What is Technical Documentation?
Technical documentation is a type of writing that comprises product-relevant information. It involves creating documents that explain how a product or service works.
Nowadays, technical documentation not only contains the textual description of the product features but also multimedia content like images, videos, and infographics.
What is the Purpose of a Technical Documentation?
Technical documentation is a common practice in software development, IT, and other manufacturing industries. It encompasses the internal processes and specifications of a product or service so that the stakeholders, product managers, developers, and customers can understand it.
Product development is a complex process that involves various teams. It often results in the creation of a large number of documents. Technical documentation makes this process easier by providing accurate and up-to-date information about the product. It also enables developers to keep the information in one place to access it whenever needed quickly.
Technical documentation is also vital for the post-release phase of a product. After the product is released, users might face difficulties understanding its use. In such cases, they can refer to the technical documentation for assistance. Technical documents aim to guide users and help them troubleshoot any issues they might face while using the product.
Technical Documentation Examples
Technical writing is a vast field that comprises many different types of documents. Following are some examples of technical documentation:
A business proposal is a document that contains a detailed description of a product or service. It also includes information about the company’s ability to provide the service or deliver the product. Companies usually create business proposals to win a contract with another company. They must be well-written and persuasive so that the other company is convinced to select them for the project. Business proposals must be clear, concise, and error-free. They tailor the specific needs of the client.
They aim to propose a solution to a problem that the client is facing to win the contract. They differentiate your company from the competition and prove that you are the best option for the project. Technical writers include testimonials and case studies in business proposals to showcase the company’s capabilities. The contents of a business proposal are:
A title page
- A table of contents
- An executive summary
- A company introduction
- The problem statement
- The proposed solution
- Pricing and delivery information
- A conclusion
An employee handbook is a document that contains all the policies and procedures of an organization. The company provides these handbooks to employees to be aware of the policies when they join the company. Employee handbooks improve communication between employees and the management. They ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there is no misunderstanding about the company’s policies.
The handbooks contain information about the company’s culture, values, and mission. They also include the code of conduct that employees need to follow. Additionally, employee handbooks contain information about the company’s benefits and perks. Before writing the employee handbook, technical writers must know the organizational culture and values. The constituents of an employee handbook are:
- A table of contents
- Introduction and purpose section
- The company history
- The company’s values and culture
- The code of conduct
- Policies and procedures
- Benefits and perks
These are booklets or pamphlets that contain information about a product, service, or company. Brochures are usually created for marketing support. They aim to promote a product or service and convince people to buy it. Brochures are designed to be eye-catching so that they can grab attention. Marketing and sales teams create them to increase sales. Brochures must be concise and to the point. They should contain only relevant information. They contain images with pertinent details about the product or services.
The contents of a brochure vary depending on the purpose of the brochure. If it is for marketing a product, it will contain information about the features and benefits of the product. On the other hand, if it is for promoting a service, it includes information on the company’s capabilities and how the service can benefit the customer. Before creating a brochure, technical writers must know the intended audience. They also need to be aware of the company’s messaging and branding.
API documentation is one of the most common types of technical documentation that is written for programmers. It contains information about how to use an application programming interface (API). API documentation is usually written by the developers who create the API.
The API documentation contains code examples to show how the end users can use the API. It includes a list of all the functions and methods in the API. It also provides information about the parameters and data types used in the API.
Technical writers must have a good understanding of programming before writing API documentation. They must also be familiar with the company’s values, mission, and culture. The developers host the API document on their website so that programmers can easily find it and use it. They can also host it on its API-focused portal.
A newsletter is a report of recent developments, typically in a particular field or activity. Organizations use it to update their customers, employees, or members on what is happening. Newsletters are usually sent out regularly, such as monthly or quarterly. They are in the form of an email, PDF, or printed copy.
They have a specific format with the company’s logo, date, and sender’s information at the top. The body of the newsletter contains the latest news and developments. The newsletter also includes images, graphs, and charts to make it visually appealing.
To write a newsletter, technical writers need to be aware of the company’s branding and messaging. They also need to be familiar with the company’s news and developments. Following are some necessary steps you need to take to write an excellent newsletter:
- Identification of the purpose of the newsletter
- Audience analysis
- Choosing a format
- Creating the layout
- Writing the content
- Editing and proofreading
- Distributing the newsletter.
Project Management Reports
It is comprehensive documentation containing a project’s details from start to finish. It includes the project’s objectives, deliverables, milestones, risks, and budget. Project documentation and reports are created to provide visibility into the project’s progress and performance. They are also used to communicate with stakeholders about the project’s status. Project managers often make these reports. They need to be familiar with:
- Project goals and objectives
- Project deliverables
- Project risks
- Project budget
- Project tasks and schedule
Memos are business documents used to communicate information internally in an organization. The memo or memorandum should be short and concise. Memos are usually sent via email and can be printed and distributed. The format of a memo includes the date, sender’s information, and recipient’s information at the top. The memorandum contains the information. The memo also has a subject line that tells the reader what the memo is about.
Memos are created to highlight an official event within an organization, provide updates on a project, or announce policy changes. It also enables companies to prevent disputes by creating a written record of the decision. The tone of a memo is usually formal and professional. However, the tone can also be informal, depending on the purpose. The contents of a memo are:
- Opening section
- Summary of the memo
- Discussion of the issue
- Closing section
- Action items.
It is a technical documentation type used to announce news or events to the media. Press releases are posted on the company’s website and distributed through social media. They have a specific format with the company’s logo, date, and contact information at the top. It enables companies to attract public attention and generate interest in their product or service.
Organizations create press releases to hire new employees, launch new products or services, or win awards. They are also used to announce changes in company policy. It helps organizations increase their visibility and build their brand. It should be objective and free of promotional language. The press release should also contain quotes from company representatives. Following are the constituents of a press release:
- A creative headline
- Newsworthy content
- Company’s contact information
- Company quote
It is technical documentation that contains the company’s style and formatting guidelines. It is used to create consistency in the company’s branding. They provide guidelines for everything from the company’s logo to website design. Style guides also contain instructions on how to write company documents, grammar rules, and vocabulary.
Companies can use style guides for both internal and external documents. The marketing or communications team formulate them to provide instructions for the company’s employees. It promotes the uniqueness of the company’s brand and helps employees to understand the company’s identity. Contractors or freelancers who work with the company also use style guides to ensure they adhere to its standards. The following are some of the elements that are typically included in a style guide:
- Logo guidelines
- Color palette
- Image guidelines
- Voice and tone
It is the type of technical documentation that provides instructions on how to use a product. It includes information such as features, installation, troubleshooting, and warranty. Product documentation is also known as product manuals. It is essential for the proper functioning of the product. End users rely on product documentation to understand how to use the product. It also helps organizations boost their customer satisfaction by providing the required information.
The product development team creates product and process documentation. The development team works closely with the engineering team to ensure accurate documentation. The quality assurance team also reviews the product documentation before it is released to the end user. Product documentation should be easy to understand and well-organized. The product development team also regularly updates the product documentation to reflect any product changes. Product documentation is of the following two types:
It is the type of product documentation that provides information about a system. It includes information such as the system’s purpose, components, interfaces, and performance. System documentation is also known as system specs or functional specifications.
The system development team creates system documentation. The team works closely with the engineering and project management teams to ensure accurate documentation. The quality assurance team also reviews system documentation before it is released to the end user.
User documentation is manuals that provide instructions on how to use a product, service, or application. Software developers, product manufacturers, and service providers create user documents so that users can understand and use their products. User documentation usually contains step-by-step directions and illustrations to make the process easier to understand. It includes written instructions as well as images.
User documentation includes user manuals, reference manuals, installation manuals, user guides, troubleshooting manuals, and how-to guides. They enable users to get the most out of a product and avoid potential problems. The user guides for apps also comprise screenshots of the app interface so that users can easily follow the instructions. The contents of user documentation include:
- A cover page
- A title page
- A copyright section
- Table of contents
- A purpose section
- An audience and a scope section
- A general overview of the product
- Instructions on how to use the product
- Troubleshooting guide
- Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
How to Create Technical Documentation?
Technical documentation is time-consuming as it requires research, planning, and writing. Here are the steps to writing technical documentation:
Determine the Type of Documentation
Several types of documentation exist, and each has a specific purpose. To write technical documentation that serves its purpose, you must determine the type of documentation you will create. You must be aware of your targeted audience and the type of information they are looking for.
Organizations create documents for internal and external audiences. The internal audience includes employees, while the external audience comprises customers, partners, and investors. Identifying the audience is essential as it will help you determine the level of detail required in the document.
Conduct Your Research
After you have determined the type of documentation, you need to gather all the information required to write it. Creating an effective document is only possible if you have in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. To collect all the necessary information, you need to conduct thorough research.
The research will help you understand the topic better and enable you to write an accurate and error-free document. You need to search the following questions to gather the required information:
- What should you include in your document?
- What objectives do you want to achieve by writing this document?
- What are the specific requirements of your audience?
- What type of information do you need to include in your document?
You can use online resources, such as articles, websites, and books, to conduct your research. You can also consult experts in the field to get first-hand information. Read online documentation to understand the format, writing style, and technical details of technical documentation.
Formulate Document Design
The design and format of your technical document are crucial aspects you need to consider. A well-organized, easy-to-understand, and visually appealing document enable you to communicate your message effectively. It also helps you engage the audience.
Your tech docs should have a consistent layout throughout the document. You can use headings and subheadings to break down the content and make it easy to navigate. Using bulleted lists and tables also enhances the document’s readability. You should also use images, infographics, and videos to make your document more engaging.
If you don’t know how to design your tech documentation, you can search for documentation templates on the internet. You can also use a free template from the search engines. Documentation templates provide a framework you can follow to create your document.
Start Writing Your Technical Document
After you have gathered all the information and designed your document, you are ready to start writing it. Begin by creating an outline of the document. An outline helps you determine the accurate structure of your document. It also ensures you don’t forget to include any vital information in your document.
After creating the outline, start writing a knowledge base documentation. Use the information you have collected from your research to write the document. Write clearly and concisely. Avoid using technical jargon that your audience might not be familiar with. Include the technical details of the product or service in this type of documentation. You can also include information about the product’s features, benefits, and uses.
If you are writing user manuals, make sure to use step-by-step instructions. Include screenshots and videos to make the process easier to understand. You can also use flowcharts to depict the steps involved in a process.
Review Your Document
Proofreading and editing documents is a vital step to creating great technical documentation. After you have written the document, put it aside for some time. It helps you to come back to it with a fresh perspective. After taking a break, review your document and make the necessary changes.
Your document should be free of errors, such as grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. It is also necessary to check the accuracy of the information included in your document. While reviewing your document, conduct a usability test to ensure that the document is user-friendly.
Getting someone else to review your document is also a great idea. Ask your reviewer to provide feedback on your document’s content, style, and format. It is also essential to ensure that your document is free of errors.
Deliver Your Document
Once you have eliminated all the errors, your document is ready for delivery. You need to deliver technical documentation to the relevant audience. The delivery method you choose depends on the type of document and the audience you are targeting.
- If you are writing user manuals, you need to deliver them to the customers or end-users. You can distribute user manuals in print or digital format. You can also make them available on your website or blog.
- If you are writing software documentation, you need to deliver it to the development team. The team will use the documentation to build the software. You can deliver the document in print or digital format. It is also essential to ensure your document is accessible to the audience.
Update Your Document
Creating and delivering the document is not the end of the process. You need to update your document depending on the changes made to the product. Formulate an updated schedule to ensure that your document is always up-to-date.
You can also ask your audience for feedback and use it to improve the quality of your document. The feedback from the customers, stakeholders and end-users can help you make the necessary changes to your document.
What are the Benefits of Technical Documentation?
Though technical writing is a daunting task, the efforts you put in will be worth it. Technical documentation offers the following benefits:
Boosting Customer Experience
Technical documentation, like user manuals, user guides, and product documentation, helps end users understand the working of a product. Product and process documentation can help them to understand the working of a product or system. You can help users get the most out of your product or services by providing detailed guidelines. Good documentation also helps to reduce customer support queries and complaints. With such documents, users can quickly find solutions to their problems.
Improving Team Collaboration
Project managers can use technical documentation to brief the development team about the project requirements. By developing technical specifications, you can provide the team with detailed information about the project. It helps developers to have a clear understanding of the project requirements. Technical documentation also helps to improve communication between the development team and stakeholders.
Reducing Development Costs
Technical documentation can help system administrators reduce development costs by eliminating the need for training. When you provide detailed documentation, developers can quickly get familiar with the system. Documentation saves employee training costs and time.
Technical documentation can also help to avoid errors during the development process. Providing clear and concise information can help developers to avoid making mistakes. It helps to reduce the cost of rework and revisions.
Training employees is a time-consuming task. Also, the training courses are pretty expensive, and not all employers can afford to attend them. Technical documentation helps to improve the efficiency of workflows. Documentation helps employees understand their roles and responsibilities by providing instructions. Documents can also help to streamline processes and improve workflows as they don’t have to rush to figure things out.
Reducing Legal Risks
Technical documentation help reduce the legal risks associated with using your product. By providing accurate details, you can help users to understand the working of your product. It will help to avoid any misusage of your product. In case of any legal disputes, technical documentation can be used as evidence to prove that the user was aware of the working of your product.
Technical documentation is an excellent way to assist users and improve the efficiency of workflows. It can help you to reduce the cost of training and development and avoid legal risks. You can streamline processes and improve communication by developing accurate and concise documents. So, go ahead and start creating technical documentation for your product or service today.
What is technical documentation?
Technical documentation refers to the process of creating documents that provide information about a product, system, or service.
What are examples of technical documents?
Following are some examples of technical documents:
- User documentation
- API documentation
- Product documentation
- Factory service manuals
- Press releases
- Code documents
- Style guides
What are the three main parts of a technical document?
Here are the three main parts of a technical document:
Front Matter: The front matter of a document contains the title page, copyright information, table of contents, and other preliminary pages.
Body: The body of a document contains the main text of the document.
End Matter: The end matter of a document contains the appendices, glossary, index, and other supplemental materials.