For this week’s blog, I decided to research a bit about documentation standards. I recall working on a lot of documentation for a project in the summer so I wanted to find any blogs that can help me write better documentation. The blog that I found to be particularly helpful is “Software Documentation Best Practices” by David Oragui. In his blog he touches on what software documentation is, types of software documentation, the benefits of creating it, and how to write effective documentation.
Software documentation provides information about software products and systems. The several categories and types will depend on the audience and intended use of the software. The types of software documentation that were discussed were those for end users, developers, as well as system administrators, and other IT professionals. The documentation for end users provides step-by-step instructions for common tasks and describes the features and capabilities of the software. The documentation for developers and other technical stakeholders provides technical information about the software like its API, data structures, or algorithms. The documentation for system administrators and other IT professionals includes installation guides. The breakdown of what each audience would need is very helpful to gain a deeper understanding of the topic.
The section that explained the benefits of creating software documentation aided in my understanding of its importance. The benefits that were mentioned are improved user experience, enhanced collaboration, increased efficiency, and improved quality. Improved user experience is an obvious benefit but I didn’t think about the other benefits that were mentioned. Now that I’ve read the blog, I understand how it makes the development process consistent and helps developers work more efficiently because the necessary information is easily accessible.
I also found the section about writing effective software documentation extremely helpful. The tips that were included are: (1) Prioritize Documentation in the Development Process, (2) Identify Your Target Audience, (3) Define the Scope and Goals, (4) Develop a Content Strategy, (5) Create a Style Guide, (6) Write Clearly and Concisely, and (7) Review and Revise. The additional best practices that he included at the end were extremely useful as well. The tips for including examples and exercises, using a consistent structure and format, and ensuring inclusivity and accessibility are very important. I found many of the tips to be familiar. While working on software in the summer, the team I was working with made sure to follow a style guide and include examples. After we split up to write the documentation for different tools, we made sure to have another set of eyes for review. We also used tools to detect gendered and biased language.
Although I am somewhat familiar with software documentation best practices, reading through useful information on the topic helped solidify what I already knew and provided me with new knowledge to put into practice.