Building a successful product is no easy task. A lot of preparation and resources go into making your product go viral.
There is marketing, budget, product design, product usability, and much more.
But if your product has to come out a champion, it needs to master human interaction. This means only pleasing your end customers won’t do the job.
You need more.
You need to simplify your product and user communications at all levels of the product cycle.
Right from the research team involved in early-stage product validation to the product development team to marketing teams working on customer acquisition to your end-users who will use the product.
Your product needs to have smooth interaction capabilities with all the stakeholders.
So, how do you achieve this consistency of communication among your stakeholders?
Enter technical documentation. Documenting your processes and product specs can improve your product success by exponents.
But if you are unsure of its capabilities, check out how developing technical documentation influences your product at multiple levels.
Top Reasons Why Your Business Needs Technical Documentation
At its core, a technical document is a guide that explains the product. This means the fundamental function of such a guidebook is to educate the reader about all the product specs and features. Done right, your technical documentation guide can manifest tremendous results on your product success.
Following are a few key areas where you can see its impact:
- Customer retention: A well-drafted technical document can enhance your user’s experience with your product. It creates an opportunity for you to connect with your users at a deeper emotional level. An SDL survey reports that about 53% of customers tend to use technical documentation to understand the product before making a final purchase.
- Customer support: A tremendous technical documentation empowers users to use your product with ease. This means it strives to make the required product knowledge accessible, simple, and clear, taking all the frustrations out of your users, be it customers, developers, managers, or marketers.
- Productivity: In business, time is money. This means if you can buy time, your business is already in the right direction. Your technical documentation can be a massive help in achieving this. Taking the guesswork out of your system, a centrally available technical document can answer your most common questions about your product. Your valuable time is now saved, creating room for more productive work.
- Sales: Your technical document is more than just a guide to your users. It can double as a lead magnet. This means making interactive, stunning user guides for your product not only explains your product better but also creates an opportunity for it to go viral.
So the million-dollar question here is how to write technical documentation that imbibes all of these capabilities?
In the following segment, we reveal how you can optimize your technical documentation guide to hit both sales and product education targets.
The art of mastering technical documentation
Like any other communication, the journey of developing winning technical documentation starts with clear and concise communication. Remember, the whole point of developing such a document is to simplify product education to your stakeholders.
Here is what you need to do:
a). Start with a little prep:
Understanding the landscape is crucial for the success of your technical documentation. If you do not understand the problem well, you would not be able to give the best possible solution for it. This means doing a bit of initial research about the problem can improve your document’s success.
Define your audience: Ideally, you would want to develop a guide that can please all. But, expecting one single document to achieve so is unrealistic. Your stakeholders will have unique personas. The knowledge, expertise, and level will be different from each other too. Thus, no two documents addressing the two personas can be the same. So, finalize the language, tone, and demonstrations based on the audience for whom you are developing your document.
If you are answering your product team’s questions, then your document’s goal might be bug fixing, and if it catered to end-users, it could be syncing the product across all their devices.
Got the point?
Get detailed problem history: To come up with the best possible solution to the problem; you need to understand every facet of it. Keeping a record of the problem history can help you here. Try to come up with a clearly defined problem statement first. Based on this, you can start brainstorming ideas.
Get expert help: Having the best possible solution for your readers will require you to talk to the product development team often. Before you start drafting anything, the best possible solution to the problem must be coming from people who are developing it. Remember, your job is to simplify the communication of the best possible solution. This means you are going to remove ambiguity in sentences. But, the real value still lies with your product team.
b). Prepare a blueprint for the content of your document
Developing an outline of what goes in your content is crucial to keep your document on track. In the long run, it is easy to forget about the ultimate goal. Create a distinct, consistent, logical structure flow of your document first. An ideal technical document has seven essential components.
- Front matter: It gives a high-level idea of what your document is about. It usually consists of title, author, team, reviewer, created on, updated on, epic, ticket, issue, task tracker reference list.
- Introduction: This section gives a brief idea of the problem that the document discusses. You can add an overview, problem description, and summary in this part. If you have any specific terminology that needs further explanation, you can add a glossary and a contextual background to it.
- Solution: It describes the existing design, if any. Also, it details any proposed solution that is improved and solves the existing problem better. What you put in this section entirely depends upon your product. It can involve anything from business logic changes like API changes to presentation layer changes to data model changes.
- Further consideration: This section talks about the direct impact of the alterations on the different stakeholders of the product. It answers important questions like how your product is going to impact the business. Does it affect sales, marketing, user retention, improve product processing speed, improve security, improve scalability, user interactivity, and more.
- Success evaluation: It measures the new improvements in terms of performance. It can consist of metrics like security impact, performance impact, speed, cost, and overall services performance.
- Work: It consists of the checklist of measurable, time-bound tasks involved in product development. Also, you can document the resources and their quantities required to achieve this milestone, along with their estimated timelines. To make it even efficient, you can prioritize the task based on value and urgency. Also, it is a good practice if you can create a subsection for the scope of future work.
- Deliberation: It takes into account all the disputed areas of the solution. You can note down the solutions that your team doesn’t agree upon. This creates room for improvement in the future.
- End matter: Questions about things you do not know the answers to or are unsure that you pose to the team and stakeholders for their input. These may include aspects of the problem you don’t know how to resolve yet. It also works as a concluding section for your technical document. Think of it as an additional resource for solving the problem. Here you can create a reference list that links you to solutions to similar issues.
Also, you can link to resources you used while developing your document for giving credits and acknowledgments.
c). Evaluate your document for relevance and completion
Come up with an action goal for your readers: Setting clear expectations for your readers is crucial for your technical document. Stating the objective defines a clear path of developing your content and what you are trying to achieve from it.
Use relevant images and illustrations: This is the best way to simplify the product education process. Plus, it will make your documents engaging.
Edit ruthlessly: If your document needs to stand out, you have to edit it multiple times before producing the final output. Think of it as an iteration phase for finding the product-audience fit.
Write for all: Avoid using jargon. It is easy to get trapped in user biases and create documents from a high level. A trick to get out of it is to think of your audience as an 8th grader. Simplify your language as much as you can.
Refine your draft: The more you can say with fewer words, the better. Your most impactful writing would come in a balance of semantics and syntax. Avoid using long sentences.
Remember, the idea behind developing technical documentation is to ensure maximum transparency and clear knowledge transfer between all the stakeholders of your product.
Whether it’s your product development team, marketing team, or your end-users; everyone should be able to make the most of your product.
The above tips and tricks make sure that your technical documentation module stays user-friendly and concise.But, to truly master it, you would have to empathize with your audience. Ensure that you are creating value in your document at all times.
Once you complete your technical documentation, ask yourself these questions:
- Did you cover everything that the user needs to know in your guide?
- Has the information been provided in a way that could be easily comprehended by the users?
- Is your audience able to troubleshoot their problems after reading through your guide?
- Do the screenshots and illustrations clearly explain the concept?
If you have an ‘yes’ to all these questions, you’ll not only be content with the quality of your documentation but also be able to provide for everything that the user needs from the manual or guide.
Share with us in the Comments section below what you do differently while creating technical documentation for your business.
The author Dennis P. Reed possesses a vast experience in the IT industry, especially in the domains of website and mobile app development and digital marketing. He writes on topics encompassing the above mentioned domains and is considered a maven in his chosen field – Information Technology.