Software documentation is a critical component of any professional suite of software. This type of documentation not only ensures that technical information is clear, but also that contractual obligations are met for shipment. Software documentation also helps those using the software -- whether other programmers, business or home users, or students -- know how to complete both basic and advanced functions. Creating software documentation requires a thorough understanding of the project timeline and expectations.
Know the deadline for the project. For software, the date is typically associated with either an interim or major release of software. Work backward from this date to build your deadlines for reviews and edits. If you're publishing hardcopy, include time for your printer to create the printed material and ship it to your shipment manager.
Identify your sources and reviewers. While these are often the same staff, a manager may also want to review the complete set of materials after initial technical review.
Identify your audience to ensure the content meets expectations. Some documentation is targeted to advanced technical users, other types are written for end-users as tutorials or general reference.
Get the project timeline approved by all parties who have input on whether the documentation is ready to ship or release with the product. This may include technical support staff, product developers, quality reviewers and editors.
Interview subject matter experts, test the product yourself and attend any internal training classes to get a grasp of the product.
Create an initial draft including updated and new features.
Send the draft out for review. Either send it out feature-by-feature, section-by-section or in its entirety, depending on what your reviewers and company require.
Receive review comments and incorporate them into the final draft.
Publish the final draft, either online, via CD or by sending the documentation to a print facility.
- If you are working with a graphic design team or a technical illustrator, ask that team to review and dovetail their project plan with yours. This way, you send the information out to review together.
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