If you are interested in writing software documentation, you’re in the right place. Here, we will go into detail about the different types of software documentation, and how best to write it.
Skip to the relevant sections here:
- How to Become a Pro at Writing Software Documentation
- What is Technical Software Documentation?
- What Do Software Documentation Writers Do?
- Planning for Success When Writing Software Documentation
- The Different Types of Writing Software Documentation, Explained
- Technical Copywriters Can Help With Writing Software Documentation
How to Become a Pro at Writing Software Documentation
When writing software documentation, good attention to detail and a factual, straight-to-the-point writing style is a must to create high-quality software documents.
As some of the most popular software documentation, you are likely to come across the following:
- API Documentation
- Maintenance Manuals
- Software Architecture Design Documents
- Quality Assurance (also known as QA) Documentation
What is Technical Software Documentation?
Building and developing a particular software is often a lengthy process. Technical Software documentation comes in to help guide people through the different stages of the process and help them understand more about the software.
In short, technical software documentation means all the different types of documentation that are used when creating and maintaining software. This is used to explain how a software functions, how it is maintained, and for helping answer any potential questions that stakeholders may ask.
Regardless, technical software documentation is a very important process for any company that builds software.
What Do Software Documentation Writers Do?
Software documentation writers create and design the documents that are used to help people understand, use, and manage the software. These writers are used by a range of different companies and stakeholders. They would need to be in constant communication with the people creating the software to ensure the work is factual and accurate.
Planning for Success When Writing Software Documentation
Before writing the software documentation, the first step is to plan it out. This ensures that no mistakes are made when writing, and allows you to complete it in the most efficient way possible.
Take a look at the following steps we have laid out below on how to effectively plan for writing the highest quality software documentation.
- Receive the Project from the Client
This is the stage where the client gives you the project to work on. At this stage, it is a good idea to ask any questions which might help you write the documents easier.
The first question to ask is the purpose of the document. What is it for? As there is a range of different forms of software documentation, ensuring that you know this straight away is really important.
As well as what is stated above, we recommend that asking questions on who the target audience is will help vastly increase the quality of your work.
As the targeted audience will be the ones reading the document, ensure it caters to not only their needs but also their experience level.
Think of it this way, if you write software documentation for an audience who doesn’t understand the software that much, with complicated jargon and theories, it will not be helpful compared to writing it in a simple and easy-to-understand way.
It is also necessary to do some research on the audience and predict what kind of questions they may ask. Once this is done, including the answers to any potential questions in the document will ensure it covers everything.
Good communication with the client is a necessity with projects like these. Making sure that you completely understand the objectives that the document needs to achieve and gaining as much helpful information as you can from the client is essential.
- Start Planning
After the initial research has been conducted, the next step is to start planning out the document.
Bullet point a step-by-step plan on what the document needs to include to ensure everything will be covered. Depending on the type of document, you will have different things to include.
- Type Away!
Now you have all the research and planning out of the way, the next stage is to begin writing the document.
Constantly take a look at your plan, and keep to a factual, straight to the point writing style as this is a requirement when writing software documentation.
Software documentation often comes with diagrams to visualize the document and make it easier to read, and concepts easier to understand. Looking to learn how to draw these software documentation diagrams? Check out this article on how to draw technical software diagrams to learn another skill to put on your CV.
- Double-Check the Document
After completing the document, read your plan, ensuring every point is included, in a smooth and easy-to-read manner.
Does it look good? Perfect, you have finally completed the software documentation to a high level.
The Different Types of Writing Software Documentation, Explained
Now you have a good idea of what software documentation is, we will now explain the different types of software documentation, and what technical writers should look out for when writing them.
API (short for application programming interface) is a group of programming code that sends data between one software product and another. What’s the point in creating the code if no one can understand it?
API documentation is simply a manual on how developers can use the API effectively. Just like writing an instruction manual, API documentation should be written in a similar manner.
To begin your API document, having a table of contents at the start would be a good idea. This is so that the users can easily find the information that will be of the most benefit to them.
After doing this, it’s time for the instructions on how to use and how to integrate with the API. This should take up a large part of the document as it explains in detail each step people need to take in order to use the API properly.
After completing the above, add FAQs, definitions, and anything else you would like to include from your research, to ensure no stone is left unturned in the API documentation.
When writing technical documents, always ensure you write with an easy-to-understand writing style to ensure people can follow the steps of the document.
Software Maintenance Manuals
A maintenance manual is a guide to give vital information to those who will be maintaining the software. A high-quality maintenance manual will ensure those maintaining the software will have all the information they need to operate it without issues occurring.
Much like the other software documentation listed in this article, huge research and attention to detail are recommended to ensure all potential questions are catered for.
In this document, the following is needed:
- Start the document with an introduction of the general information about the maintenance manual.
Points of Contact
- In this section, it’s a good idea to add any details of those to contact in the chance of the software going down.
- Add a section with the definition of all the terms or jargon here, to avoid confusion.
- This section should cover all the software’s security controls, passwords, and logging on/off features.
Software Maintenance Procedures
- This is where the step-by-step instructions should be. Explain in detail how to maintain the software, the most common problems, and how to fix them.
Including all the above and anything else that you believe is necessary will ensure that those maintaining the software will have everything, they need to maintain it properly.
Software Architecture Design Documents
Software Architecture Design Documents is another type of technical software document that features the software architect’s main design decisions. In short, this document details how to build the software.
Explaining the different product components that are needed to create the software, and the solutions and strategies to meet all the objectives required, are a necessary part of this document.
When writing this type of document, ensure you cover the below points:
- This part of the document should just explain the main goals of the document and what the outcome of the document will be.
Architecture and Design
- Explain in detail all the main principles the designers will use when creating the software. For example, is it created with monolithic or microservices architecture?
- This section should be all about the stories of those who have used the software, and how they experienced each of the different processes in the software architecture design.
Architecture Design Steps
- This is where the step-by-step guide should be. Illustrate all the steps required when designing the software architecture and the different components required.
- Often in more modern software architecture design documentation, diagrams are used. These are used in order to help people understand software design decisions and the different principles easier.
- After doing all the above, the next stage is creating the timeline of when the different stages of the design were created. Ensure you stay in constant communication with the software architects to ensure the dates line up and there is ample information available to explain each part of the timeline.
A software architecture design document is a very long and detailed document. Ensuring everything is included in an accurate yet straightforward way is vital.
Quality Assurance Documentation
Quality Assurance, also known as QA, is the practice of ensuring that the software is in tip-top shape and there are no issues or glitches. This is a very important step in the software process and is often the last one before the software gets put on the market to be sold.
In terms of software documentation, Quality Assurance Documentation is the process of finding an error and then documenting them all in an easy-to-read document. The designers will look through these documents, and if there are some issues with the software, they can fix them before they go to market.
This is the overall definition, however, Quality Assurance documentation comes in a range of different forms depending on the types of QA tests needing to be done.
Quality Management Plan
- This plan aims to give you a standard to keep to when creating and assessing the quality of the software. A detailed framework will be shown in this document, explaining how on each step of creating the software, quality assurance needs to be considered to ensure there are no larger problems down the line.
Here’s a writing tip: Communicating with project stakeholders is key when creating this document. This will ensure that the project managers will stick to the plan and those using the software will be happy with the outcome.
Test Strategy Document
- The Software Testing Lifecycle (also known as STLC), is the sequence of tests that occur during the product life cycle to ensure the software is of high quality. In short, a test strategy document is a plan for shaping the method of approach for the STLC.
This document goes into detail on all the important information regarding the test strategy, the test approach, and the defined objectives of the strategy. The result of this document? A detailed strategy explanation that the Quality Assurance team will constantly look at to ensure that they are implementing the strategy correctly.
- A test plan explains everything that needs to be tested. This should also explain the different testing methods, how to implement these methods, timelines for completing the testing, schedules, and the responsibilities of the quality assurance team.
Case Specification Document
- The Case Specification (also known as the test case specification document), is a document that details which scenarios will be tested, how they will be tested, and when they will be tested.
This is linked to the test plan, as it goes into more detail on the methods. Ensure you go back and check the test plan when writing this one to ensure the case spec is accurate.
- This is a list of the different tests that need to be performed at certain times to ensure the software is of high quality. It also details the success of past tests, why some have failed, and the reasons for them failing.
This is very helpful for the QA team, as they will look at the failures and send them to the software architects to ensure this problem doesn’t happen again.
Now that you know all the basics, you are sure to become a technical software writing pro in no time!
Technical Copywriters Can Help With Writing Software Documentation
Are you in need of technical copywriters to write software documentation for you, saving you time and effort? At Killer Copywriting, we specialize in all forms of business writing, whether it is technical or non-technical, to help your business save time and improve sales.
Check out our services page for more information.