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What are the Basics of Software Documentation?

  • Neelam Tyagi
  • Nov 03, 2021
What are the Basics of Software Documentation? title banner


“Documentation is one of the most important parts of a software project. However, a lot of projects have little or no documentation to help their (potential) users use the software,” as stated by Eric Holscher, co-founder of Write the Docs.


Practicing good documentation is as important as a part of software to code. Building the documentation during a software development process needs lots of comprehensive understanding of the documentation development process. 


Owing the same, the blog is the detailed portrait across software development-basics and types. 


Software Documentation


Making a software development process more simple and significant, software documentation encompasses all the well-written documents and materials translating a software product’s development and implementation. Moreover, each piece of software has some sort of documentation that can detail what the product is, how it works, and why it behaves the way. 


In other terms, each software product, whether it is engineered by a small team or a large community, demands some complementary guidance, so different documents are prepared during the whole process of software development life cycle (SDLC)- from user requirement phase (design and deployment) to delivery and maintenance of the product. 


Documentation explains the functionalities and capabilities of the product unifying project-related information and support material. This enables developers and stakeholders  to discuss all consequential queries, and reduces the error gap amidst the vision of both parties. 


For this reason, programmers must pay much attention to quality and applicability of documentation to meet the expectations of stakeholders. Therefore, documentation should be designed, operated, produced, published and maintained/updated extremely professionally.


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Let’s understand more with the following examples;


  1. For instance, you are a developer who wants to code in the best possible way, to make the code best which is easy to read, easy to understand as well as expecting great outcomes from it. Wth documentation, you can cite code on your own. You can pick code anytime and anywhere and work on it. Through modifying codes, you can update or improve a software whenever it is required.


  1. Considering the software development process, software documentation is one of the most imperative measures that ensures all the requirements/information are easily accessible and shortens the learning curve. 


Imminent changes are made in the software due to the tremendously changing business environment, a sturdy software documentation assists in accounting necessary modifications in the software without any bigger fault. We can view documentation containing every piece of information a product/software goes through across its lifecycle. 


  1. A user example is user manual, a user can use this guide to install, use and leverage maintenance of the software application/products. 


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An effective documentation assists in following ways;


  • A well-structured documentation maintains the records of each phase of app development thoroughly, and thereby reforms the overall excellency of the software product.

  • A precise documentation aims on development, maintenance and knowledge transfer from developers to end-users/target audiences.

  • A well-written documentation hands development groups and testing analysts to validate check-lists.

  • Provide instructions to end-users on how to use it.

  • Documentations are unambiguous therefore trim down repetition. 

  • Properly organized documentations make codes simpler to understand and site


The video below explains the documentation procedure to be a simple, comprehensive and globally accessible scheme. It can be applicable to a large spectrum of fields and applications practically.


Types of Documentation


Specifically, documentations can be framed into various shapes and sizes being internally and externally. A variety of documentations can symbolize particular voice, tone, formatting, audience, users, contributors, etc while expressing meaningful content.


The most common types of software documentation are


  1. Internal Documentation 


  • Team Documentation


In order to detail the work conducted so far by a team, team documentation can specify project plans, team allotment and schedules, status reports, convention report, or similar important things a team requires to work upon in a more efficient manner. 


Owing to detailed information, this documentation ensures that everyone focuses on the same note.


  • Reference Documentation


Tutoring a company on critical agendas, procedures and business policies, reference documentation contains vital information about instructions and guidance made by the HR department, legal operations for onboarding external bodies, how-to proceedings on acquiring business benefits. 


However, reference documentations are educated by a small team for a large variety of audience with respect to substantial content.


  • Project Documentation


Providing specification of a product in much-needed detailed structure, project documentation are project-oriented and illustrate product engineering- proposals, documents related to product requirements, guidance about designs or blueprints, roadmaps, and similar required information necessary for development. 


The requirements/suggestions are contributed by project managers, engineers, designers and many more.


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  1. External Documentation


  • System Documentation


Featuring code, APIs, and correlated processes, system documentation guides developers and programmers about how to use particular modes of method and function in order to design and construct a specific software aligning with described limitations and requirements. 


For example, code snippets (API calls and responses) are essentially used in this type of documentation.


  • End User Documentation


Accounted as most important yet most viable, end user documentation educates users with easy to read and understand, updated instructions for each new upgrade of the specific product. 


End user documentation incorporates different forms of content such as readme docs, installation guides, admin guides, product tutorials, software knowledge guide, video scripts etc. 


Similar to reference guides, end user documentation is also prepared by a small team of experienced creators for an extensive bandwidth of consumers, and acknowledging the relevance of digestible content. 


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Tutorials, how to guide, explanation and reference documents are parts of user documentation.

Four phases of user documentation,Image Source


Ending Notes


We have received that a documentation is a structured text, designed illustration or video (tutorial) characterizing a software to its users- be a programmer, system analyst, administer, community, or external body. 


At each phase of product development, a variety of documents needs to be created explicitly for different purposes, thereby software documentation is an integral part of the software development process at its earliest stages.


Via Transcom “The term ‘technical documentation’ refers to different documents with product-related data and information that are used and stored for different purposes. “Different purposes” mean: Product definition and specification, design, manufacturing, quality assurance, product liability, product presentation; description of features, functions and interfaces; intended, safe and correct use; service and repair of a technical product as well as its safe disposal.”


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Adding more information, product-oriented development encounters multiple changes against constant ebb and flow of consumers’ demand, documentation becomes more significant inevitably. Since different modules of a software are built by different groups, if another team member needs to understand a phase of a module, a software documentation is a good resource of depiction and makes the task easier.


Using agile methodology, the developer team can render valuable products to their users, the same principle can be applied to the process of developing a software documentation. A comprehensive document, which is precise and relevant, should be composed whether it is software specified document for programmer and developer, or software user manuals for end users. 

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