software documentation

Software documentation is written material, images, or video instructions that come with computer software. As a rule, software documentation explains how to use a program or a service.

However, there may be different types of software documentation, depending on the audience it is created for. Here are some examples of the software documentation types:

  • Requirements documentation. Typically created in the beginning of a software development project. Has the goal to clearly and precisely specify the expectations in regards to the software being created. May include functional requirements, limitations, hardware or software requirements, compatibility requirements, and so on.
  • Architecture documentation. Defines the high-level architecture of the software system being created. May describe the main components of the system, their roles and functions, as well as the data and control flow among those components.
  • Technical documentation - Documentation of the software code, algorithms, APIs. Written for the technical audience like software developers.
  • End user documentation - Refer to User Guide.

As a rule, there’s a special team in a company occupied with technical writing - the documentation team. Although, workflows can differ. In some companies, support, dev or QA can do documentation authoring.

Another option quite popular as far as software documentation is concerned is outsourcing. Many organizations choose documentation writing to be done by outsource technical writers, and there are some solid reasons for that. Read about the reasons to outsource technical writing in our blog.

Creating User Documentation

There’s a certain process developed over the years for creating quality user guides. Some steps can alter, but the skeleton remains the same. The most common documentation authoring process includes five steps:

  1. First, there’s the user analysis. At this stage the basic characteristics of the users are researched. This is highly important to know for whom the documentation is written order to tailor it out for them.
  2. On this stage, the planning is done and the documents are actually written.
  3. The documentation draft review is performed. Documentation writers gather feedback on the draft created at the previous step.
  4. Usability testing. The documentation usability is tested. The QA team can be included into this step for higher efficiency of help authoring.
  5. The final step is editing. All the information that was collected on steps 3 and 4 is analysed in order to produce the final draft.
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