What is Technical Documentation?

Updated on October 8th, 2021
What is Technical Documentation?

Not everyone is well versed with the implementation of software development and engineering in technical writing. Due to this, the term technical documentation often requires deep knowledge to create.

Well-written technical documentation is an umbrella term that encompasses articulated and straightforward technical user guides. Furthermore, technical documents explain the functionality of any product concisely and in simple terms.

The materials and content in technical documentation related to the software product development cycle in software companies or the engineering product cycle in non-software companies.

Technical writers make such documents based on product understanding and user feedback. However, the aspects involved in technical documents are vast and involve intricate details.

Do you want to know everything about technical documentation? Read on to find out.

What are Technical Documents?

Technical documents are written content describing the functionalities and features of a product. Ideally, writers create technical documents for the software development and engineering industry. Therefore, the process of maintaining such documents falls under the domain of product teams and project managers.

Technical documentation refers to the virtual communication about technical processes through documents.

A technical document is curated for the intended audience to help understand intricate technical details. It is documentation created to inform about the usability and workability of technical products. A technical writer will write how-to guides using up-to-date information to determine the functionality of a product.

The technical documentation includes technical specifications like:

  • Uses
  • Functionality
  • Features
  • Development
  • Methodology

Along with these descriptions, great technical documentation will have the end goal embedded in the content. Therefore, these user guides will quickly explain the specific aspect of a newly launched technical product to the readers. Your technical documentation will benefit the product development lifecycle in software development companies.

Some believe that writing technical documentation is the way of communicating in the technological world.

Technical Documentation: The Backbone of Software Development

You can refer to this as the backbone of administrations and operations, and the straightforward segway into user territory. Indeed, it is a detailed description of products with the sole goal of making it easy for the end-user to comprehend.

It is the company's job to deliver technical documentation based on easy-to-understand architecture and dynamics. However, when you write technical documentation, you are not capturing the raw information from the product. Instead, it is to create user documents in such a presentable way that it is:

  • Usable
  • Readable
  • Simple
  • Understandable
  • Helpful

Sometimes, software documentation is referred to as the "nuts and bolts" of any product. Moreover, this document acts as organization support to bring in customer satisfaction.

Technical documentation is written for employees, users, and other audiences. Therefore, companies create technical documentation because it plays an important part in the software development cycle. Such an end-users document serves purposes like:

  • Knowledge transfer
  • Development support
  • Maintenance

Due to this, software development teams should create technical documentation that is error-free. Moreover, the expressions need to align with the product. It is online documentation that offers user instructions based on project plans after gaining insight from software testing.

When you create a technical document, it's important to embed project-related information.

Who Can Use Software Documentation?

All types of technical documentation work with IT, medical, marketing, engineering, and more. Therefore, the audience can consist of end-users or stakeholders of technical documentation. In some cases, programmers read the user manual too.

Due to this, the users vary based on the type of technical documentation. For example, product documentation will benefit end-users and stakeholders. The end-user documentation is written for people who will use the product rather than invest in it.

The main goal of any great technical documentation is for the user to gain benefits from the product.

A technical document is written keeping end-users in mind. This way, end users can easily use the product after reading through the documentation.

When it comes to different process documents, technical writers and software development engineers craft them by keeping stakeholders in mind. Moreover, developers can also fall under this audience, and so can the software engineers in the company. The goal with process documentation is the same in this technical documentation, as it provides the details featured in a technical product.

As you can see, the end-user documentation, product documentation, and process documentation have different audiences. Hence, the content will vary.

Importance of Technical Documentation

As mentioned earlier, all types of technical documents help minimize a product or software's difficult terminologies and intricacies.

The fundamental importance of well-crafted technical documentation is the understandable information it provides to the audience. If there were no technical documentation in companies, then companies would lack information regarding the usability of a product or software. Therefore, the audience will fail to use it correctly.

Product documentation will offer optimal knowledge for the users to truly understand the product's functionality.

An end-user will find the technical documentation an essential part of product distribution. It is indeed an effective way to bring in beneficial ROI for the company. Why? Because technical documentation can minimize customer dissatisfaction and reduce service hours.

With user documentation, you can troubleshoot your issues and have answers to all your doubts.

When it comes to internal operations, process documentation helps employees understand the workings of a new product. Therefore, this document will have highly technical data as a simple overview of the product planning process.

Either way, technical documentation is a voice for inanimate objects! ‍

Technical Documentation Types

The industry uses two main types of technical documentation to process information about products or software.

Product Documentation

In product documentation, the content involves a developing product and its instructions. It includes the steps of performing tasks with the product. Moreover, it showcases information about products that a company already developed.

Process documentation will include operating procedures like:

  • Requirements
  • Business logic
  • Manuals
  • Tech specifications

Product documentation is referred to as user documentation because it contains details of the finished product. Therefore, it focuses on the end product rather than the process of development.

The style of this documentation will vary since it is written for:

  • End-users
  • Development team members
  • Stakeholders
  • Engineers
  • Programmers

There are two sub-categories of process documentation:

System Documentation

System documentation describes the system and the parts involved in it, including the development process like:

  • Documents required
  • Design decisions
  • Program source code documentation
  • FAQs

User Documentation

This document involves the instruction manuals curated for end-users and system administrators. Therefore, it helps with end-user support by including the following information:

  • User guides
  • Installation documentation
  • Troubleshooting manuals
  • Reference manuals
  • Tutorials

Few Examples of Product Documentation

Process Documentation

Technical documentation that includes process documentation involves the maintenance and development process.

A technical writer will create manuals to offer marketing support. It is technical documentation that talks about product development and everything entailed in it. Moreover, process-based documentation focuses on the end-users requirement and outlines different steps to use the product.

This document can also include release details, data, and events that contribute to the evolution and progress of the product.

Indeed, it is technical writing for internal processes and sometimes for users interested in the technical information. This way, the development teams can knowledge transfer and release notes on the installation manuals and describe the product lifecycle stages.

Few Examples

  • Project proposals
  • Project plans, reports, etc.
  • Working papers

Benefits of Good Technical Documentation

There are numerous benefits of technical documentation for software engineers and the project management team. Even system administrators find these documents beneficial. Therefore, an accurate structure of any technical documentation will help the company and the users achieve what they seek. And that the technical requirements are being met through this documentation.

For example, you are developing a product. What will be your ultimate goal? Indeed, you would want your business rules to adhere to it and your development team to have a successful test schedule. However, the main motive would be for your consumer to enjoy the end product.

Similarly, as a customer, you want to have intricate knowledge about the product and its usability. You would want to use the services to their fullest potential effectively.

These requirements are exactly what technical documentation can help with!

With these technical documentation releases, you can make your consumer understand the product. Moreover, as a consumer, you will get to know more about the product's workability. Sometimes, you can utilize technical landing pages on your website to empower visitors with informative product efficiency.

Technical documentation uses architecture descriptions to showcase every aspect of the product.

The development team and the technical writer need a strong understanding of technical documentation templates. Technical writers can benefit companies by possessing excellent API documentation skills to enhance the online help systems will be beneficial. Therefore, you can gain positive user stories and fulfill your business requirements.

Writing Technical Documentation

When you are writing technical documentation, there is a skill and experience requirement. Therefore, only technical writers develop technical documentation based on users' requests by implementing version control, roles, and permission.

Even so, there are simple steps that you can follow to create high-quality technical documentation:

  • Consider the technical documentation template or design
  • Lots of research based on the type of technical documentation
  • Outlining what you want to write and making it user-focused
  • Utilizing reviews and undergoing many rounds of edits
  • Understanding the product requirements before writing the technical documentation
  • Trial and error method of testing your documentation
  • Publish the documentation and create a definitive protocol from user stories

Technical documentation requires proper planning and understanding of the test schedules. As a technical writer, you need to use the best practices while creating such documentation:

  • Make a plan
  • Create transparency in your technical documentation
  • Do not repeat information
  • Developer a concise document
  • Infuse accessibility and consistency
  • Adhere to the technical documentation goal
  • Focus on the user and determine audience requirements

The Bottom Line

Technical documentation is a way to safeguard your product's functionality and keep it user-friendly. Such documentation utilizes features, developmental processes, and more to offer a strategic product functionality guide. Furthermore, technical documentation must include answers to all the potential user questions.

Indeed, with such documentation, you can enhance the software development industry.

There are specific steps and considerations you need to adhere to before building effective technical documentation. So, do you think you are up for the challenge?

If you are new to technical writing and are looking to break in, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of being a technical writer, how to dominate technical writer interviews, and how to stand out as a technical writing candidate.