However, documentation is probably your least favorite part of the development process, although it is very necessary. Since the documentation should be understood by a larger number of people and not just for you, then you should start to put yourself in the perspective of your users and use non-technical terms. We will list the three main reasons why documentation is considered essential in any web development project.
Importance of documentation
Good documentation helps users
The documentation helps users understand how the code works. Keep in mind that many of them have no knowledge about programming languages and only expect to see results when installing a certain plugin or application. For this reason, the documentation must include everything essential.
Since documentation helps the users to understand the practical use of your application and it is probable that most of them do not have programming knowledge, you should avoid technical words and try to explain everything in a more practical way. The use or examples or configuration will be greatly appreciated by your users.
The good structure and organization of your documentation are also favorable for the users because they can find the topic that interests them the most at that moment.
Good documentation helps other developers
Every developer has his way of working but when working as a team, it is likely that the code is not owned by a single developer and parts of it have to be sent to other team members. It is important to have an agreement on the standards of the code. In this way, the process is streamlined since all the developers are informed about the standard used. This is where the documentation comes into play and plays an essential role in teams of developers because it serves as reference material.
This documentation, when addressed to developers and not end users should contain the description of the technical procedures. So you can include terms of the language and technical words. The use of examples on the operation of the code is also welcome.
Good documentation helps the project developer himself
By creating good documentation of your application or plugin, you will be able to better understand the functioning of your code. Also, you will learn to work in a more orderly manner with your code, a practice that will be useful in the future.
Another situation in which documentation helps the developer in charge of the project is when they leave for a good time working on a certain code and, later, when they return to the project they can understand their code more easily thanks to the documentation. The more time you have spent without working on that code, the more useful the documentation will be.
How to create good documentation?
Now that we have established the main advantages that you can obtain by creating good documentation and understand its importance, we will give you some guidelines to be able to create good documentation of your code:
Do not assume that the user has the same knowledge that you have
Do not assume that your users have the same level of knowledge as you. It’s great if that situation occurs, but it’s much better to always start from the basics so that any user, regardless of their level of knowledge, can understand it.
It is essential that you keep the users in mind when writing this documentation and put yourself in their place. View from the user’s perspective can be complicated, so having a user profile in your hands could be useful to help with this task. Once you are clear about the user’s perspective, you can organize your documentation much better.
Follow the standards of each language
While it is true that each developer has a different working method for documentation and in particular for comments within the code, it is helpful to keep the standard for each language in mind. It is also a good idea to describe each function, variables, and values that return that function. For this, it is essential that your code is as orderly as possible. This situation will be favorable not only for other developers but also for you because it will allow you to have a base on which to start structuring your documentation. In other words, a code ordered and with appropriate comments will help you save time in other phases of the process such as documentation.
Includes graphics elements
Adding elements such as arrows will help the user to more easily understand the steps that must be taken to perform certain functions. You can also include the steps in a numbered list, although it could be complicated because you will have to combine explanations with the steps to take. The essence of any numbered list is that the steps are explained in a concise manner. Including large blocks of text will make users think that it is really complicated to use your application and could lose the thread of the explanation if it does not go to the point directly.
Another alternative to using arrows to detail the steps to follow can be to first include the explanation about the function and then the list of the steps to follow. In this way, the content is kept more orderly.
Add an index
The use of numbered or bulleted lists, as well as tables, can be helpful for users when reading and studying the documentation. Also, you must add a table of contents with the respective links in each section. This index will help users to locate information more quickly and easily so that no matter how many times they turn to the documentation, they can always find the information they were looking for.
Creating documentation for any of your applications and web development can be a complicated task, particularly if it is the first time you do it. You will definitely have to dedicate time and effort. But once you master it, not only your users will benefit but also you and the team of developers that work alongside you.
A good way to start learning how to write good documentation is to review examples of plugins, frameworks and your favorite applications and web development. It is probable that they have orderly and detailed documentation. For your web development projects, ensure you contact web development companies.