How to Create Good, User-Friendly Technical Documentation
Creators of good technical documentation:
- Know the audience for and purpose of the document
- Identify all regulations and standards that must be followed
- Clarify all safety issues or concerns
- Confirm the style guide and terminology to be used
- Plan time to write, review, revise, and edit
- Know what the deliverables are and their assigned deadlines
- Identify members of the documentation team and their responsibilities
- Organize resources and familiarize themselves with the attributes of good technical documentation
Good technical documentation also:
- Adheres to best practice standards Content is relevant and accurate Information is organized logically Content has a consistent style
- Format and layout are easy to scan and read
- Uses appropriate graphics and tables to support the text
- Uses keywords that enable content to be easily searched
- Includes all the information users need or might want to know about the topic
6 Qualities Technical Documentation Needs to Make It User-Friendly
User-friendly language and content in the document contribute to the user’s ability to understand the information presented and to apply that information as intended. Documents that include the following qualities meet the criteria for being user-friendly:
- Clear. Writer uses short words and short sentences. All unique technical terminology is defined up front, and those terms are used consistently throughout the document to avoid confusion.
- Concise. Writer doesn’t use big words when little ones will do. Writer also uses words efficiently and to the point.
- Correct. Writer observes the conventions of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage.
- Accurate. Writer makes sure that the content is true and that all procedures work as described. Writer works with the project’s subject matter experts (SMEs) to validate the content and is aware that errors found in the document can cause users to doubt the validity of the entire document.
- Accessible. This refers to the ease with which users can locate the information they seek. Writer uses styles and tags during the document development process to create accessible documents.
- Complete. Writer makes sure that the technical document includes everything the user needs to apply the information presented efficiently and effectively. Writer also uses peer review to test if the presented information is complete.
Good technical documentation benefits both the company and the customer. For all companies, regardless of their industry, good technical documentation increases customer satisfaction, reduces complaints to customer support, and minimizes potential lawsuits, all of which reflects on the company’s bottom line.