Documentation tools– Documentation is among the most important and time-consuming parts of any kind of software development. It is a known fact that documentation tools help maintain high level of productivity and help track down errors. It is a quick reference tool that helps to understand complex features and guides you through your next project.
Project documentation is a key function of any software development project. It explains how to run the software, how to upgrade it, and how to provide maintenance. This aids users in understanding what your software can do, while addressing any issues they may encounter. Documentation also helps developers understand the project requirements and build new versions of the software. This course will take you through all aspects of documenting a programming project including tools, templates, comment styles and contents.
Answering yes to both of these questions is a big part of providing a great customer experience and improving your customer satisfaction rate. That’s why it’s crucial to have documentation that helps customers find answers to their questions without waiting for someone on your staff to reply.
However, writing your online documentation from the ground up is no mean feat. It helps to take a look at brands that have done it successfully before you. So in this post, we’ll explore the different categories of documentation, and the best documentation examples in those categories. We’ll also see how you can follow the lead of the best documentation out there and create your own documentation yourself. Let’s get started.
Types of Documentation
Before we jump to the documentation examples, it’s important to learn about the different types of documentation. This will help you understand the types that will make the most sense for your business.
User documentation is the creation of user manuals, quickstart guides, tutorials, FAQs, and other instructional material to provide end-users of a product or service with the help they need to utilize its full potential.
As you can guess, developer documentation is meant for developers to understand all the aspects of how they can make use of or integrate a given software library or service, typically through its API (application programming interface). Developer documentation includes material such as use cases, authentication, troubleshooting information, and so on. It will generally be made up of more technical writing than customer-facing user documentation.
Technical documentation lies somewhere in the middle of user documentation and developer documentation, and usually needs a technical writer. It aims to explain the technical instructions or concepts associated with a product in a comprehensible manner that even non-developers should be able to understand.
Project documentation involves covering key details about a project. It’s about creating comprehensive documentation to explain what’s needed over the course of the project to execute it properly. Some examples of project documentation include project proposals, project plans, business cases, status reports, and so on.
Benefits of Documentation
We get it. You are busy running your business, and the last thing you want is to have to be constantly documenting things like status reports, guides, and so on. However, when unexpected issues arise out of nowhere (and they will), you’ll be glad that you and your users have documentation to fall back on. Here are the key advantages of prioritizing adequate documentation.
Knowledge in One Place
An average knowledge worker is estimated to spend about 2.5 hours a day looking for information. Effective documentation saves everyone a significant amount of time by collecting all the essential information in one place.
Documentation ensures that things get done even with unexpected events such as the absence of a team member, or a known issue creeping up again. You are able to keep the wheels moving without wasting resources in tracking down credentials, details, and more.
Documentation helps keep your customers happy and satisfied. By showing them how to get the most value from your product, documentation reduces churn rate and boosts your customer lifetime value.
With the benefits out of the way, let’s jump right into the best documentation examples for each of the four types of documentation.
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User Documentation Examples
Google needs no introduction. It offers hundreds of products, with each product having its own documentation. What stands out about Google’s product documentation is that it’s a combination of static answers and community forums for users to submit feedback and ask questions.
Other notable features of Google’s documentation include:
- Users can help each other with uncommon queries. This gives the customers a better chance to get themselves heard better and raise concerns.
- The Upvote feature is great to see if other people are also facing the same issues and to gather support for the most important problems and ideas.
- Customers can also subscribe to updates on a discussion or post a comment to contribute an additional viewpoint.
Skype is a popular video meeting software from Microsoft, used for different purposes such as business meetings, educational sessions, and personal chats. Skype makes for a great documentation example as its software documentation is loaded with user-friendly features such as different navigation and sorting options.
Other things to note include:
- Users can indicate whether they found a document to be helpful or not, and share their feedback.
- Features such as breadcrumbs and a table of contents make the documentation easy to navigate.
Apple’s iPhone is known for its intuitiveness and user-friendly features, but that’s no excuse to ignore proper documentation. Fortunately, Apple understands this, and its documentation is as simple and easy to navigate as the iPhone.
Noteworthy aspects of iPhone documentation include:
- There is an option to choose the iOS version a user has currently installed. This helps end-users ensure that the instructions are accurate and relevant to them.
- A table of contents has been used for referring to other features and device-specific screenshots.
- Users can contact the support team directly if a document doesn’t answer their query.
Developer Documentation Examples
Docker is an open platform for building, running, and shipping applications. It allows you to separate the applications from the infrastructure in order to deliver software quickly. What gives Docker’s documentation an amazing start is the ability to switch between Night Mode and Day Mode.
Other factors that make this documentation great are:
- There are Recap and Cheat Sheet sections at the end of various chapters. These sections help reinforce concepts that a user may have missed.
- Internal links are provided throughout all the pages of the documentation to make it easy for a user to expand on a piece of information.
- It allows for going back to a prerequisite page or chapter that is essential to understand the insights provided on the current page.
Heroku Dev Center
Heroku offers a powerful and easy application deployment service for developers. And its developer center has a beautiful documentation setup. The biggest highlight of this documentation is how easy it is to switch to a different language.
Here are some more things worth noting about Heroku documentation.
- It gives sequential steps for different programming languages, along with their respective packages.
- Resources are available about other tools and integrations that are often used together with Heroku, like using Github as a code repository.
Twilio has been a top API provider helping businesses and developers with customized communication solutions since 2008. Twilio’s developer documentation is a work of art, with a sleek two-panel design giving all you need to know right away. The left panel offers simple explanations, while the right panel provides handy code snippets.
What else makes this documentation great? The following:
- Twilio’s developer documentation has an elegant font style and contrasting hyperlinks. The whole interface is very easy on the eyes.
- There are several source code snippets developers can copy and paste right away to save time and hassle.
- Twilio provides an amazing level of depth even for beginners, with topics like “What’s a REST API, anyway?”
Technical Documentation Examples
Email marketing tool Campaign Monitor is a great example of technical documentation done well. It puts focus on the search feature, followed by a clean, properly structured collection of articles to help customers.
What else makes it good documentation?
- The articles are divided into categories that match the features of their email automation software.
- The App Status indicator is a clever move that tells customers if the issue they are facing is from Campaign Monitor’s end, alleviating stress.
Canva offers graphic design tools for personal and professional use, which can also be used on iOS and Android devices. Canva’s expertise in design is evident from its own beautiful documentation pages. From the search functionality to article categories, there are clear choices for users to quickly find the right solution.
Canva’s documentation works because:
- The main page has a great mix of top articles, categories, and other support options.
- The “Popular Searches” help customers understand the kind of phrases they can search for to use the search feature effectively.
ManageEngine has got an answer for even the most challenging IT management issues. Whether it is the network or device management, security, or servers, its powerful bunch of tools can simplify IT and make it more manageable.
ManageEngine’s user documentation for its product EventLog Analyzer comes with crystal clear options for FAQs, how-to videos, troubleshooting tips, and best practices, making navigation effortless for its customers.
It’s a fuss-free document that starts directly with an introductory video and a couple of commonly asked questions, helping customers instantly get familiar with the product.
Gmail’s online user guide is simple and straightforward. Search anything you want in the search bar that’s placed in the middle of the home page. You can also go through the popular articles or other essential topics and instantly get directed to the page you want.
Don’t miss out on the ‘News’ section at the bottom of the page, where recent developments in Gmail are brought to you. If you don’t get what you are looking for, there is a feedback option at the bottom. Click on it to give suggestions or share your experience with Gmail’s support team.
The documentation also provides access to Gmail’s help community. It is another way to get issues addressed. Customers can directly ask questions to fellow Gmail users and get instant responses.
Astounding Tips to Improve Your User Documentation
Do you already have user documentation, but it’s not as rewarding as you thought it would be, or are you looking to build one for your customers?
Whichever stage you are in, these tips will prove immensely helpful in creating user documentation that will win your customers’ hearts.
1️⃣ Customers want something that’s simple, seamless, and at the same time, powerful. Add limited but meaningful and detailed content that really helps customers solve their problems. If you beat around the bush and add unnecessary stuff at places where it’s not needed, it will confuse your customers, making them feel overwhelmed.
2️⃣ User documentation cannot meet your intended goal if its search system is inadequate and slow. Customers want instant answers, which makes it all the more crucial for you to offer a lightning-fast search experience. Ensure that the documentation you create is highly searchable, allowing customers to get content suggestions as soon as they type a question or keyword in the search box.
3️⃣ Optimizing your documentation for search engines is essential if you want to elevate its online visibility. To improve its SEO, it’s essential to add popular and relevant keywords to your content. You can use a tool like Google Adwords to identify trending keywords and their search volume. This will help you add the right keywords to knowledge base content.
4️⃣ Customers would prefer an engaging document to a boring, black, and white document on any given day. Although your documentation might comprise all complex information, you can still make it interesting by doing little things right such as adding relevant media to your content. Visuals can help you level up the value addition of your documentation, as well as make it more appealing.
5️⃣ Your user documentation should work seamlessly on mobile phones if you want customers to access help on the go – whenever and from wherever they are. A mobile-friendly user document is your customers’ best friend, helping them right when they need it.
6️⃣ Customers like to feel involved and heard. What’s the best way to hear them out? By adding surveys to your documentation. Surveys can be as simple as a single question – Did you find this article helpful, with Yes/No as options, or it can be a feedback form that nudges customers at the right spots, asking them the right questions.
7️⃣Assess documentation’s performance and identify the roadblocks customers face while using your content. This is not a one-off activity. You’ve to constantly be on your toes, and be vigilant of every activity in your documentation.
Reports can make this work easier. They offer intelligent insights into the searches made by customers, new articles created in your documentation, keywords that failed to give the right results, and much more. This data can be leveraged to keep your documentation on point and your customers delighted.
The goal of every project is to become profitable and self-sustaining. With this in mind, the projects need essential writing work within their team or outsource it at some IT companies or freelancers. To get the product or service running, your company needs a well-written user manual, software documentation or website content.
Documentation is incredibly important. It is what will help you and your end-user later down the road when you can no longer be there in person to answer the questions and help them out. Documenting things that are done well, however, isn’t easy or simple at all.