Collaboration Between Technical Writers and Developers

Posted by
Elmira in Technical Communication on 11/8/20237 min read

collaboration symbol between techwriters and developers

To create truly effective documentation, technical writers and developers need to collaborate closely despite the fact that they usually have slightly different priorities.

Writers aim to produce comprehensive docs that aid end users. Developers focus more on building and shipping robust software. This inherent mismatch in goals can lead to friction: developers may resist allocating time for documentation, while writers can feel blocked from contributing to the project.

That's why it's critical for tech writers to establish strong collaborative relationships with developers. When writers integrate closely with dev teams and workflows, it eliminates friction and alignment issues. The result is documentation that is timely, accurate and meets the needs of users and the business.

This article will provide some practical tips for technical writers to collaborate more effectively with software development teams. By learning how to partner more effectively with developers, writers can create documentation that is of high quality, easy to produce, and aligned with product needs.

The key to success lies in establishing shared documentation goals, integrating into development cycles, mastering dev terminology, and building trust through reliable execution and mutual understanding. With tighter collaboration, tech writers can partner with developers to build products and documentation that enhance the user experience.

Align on Documentation Goals

First, make sure that you and your developers agree on documentation goals and timelines.

Technical writers should schedule regular working sessions with the engineering team to establish clear documentation objectives and requirements so that everyone on the team has a shared understanding of what's required for success.

During these meetings, writers can explain the importance of comprehensive docs for enabling user adoption and satisfaction. Developers can share their specific workflow and technical constraints. By figuring out the overlap between user needs and developer priorities, the team can agree on achievable goals. This helps get buy-in from developers on taking documentation seriously.

Best Practices

  • Negotiate timelines for doc reviews, feedback cycles, and approval milestones.
  • Define required deliverables like API references, release notes, and tutorials tailored to developer tasks.
  • Schedule regular syncs to re-evaluate goals as priorities shift.

Integrate Documentation Into Development Cycles

Encourage the integration of documentation into the overall product development cycle.

The worst case is when writers are brought in at the end of the process to quickly document a finished product. This results in subpar rushed content.

Emphasize the need for ongoing collaboration right from the beginning. Advocate for writers to participate in design discussions, sprint plannings, and daily standups, which allows writers to gain context on new features and stay in lockstep with the engineers.

As code is written, documentation can be drafted and refined in parallel.

Best Practices

  • Negotiate documentation review checkpoints after each development milestone or sprint.
  • Push for developers to include documentation comments as they write code.
  • Have regular syncs with key engineers to debrief on progress.
  • Demo new features often to experience them firsthand while still in development.

Leverage Developer Artifacts

Take advantage of all the artifacts created during software development.

Early access to design documents, product requirements, UI mockups, and engineering diagrams provide valuable insider technical context that aids writing. Encourage developers to include explanatory comments for documentation within the code.

Attending design reviews and demos gives writers a chance to ask clarifying questions while features are still in development.

Best Practices

  • Ask developers to tag or highlight important sections of code for you to document.
  • Use mockups and prototypes to understand UX flows and illustrate steps.
  • Collaborate with PMs and designers to access strategic documents like PRDs (Product Requirement Documents).
  • Treat JIRA tickets and bug reports as valuable clues to understand functionality.
  • Request developers compile a glossary of key terms and acronyms.

Master the Terminology

Make an effort to learn the key developer terms, acronyms, codenames, and product-related concepts.

One of the biggest challenges for writers collaborating with developers is mastering the complex technical terminology they employ. Getting a better grasp of this terminology ensures that you can write accurately and authoritatively, making you a more credible partner. It also enables the creation of documentation free from confusing errors resulting from gaps in terminology.

Best Practices

  • Ask developers to explain unfamiliar terms during conversations. Don't just nod along.
  • Admit when you don't fully grasp a concept and need help. Curiosity leads to clarity.
  • Research terms on your own through available documentation, web searches, and reading. Look for visuals to aid understanding.
  • Maintain a glossary of definitions you can reference.
  • Adopt developer lingo in your own writing when appropriate.
  • Avoid using overly complex terms just for the sake of showcasing vocabulary; keep explanations straightforward and focused on the user's perspective.
  • Request developers review drafts to validate the correct use of terminology.

friction visualization

Experience the Product Firsthand

Request access to early builds, prototypes, staging environments, and release candidates. Don't just rely on descriptions; instead, seek direct hands-on experience with the product whenever possible. Then, test and demo them frequently from an end user's perspective.

Immersing yourself directly in the product provides a grounded user perspective that strengthens collaboration with developers. It also results in documentation that is practical and aligned with reality.

Best Practices

  • Verify documentation matches actual functionality during development.
  • Provide feedback on usability issues and confusion points.
  • Ask informed questions based on direct experience.
  • Take screenshots and notes to aid writing.
  • Strive to experience every version, frontend to backend. Use any credentials needed to access advanced features and settings.

Leverage ClickHelp for Seamless Collaboration

Use an excellent tool for facilitating close collaboration between tech writers and developers – ClickHelp.

ClickHelp is an online documentation management platform where you can create centralized source documentation and publish customized versions for different audiences. Snippets and variables empower easily swapping pieces of content in and out of publications. This helps tailor the same core information for different purposes.

The platform also streamlines publishing documentation in multiple formats like HTML, PDF, Docx, etc., for easy access across various devices.

ClickHelp makes styling and branding documentation simple with ready-made templates. Or writers can leverage custom CSS for more advanced styling.

Best Practices for ClickHelp Collaboration Features

  • Have technical writers author, review, and publish all documentation from a unified ClickHelp portal. This centralizes assets and workflow.
  • Assign granular user roles such as contributors, reviewers, power readers, etc. Control who can access and edit what content.
  • Use task assignments, notifications, and project overview features to coordinate team efforts.
  • Enable developers to access real-time documentation drafts as content is being written. This allows early insight and feedback.
  • Facilitate cross-functional teamwork on documentation leveraging ClickHelp's collaboration capabilities. The whole team can contribute.
  • Conduct user testing and gather feedback directly within the ClickHelp platform. Rapidly incorporate real user perspectives.
  • Create customized reports and documentation analytics dashboards to share visibility across teams.

By fully leveraging ClickHelp's robust collaboration toolset, you can coordinate your team efforts in creating the best documentation for the best product easily. Try it today – book a free demo.

Communicate the Value of Documentation

Communicate the benefits of great docs. Many developers are skeptical of documentation because they don't appreciate its tangible value. By highlighting specific benefits like these, writers can motivate developers to prioritize documentation and even participate actively.

Benefits of Comprehensive Documentation

  • Enables quicker user adoption and reduces support tickets when self-service answers are available. This allows devs to focus on building vs. support.
  • Increases user satisfaction and retention when people can easily use and understand the product.
  • Facilitates the internal onboarding of new developers by documenting tribal knowledge.
  • Frees up the engineering team from having to create one-off resources for other teams like support, services, sales, etc.
  • Reduces communication gaps across the company by establishing a centralized knowledge base.
  • Ensures best practices are captured and propagated across the organization.
  • Protects intellectual property (IP) and sensitive operational knowledge from being lost when employees leave.

Maintain a Constructive Attitude

Maintain realistic expectations and avoid taking a lack of engagement personally. Keep in mind that developers often have different priorities and incentives compared to tech writers. Documentation may not be highly valued or urgent for them.

Best Practices

  • Accept that docs may not be the development team's top focus.
  • Schedule meetings far in advance when possible to respect busy schedules.
  • If documentation feels like an afterthought, focus energy on delivering exceptionally helpful content within scope constraints.
  • Keep communication professional and solution-oriented. Don't vent frustration at roadblocks.

integration and alignment for work


Сlose collaboration between technical writers and developers is essential for creating excellent documentation.

The key is not to work in isolation but to partner with developers from strategic planning to launch and beyond. This makes it easier to collaborate smoothly.

To build a rapport with devs, engage in open conversations about what might be holding them back. Understand their priorities while also communicating the significance of good documentation. If you show you're committed to their success, developers will take a more vital interest in your amazing documentation.

The result? Happy users and a team that can be proud of their work because it meets everyone's needs. That's a win-win situation!

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices


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