Effective Product Documentation

Posted by
Elmira in Technical Writing on 11/15/20235 min read

owl using laptop

Product documentation is a crucial accompaniment to every new digital product. Without effective product documentation, achieving optimal UX parameters becomes challenging. Users rely on reference documents to find answers to questions that emerge during their daily interactions with the product.

Moreover, product documentation holds significant importance for technical writers. As documents accumulate, the company's knowledge base expands, enabling writers to create new content more efficiently. This efficiency is typical in today’s content creation processes, which often focus on content reuse. New documents are crafted through component authoring, allowing your team of writers to repeatedly use identical or similar code/text elements. This approach not only saves time but also reduces costs, fostering creativity and the development of new products.

In this blog, we will outline the main features of effective product documentation and guide you through the process of creating it.

What Is Product Documentation?

Product Documentation (PD) encompasses all the content created by your team of technical writers to support your product. PD is developed at various stages of the product lifecycle, from the initial familiarization phase to the full integration of the software into the customer's system.

In the initial stage, supporting documentation often includes a Quick Start Guide (QSG). This guide equips users with essential information about the product, covering areas such as installation, authentication, settings, and requirements. The information can be conveyed through step-by-step instructions or case studies that explore complex issues using real-life examples.

As the product evolves, additional documents become necessary, including User Experience (UX) documentation, like user guides. These documents primarily focus on enhancing the product's user-friendliness. From the product developer’s perspective, UX documentation aids in optimizing interactions between prospective customers and the product. This is achieved by creating user scenarios, defining user personas, and undertaking other related tasks.

In the final stage of the product lifecycle, product documentation expands to include reports and metrics that facilitate the monitoring of application efficiency.

Best Practices for Creating Effective Product Documentation

Writing product documentation is a task ideally suited for individuals with a technical background. When content is created by someone with prior engineering or IT experience, it becomes more user-friendly, as the writer can provide a deeper and more accurate understanding of the product.

A technical background also helps in reducing errors in documentation, as many mistakes stem from incorrect use of terminology or a lack of understanding of involved processes.

One effective approach is to combine the skills of a writer and a developer. This can be achieved by hiring a technical writer with the relevant experience or involving engineers in the process of writing product documentation.

However, relying solely on engineers for documentation can lead to a decline in writing quality, as developers' writing skills may not be as refined, affecting the style and clarity of the content.

Therefore, it is most effective when technical writers and engineers collaborate throughout the product lifecycle. Writers should maintain close contact with developers, who in turn should be involved in reviewing content.

Another tip is to categorize documentation into coding and testing documents. Coding documentation, which explains the digital product's functionality, requires solid IT knowledge and should be entrusted to specialists with both writing and technical skills.

Testing documentation encompasses content that describes the testing process, including Test Plans and Test Procedure Descriptions.

It’s also crucial to consider the psychological aspect. Avoid the trap of creating overly extensive documentation. Over-documentation can make the product seem more complex and less user-friendly. Instead, focus on creating an intuitive app, presenting information in a simple, reader-friendly manner.

Cross-linking is another popular practice. Effective product documentation should include links guiding the reader to related topics, where terms or concepts are explained in detail. This method makes content more comprehensible and concise, avoiding repetitive explanations.

Finally, before writing, it's essential to develop a documentation strategy. This plan should outline your vision for the knowledge base and its purpose, ensuring that it benefits all stakeholders, both internally and externally.

  • For internal stakeholders. Ensure efficient documentation reuse, co-authoring, and single sourcing. Employees should be able to effectively reuse previously created documents and collaborate by referring to the same sources in their day-to-day operations.
  • For external stakeholders (customers). Your content should aid customers in effectively using your digital product.

This means a significant portion of your company's knowledge base should comprise documents such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These SOPs should thoroughly cover the company's structure and processes, serving as regulatory guides that instruct your staff on what actions to take and how to execute them. For instance, in an engineering and design company, a practical SOP example could be a guide on calculating loads on a building's foundation.

abstract image of clickhelp features

ClickHelp as a Product Documentation Tool

Creating Product Documentation (PD) is more efficient with a help authoring tool like ClickHelp, an online content creation system that not only enhances the appearance of your documents but also reduces the workload for your technical writing team.

ClickHelp's WYSIWYG editor enables you to enrich your content with multimedia elements such as screenshots, charts, diagrams, images, and video tutorials.

A notable minor feature is the syntax highlighter, which effectively distinguishes code samples from regular text, enhancing readability by visually emphasizing code segments.

Beyond these visual enhancements, ClickHelp offers significant benefits like single-sourcing. This feature 'links' similar documents to a common source, ensuring consistent terminology and definitions throughout your knowledge base.

Content reuse is another valuable feature that eliminates the need for rewriting identical or similar content repeatedly.

Co-authoring in ClickHelp also expedites the PD creation process and improves content quality. It allows multiple authors to work collaboratively on the same document in real time, with designated roles for authors, reviewers, and translators.

Collectively, these features and more empower you to produce high-quality content efficiently, resulting in time and budget savings.

concept of writing product documentation


Effective product documentation creation should focus on saving time and effort. Aim to make your content both flexible and well-regulated, ensuring that the resulting knowledge base appears uniform and aligned from the user's perspective. This approach will lead to more successful project and product launches, well-tested and reliable code, improved user experience parameters, and ultimately, higher profits.

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


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