Full Checklist when Documenting Software

Every software engineer knows that whenever you are producing a new piece of software, you have to write down its software documentation. This is important because every new user who is going to be using the software will use the documentation as a way of understanding how everything works and what they can do with the software. However, not all people are that into writing software documentation; speaking honestly most of the people dislike doing it, but they all know that this is something that has to be done so the task is given to someone. If you have had the misfortune of drawing the short straw and have to write the documentation, but you feel as if you don’t have the necessary knowledge don’t feel down because here you can read the full checklist when documenting software.

Provide the documentation in an accessible format

It is important that you write the documentation in a way that even a user who has never tried the software before can understand it. From your point of view there might be some things that seem too obvious, but to a person who is seeing the software for the first time they might not be so easy to spot, so make sure you are thorough.

Non-text content

Make sure that all of the non-text content that you add in the software documentation is presented to the user with a thorough description and explanation for its purpose. You can do this by simply adding a text alternative to the content that serves as a way of explaining the use of this content.

Information and relationships

Define the information, structure, and relationships well so that they can easily be understood by anyone who is reading the documentation.

Colour and contrast

Any piece of information that can be conveyed through the usage of colour can also be evidently presented without its usage. Make sure that you don’t turn the documentation into a drawing.

Meaningful sequence

Define a proper document reading order and make sure that you follow it. It won’t make much sense to start with the introduction and then proceed with the additional features without first explaining how the software works and what it does. This is a very important step that when done incorrectly can ruin your whole documentation, so make sure that you are properly prepared.

Forms

Remember to define the form element labels.

Tables

Don’t forget to identify all tables that you use in the documentation and to clearly state what the relationship between the cells and tables is.

Violations

Make sure that you don’t add any images that can be considered offensive or inappropriate by some users. Keep in mind that you are writing the documentation for people from all over the world so some basic knowledge of what some religions or nations might consider inappropriate should be found online prior to writing. Additionally, make sure you don’t add any images that are too flashy or any other type that can trigger some conditions such as epilepsy.

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Navigation

Provide all users who are reading the documentation with an easily accessible way of navigating through the whole document. Keep in mind that software documentation is usually very long and so it would be quite frustrating for some users to have to scroll through everything when reading the manual. The best way to add accessible navigation is to add Table of Contents.

Language

Even though you are probably writing the documentation for people from all over the world, you will most likely write the software documentation in English. This is a fact that might be obvious but still should be pointed out. Make sure that you state the language of the documentation.

Document all features

Make sure that you provide proper documentation on all of the software’s accessibility features, including the different keyboard access combinations. For you this might be obvious but for someone seeing the software for the first time the experience won’t be the same.

When you are given the task of documenting the software and you feel like you are not prepared well enough for this, make sure that you follow the tips given here for a much easier time.

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