Every programmer knows the importance of documentation. Whether it’s writing code documentation or manual we all should do our best to make sure that our documentation is well-written and easy to understand. I have gathered some of my favorite technical documentation websites along with tools for creating comprehensive documentation for you.
Technical Documentation is an essential part of product development as it provides clarity, consistency and focus across your team and promotes efficient communication between internal and external stakeholders.
Documentation is a fundamental part of the software creation process, yet many people struggle with writing effective documentation. The importance of providing great quality documentation can’t be underestimated; without it, customers have difficulty using and learning about the product that they have purchased. This article explores some of the tools that are available in order to help out with writing decent quality documentation, which is something that all teams should strive to do.
There are many websites that publish high quality technical documentation which can be very beneficial to you, especially if you’re looking for free and unique content for your blog or technical website. Here, I have compiled a list of some of the best documentation sites that offer high quality information in a friendly manner, making it extremely easy to read and understand.
What Is Software Documentation?
Remember, docs or it didn’t happen. Software documentation is any written document that explains how a piece of software works, why it was built, and how it is intended to be used. Depending on the complexity of your software, your documentation can contain information on the general use of the product and in-depth dives into functions and features.
Software documentation, according to Daniele Procida, can be divided into four categories:
- Learning-oriented tutorials
- Goal-oriented how-to guides
- Understanding-oriented discussions
- Information-oriented reference material
We’ve mentioned MailChimp a few times and that’s because they have amazing docs. They are colorful and welcoming and have clearly had lots of effort put into them.
Here we’ve got brilliant article layouts that include a breakdown of what exactly is contained in the article, related articles and contextual information.
This is a fantastic example of using information architecture to signpost your users with their location in your knowledge base and the surrounding content.
This article not only helps users but points them in a different direction if it turns out this is not exactly what they’re looking for.
MailChimp uses Wistia to create handy video tutorials to walk their users through common tasks in the platform.
Customer.io sells software that automates customer lifecycle emails and campaigns. This means their own customer experience is top-notch because they are living up to their values with great docs.
It’s all about the great color scheme for your documentation. Sea-green is a calming color that helps put people in the right frame of mind for learning, and the simple grey symbols help make this knowledge base more visually appealing for users.
Arranging the topics into cards makes it easier to scan for what you need, rather than presenting the options in a text list like many do.
Each subcategory contains a list of fine-grain topics that a customer might want to know about. This Customer.io knowledge base is perfectly optimized for browsing.
The heading font is sans-serif Proxima Nova Bold and is right on trend for a clean, simple User Experience.
Zapier is a platform to connect your applications and help you create a seamless workflow. Their knowledge base is clear, easy to use and beautifully laid out.
They make good use of negative space to guide the user’s eye round the initial options so they can orient themselves. The inclusion of a subtle illustration in the background adds a bit of character to Zapier’s docs and makes them seem more human.
The search bar is always clearly prominent in case a user decides it would be easier to just type in their query.
Otherwise, Zapier uses information architecture, namely in the left-hand menu, to indicate the options that are available in the knowledge base.
They make good use of images and screenshots when they reference something on the platform, visually representing complex concepts.
They also have videos that bring their documentation to life.
Teachable is a platform for creating online courses and their knowledge base is heavily focused on onboarding their users. It makes sense that they would have a great knowledge base since their area of expertise is teaching.
It’s best practice for companies to highlight the search bar in their knowledge base and that’s exactly what Teachable has done here.
It makes fantastic use of cards with shadow to show the user what categories are available. This adds an impression of dynamism and depth to their knowledge base.
It creates the impression that Teachable values its customers enough to enhance the user experience.
Of course, there will always be times when the user has to speak to a human. Teachable makes this easy.
Some great developer docs
Developer docs are notorious for being dense, hard to use, disorganized and not visually pleasing. That’s why these docs are notable for bucking the trend and even making use of illustrations to engage their users.
Stripe is a payment processing platform that is well-known for having beautiful docs. Technical documentation is difficult to convey simply but Stripe have done it by paying close attention to what their users need from them.
Like Teachable, they have included cards with shadow to guide the user towards their knowledge categories. The simple blue and grey colour scheme is calming and professional, perfect for when users are freaking out over a technical issue.
They use the left-hand menu to display the many subcategories and content topics available so developers can glance over to find what they need. They embed notes into their content pages that may give added helpful context to the user.
KnowAll is the most popular WordPress-based knowledge base solution that’s ideal for creating technical documentation. It beats even the slickest SaaS alternatives, giving your support content the power of the world’s most robust content management system.
- Comes with the most-loved WordPress editor (so creating and maintaining even the most complex technical documentation types is as easy as creating and updating blog posts).
- Offers formatting tools like accordion elements, tabs, notices, toggles, etc. that let you create rich, refreshing technical documentation.
- Comes with Google-like search and autosuggest features (so finding what you need takes moments!).
- Is translation-ready (so it can speak your language).
- Can be easily customized (so you can make it your own).
- Supports attachments (so you can offer downloadables directly).
- Comes with widgets and shortcodes.
- Supports complex structures with multiple categories/sub-categories.
- Works very nicely with Slack, HelpScout, and Gravity Forms.
- Comes with an easy annual plan supporting unlimited users and technical documentation.
- Search analytics isn’t available in the $149 plan.
- Although it’s a very easy-to-use WordPress theme, it will take some effort to get the initial setup.
Pricing: KnowAll comes with easy annual plans starting at $149/year.
Document360 is a popular SaaS knowledge base software that can be used to create and host technical documentation. Just create a project for your technical documentation content, and you should be set.
- Comes with a nice markdown and WYSIWYG editor for easy content creation.
- Supports multiple formatting tools like code blocks, callouts, etc. to format the documentation nicely.
- Offers in-depth insights into how people are engaging with the content.
- Is multilingual.
- Offers roles to streamline the technical documentation editorial workflow.
- Support Customization in a way that aligns with brand guidelines.
- Comes with AI- powered search feature.
- Comes with a Google-like drive for attaching downloadable/files.
- Supports complex categorization structures.
- Works nicely with Zendesk, Freshdesk, Intercom and many more.
- Can be a bit pricey for small businesses.
Pricing: Document360 costs $99 per month and supports 2 accounts with a 50GB storage limit.
ClickHelp is the most comprehensive technical documentation software out there. It’s the “online help authoring tool” that’s made for creating and hosting technical documentation. Being a SaaS solution, there’s no configuration or installation to do.
- Supports a host of technical documentation content types like manuals, FAQs, Knowledge Bases, Tutorials, API docs, etc.
- Facilitates editorial workflows with support for multiple roles (authors, reviewers, etc).
- Comes with 6 UI templates for the popular documentation types.
- Sports a powerful patented search engine.
- Comes with over 20 integrations.
- Is easily customizable.
- Comes with access control including password-protected docs .
- Offers rich reporting and content analysis with over 30 metrics including ones for readability. `
- Costs can add up really fast with this as you only get 150 topics in the $55/mo plan; a document counts toward a topic.
- The basic plan doesn’t support a custom domain.
Pricing: ClickHelp’s basic plan sells for $55/month (paid monthly). It supports one author account and 150 topics.
KnowledgeOwl is a feature-packed and an easy-to -use knowledge base solution that works great at creating and maintaining technical documentation. This SaaS solution comes with a simple setup and gives you full control over how your technical content displays.
- Comes with a file library with advanced user permissions (controlling who can access, edit, or delete files).
- Supports complex structures with nested categories/subcategories for hosting even the most complex technical documentation.
- Sports an advanced search feature with autosuggest.
- Supports robust access control for restricting access to the documentation.
- Offers feedback functionality to gauge how the content is doing.
- Comes with features to display related content.
- Ships with a glossary module among others.
- Gets pricey for more users.
- Isn’t multilingual
- Customization options feel limiting.
Pricing: Knowledge Owl’s solo plan costs $79/mo and supports just one user.
HelpNDoc is another help authoring tool that lets you create technical documentation. This is a downloadable software that you can use with Windows only. Once you write your documentation with HelpNDoc, you can export it to host on your servers.
- Comes with an editing experience similar to Microsoft Work with all the formatting options showing neatly using the “ribbon” design.
- Offers a media library so you can add your pictures, videos, attachments, etc.
- Offers several export options to convert your technical documentation into websites, PDFs, Kindle eBooks, and more.
- Needs configuration.
- Needs technical know-how.
- Takes work to modify the inbuilt templates.
- Works with just Windows.
Pricing: HelpNDoc comes with an annual plan of 99€, but it shows ads. To go ad-free and unlock all features like the export options, you need to shell out 249€/year
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.
Documentation is a powerful tool. It helps developers deploy new features on their own. And it allows developers to support new users when a third-party developer is not available. To help you choose the right documentation tool for your project, we have reviewed and selected some of the best tools out there. We hope this post helps you save your time and make an informed decision about what tools to use for your requirements.
A well-written and professionally edited technical document is an effective bridge for a customer between your product or service and them. It describes how to use your product, how it should be used, where to find answers to frequently asked questions, and many other kinds of information relevant to your customers. A blog post by Gartner indicated that 56% of CIOs were not satisfied with the quality of the content and design of their technical documentation. Now this does not mean that all 56% of those CIOs wanted to find better technical documentation. Only 56% were unsatisfied – meaning that more than half were in fact satisfied with the quality of their technical documentation. I believe no matter what business you’re in, it would still benefit you to provide an easy access point to all your technical documentation.