands of a system that will further translate into design decisions and development priorities.
The following example demonstrates the use case diagram for a web console with the three actors involved. It can also serve as a template for technical documentation.
User requirements documents and use case diagrams address the following project needs:
Clickable wireframes illustrate the future product’s user interface. This tool is indispensable for developing project documentation, as it gives the following opportunities: evaluating the potential system UX, revealing missing requirements, and keeping all parties updated.
Interactive wireframes are also an inexpensive way to verify a product’s performance that is very similar to a final version. By demonstrating wireframes to the client, you can implement comments and fine tune the screens. Further, wireframes lay the foundation for adequate UX documentation.
The functional specification describes operations and activities that a system must be able to conduct. It includes all functionalities of the solution: from the input to the system to its behavior, data manipulation, user interaction, and output.
This section relates to quality attributes and represents the general system properties. The documents may contain the aspects of security, capacity, compatibility, performance, reliability, usability, scalability, and other requirements. The adequately created documentation highlights the quality attribute of the solution, guarantees excellent UX, and reduces expenses.
The diagram overviews the available systems and represents how the system parts interact with each other. It displays the interdependence of all elements and helps to ensure compliance with system-relevant requirements.
An architecture diagram contains three main components:
Here is an example of a technical architecture diagram for a healthcare enterprise:
Once we’ve explored the types and processes of documentation for software development, it’s time to share several tips for composing quality documentation.
The purpose of “Readme” files is to describe the solution to its users and programmers. The files explain the product use and contain a general project overview. Apart from this information, “Readme” files may include:
Record the issues reported by your colleagues or product users with the help of issue trackers. First, this will help you manage the steps taken to resolve issues and keep the team informed of the progress. Second, an issue tracker will come on hand if the problem repeats in the future. In this case, your team can consult the tracker to review which procedures helped to correct the problem.
Besides, adding coding conventions to technical documentation is a good idea. The functionality of your solution and the whole way it performs depends on coding. Therefore, it makes sense to inform your colleagues which programming method and style you select to retain consistency and let them better understand the software they are dealing with.
You can follow the best practice and list every version of the created files and edits in your software development documentation. Implement a unified system of tracking versions so that each team member understands how many versions exist and which of them have been updated recently.
Tech documentation is diverse and multifaceted. Its creation may require significant time and resources. That’s why software development teams can utilize technical documentation examples and templates. For each type of docs, you can find multiple options of a template for technical documentation, which are either free and ready for implementation or can be tailored for your specific purposes.
Tech documentation template types are numerous and include the following:
To ease the life of your software engineering team further, you can take advantage of countless tools for software documentation. Just like with tech documentation templates, there are specific tools for various categories of documents.
General purpose tools for technical documentationaid informulating product requirements, sharing product information, and documenting features and processes,Roadmap toolsenable quick information exchange, easy updates to schedules and structure, and other editing opportunities.
Tools for technical documentationconcerning UXbasically include prototyping tools that assist in constructing sketches, interactive prototypes, and more.Software documentation tools for technical writersare regarded as content management systems and allow writers to compose, organize, and manage various documentation easily.
These lists of documentation tools and templates for developers are far from exhaustive. If you struggle to compose the proper tech documents and streamline the project life cycle, you can turn to a software development provider.
Technical software documentation elevates the efficiency of the product development process and helps engineering teams build a stellar solution. To create excellent documents, make them clear and concise, follow the best practices, and use the respective templates and documentation tools for developers. To attain sensational results, consult with a reliable software development provider and leverage professional expertise.
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