Software Development Documentation: Types and Best Practices

Software Development Documentation Types and Best Practices

Documentation is one of the critical aspects of an SDLC. It acts as a record of the entire development cycle right from the initial stages of ideation to the deployment of the final product along with the updates and more. Software development documentation is necessary for both developers and non-technical stakeholders to understand how the software works and how it was developed. 

Here in this article, we are going to discuss two major types of documentation and the best practices you can follow. 

Types of Software Development Documentation

User documentation

User documentation is written to help users access, understand and use the software. It includes help screens, tutorials, documentation, and other forms of user support. User documentation includes tutorials, FAQs, help files, and other forms of support.

Developer documentation

When a team of developers is working on the same development projects, their work will inevitably be intermingled and mixed with other teams’ work. Your documentation becomes a tool for helping those developers figure out what’s going on in your codebase and how it should be used.

Best Practices for Software Development Documentation

Identify your audience

The first step in writing documentation is to identify your audience. You need to know who will use the documentation and how they will use it, so you can tailor your approach accordingly.

The best way to do this is through interviews with people with expertise in the subject area. These individuals should be knowledgeable about the product or service, as well as its use in the field. They should also be able to help you understand what is expected of them by customers and users of your software.

Focus on key issues

Software is created by writing codes. The problem is that software development is iterative, which means that the same code has to be reviewed and changed multiple times. This is a slow and error-prone process.

A better approach is to build specifications around the code you want to write. These are called requirements documents or user stories. 

Your job as a developer will be much easier if you focus on writing good requirements documents and not just coding.

Be visual

If you want to create a product that makes your users feel good, the best way to do it is by creating a visual product. If people can see what you’re talking about and how it works, they will be able to understand and use it much more easily.

This doesn’t mean that you have to become an artist or graphic designer, but having some basic skills in illustration or photography can go a long way toward making your product more appealing.

Provide guidance exactly where it’s needed

Don’t make your users memorize everything you think they need to know. Instead, provide guidance exactly where it’s needed. And whenever you provide them with guidance i.e. documentation that can guide them to accomplish something easily, make sure that they don’t have a hard time finding that documentation. Make the information available in a way that they can find it quickly. 

For example, if your API has a particular type of request, you can include a link in the API documentation that explains how to make those requests. If there’s an advanced API feature that requires some additional setup or configuration, include instructions for getting started with that feature.

Get continuous feedback

It is obvious to ask your customers for feedback if you want to make sure whether your product is meeting their requirements or not. This can be as simple as sending a survey out after every release, or as complex as running a user group meeting. The idea is that by hearing from people who use your product, you’ll be able to improve it over time.

In case you have launched a new service or product, then getting feedback is absolutely necessary. Even if it’s not perfect, hearing from people who are using it helps keep you from making big mistakes (like going overboard with features).

Keep documentation up-to-date

Documentation should be updated frequently, especially if the system is changing in significant ways. If you are making any changes in your code or your website, that should be mentioned in your documentation as soon as possible. This will help ensure that everyone who uses the system knows about any changes that have been made and that they know how to use them correctly.

Documentation isn’t just for end users it can also help developers understand how their systems work better than they otherwise would by providing context for the code itself. You can provide general overviews of your software or dive into specific areas such as security or performance tuning with detailed step-by-step walkthroughs that explain how each feature works.

Make documentation easy to find and search

There should be a good way for your customers to find it, whether it’s through a link on your website or an external directory that links directly to your docs page.

If you have a dedicated help desk or support team, they should be able to provide the best possible experience for people who are looking for answers. This means having accurate information in one place so that people know where they can get information when they need it. You don’t want them just clicking random links on your site and ending up somewhere where they have no idea what they’re doing!


If someone wants to understand how your software works, what its functionalities are, how you build it, and more, then the only source of information for them is your software development documentation. It is important to keep documentation up-to-date, concise, and accessible to all stakeholders. 

Using a consistent format, diagrams and flowcharts, and version control can help ensure the documentation is effective and useful for all involved in the software development process. You can follow the best practices we discussed in this blog to create reliable software development documentation. 

Author’s Bio:

Firoz Irani is a highly skilled technical business analyst with years of experience at TatvaSoft. He has a background in design, data analysis, and project management. He strongly believes that knowledge is meant to be shared, for there is a lot we can learn from each other. 

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