February 11, 2023
Developer Docs

Resolving developer-written documentation (with checklist)

Developer-written documentation can be the bane of the end user’s experience, often lacking pivotal insights and snowballing into greater problems. How can brands ensure their API documentation provides proper guidance?

The role of good documentation is to guide coders and users quickly, but common inaccuracies in developer-written documentation hamper efficiency and can ultimately encourage additional expenditures.

For example, API queries can simply not work, causing delays and maintenance hours while coders figure out the lacking API documentation issue. Or a product’s service manual may not provide enough insight into how to use the product, leading to unhappy clients or product returns. 

A good end user-experience promotes brand recognition and longevity, and good documentation is paramount in continuing a brand’s relationship with its users.

Developers are developers and writers are writers 

proof developer documentation
Developers rushing to meet deadlines may craft incomplete or lacking documentation

There are several reasons why developer-written documentation can be lacking. Deadlines are often a contributor to poorly-written dev documentation. Rushing development to meet a client’s time frame can put documentation duties on the sidelines. 

Many organizations and teams simply lack the bandwidth or infrastructure to foster a consistently good documentation culture. Creating documentation can often feel like a distraction from development work, with a bare minimum going into documentation completion. 

And when it comes down to it, developers aren’t trained as writers and may not possess the capacity to turn their work into concise instructions geared toward the minds of end users. 

Is it out-of-line to expect a developer to write good documentation? While the developer knows the product and may even be passionate about the project, delivering content that concisely communicates with the end user (within an easily-decipherable structure) requires finesse. 

Good technical documentation speaks to users in an empathetic voice that expresses familiarity with how they want and need to operate the product, service or software. API documentation should always be accurate, up-to-date and traversable. Product documentation should consider the needs of the client or consumer. Knowledge base articles should be organized and categorized conveniently. 

A developer can describe the functionality of a product, but a technical writer can explain the application of a product. 

We've created the following checklist to help identify weaknesses in your technical documentation. 

Developer documentation quality checklist

✅ Consistency 

  • How consistent is the grammar? Are italicized words consistently italicized? Incongruities in language can frustrate end users and require additional support.

✅ Up-to-Date

  • Do all links link to the correct location? Are service or product references current? Out-of-date documentation can encumber end users and potentially affect brand credibility. 

✅ Ease of Browsing

  • Is each section thoughtfully mapped? How usable are the TOC/index? Online knowledge bases or product service manuals require care in structure, especially depending on quantity of content.

✅ Naming Conventions 

  • Do knowledge base article titles make sense to end users, or are they riddled with superfluous product titles? Are headings and descriptions helpful for quick browsing or are they wordy and confusing? Naming conventions should align with end-user goals, providing quickly-accessible solutions.

✅ Creative Writing 

  • Let’s face it - some devs can get creative with interjecting their own tone of voice throughout the documentation process. Language should be simple, digestible and neutral.

✅ Jargon-Laced

  • Is your technical documentation difficult to understand thanks to excessive developer-speak? A technical writer can rewrite jargon-filled documentation to more effectively communicate to the intended audience.

✅ Marketing-Heavy

  • Some documentation can be rife with language that sounds more like a sales sticker than a product guide. Technical documentation is for assistance, not sales, and should provide support to users in an approachable way.

Alleviating poor dev documentation

tech writing
Creating a documentation-focused culture encourages team and customer success

Getting developers to write good documentation can require a lot of work. New processes and rules must be implemented to ensure documentation is consistently updated (and reviewed), leading to revised time and budget allocations. The team should have a disciplined approach to creating good documentation, with expectations presented through clear and repeatable procedures. 

Outsourcing technical documentation writing allows organizations to focus on deliverables without allocating too much effort and budget into the important task of creating documentation. Businesses need a professional and experienced set of eyes to correct potential problems in the future. Learn more about how our on-demand technical writers are ready to rework your documentation. Get in touch with us today and let us fix your bad developer documentation. 

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All projects are priced at an hourly rate. We'll align on your team's budget and project needs to determine the best possible fit for a technical resource to work with your team. Don't know your budget yet? Don't worry, we can help nail that down based on your project scope and requirements as well.

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1. Start with an initial discovery chat to understand your project.

2. We build a proposal that aligns with your team's objectives and expectations (including hourly rates, deadlines, etc)

3. Then, we integrate rockstar writers into the project and kickoff work!

Read more about Our Process.

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