How to Create a Documentation Strategy

Documentation strategy goes beyond branding. It’s at the very heart of your relationships with your customers. Your documentation is one of the first things people look at when they’re having trouble using your product – or thinking of using your product. As such, it’s a powerful ambassador for your company.

Documentation strategy can transform your customer relationships.

So let’s look at some of the aspects of documentation strategy that you need to consider.

Vision

Every company needs a vision. That vision needs to extend to documentation. Consider questions like:

  • What’s your long-term goal for your documentation?
  • What purpose will it fill?
  • How will it advance your business goals?
  • What will set apart your documentation from other companies’?

Audience

Figure out your audience, then create documentation for that audience. Think about:

  • Will you document for users, developers, or both?
  • Which demographic is your documentation primarily aimed at?
  • Have you created user personas?
  • Is each piece of documentation mapped to at least one user persona?

Branding

It’s easy to accidentally damage your brand image by offering documentation that doesn’t fit it. Consider:

  • Does your documentation align with your company’s branding?
  • Does it match your brand voice?
  • Have you mapped your documentation decisions to your brand strategy?

Media

How you’ll deliver your documentation is a decision that depends a lot on your vision, audience, and corporate branding. Some points to think about:

  • What media is your target audience currently consuming?
  • Do you have any industry standards to meet?
  • Does any particular media best suit your corporate branding?
  • Which media will best fit with your methodology and build processes?

Methodology

Generally speaking, your documentation should use the same methodology as your coding team. If your code is Agile, your documentation should be Agile too. Consider:

  • How can your documentation be created using your coding methodology?
  • Are your technical writers assigned to their own team, or integrated with coders and testers?
  • Do you release new documentation with every code release?

Knowledge flow

Your knowledge flow is the way that knowledge gets from your subject matter experts to your users. The aim is to create a smooth, uninterrupted and fast flow of information.

Chart the flow of knowledge from SMEs to users. Some points to think about:

  • How many stages does your knowledge flow contain?
  • Are there any bottlenecks along the way?
  • Can you eliminate some stages of the process?

Build process

Just like code, documentation typically has to go through a build process. Historically, this has often been a long, frustrating, manual procedure. But new tools exist to make it as simple as a code build. Consider:

  • Are your documentation builds automated or manual?
  • Are doc builds co-ordinated with code builds, or do they use a separate process?
  • Do you use automated testing on documentation builds?
  • Do you include documentation in QA testing?

Goals

Concrete goals help us to stay true to a vision. Include long- and short-term goals, which might include points like how you’ll get from your current documentation to your ideal documentation.

  • What are your long-term documentation goals?
  • What is your first short-term documentation goal?
  • Can you quantify some of your goals?

Try to create short- and long-term goals in each category above. Remember that small progress is still progress.

Progress tracking

Once you have a vision and goals for your documentation, consider how you’ll track your progress.

  • How will you know when you’re on target, and when you’re drifting away from your strategy?
  • How will you measure your progress towards your goals?

Turn these into your documentation strategy

When you have answers to all the questions above, you have the start of a documentation strategy. Your next steps will involve figuring out how to make progress towards your goals. That might include:

  • Researching new processes
  • Finding new documentation tools
  • Bringing in a documentation specialist to help you figure out the specifics.

Best of luck in creating your documentation strategy!

 

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