Technical documentation is an essential tool for any software company. Why? Companies rely heavily on documentation to educate their customers and reduce support tickets. Take the example of Razorpay Docs. In the last 90 days, over 1.8 million users (source: Google Analytics) visited our documentation to find answers to their questions!
Given its importance, Tech Writers at Razorpay take the utmost care to create and publish accurate and complete documentation. And all of this is possible thanks to our in-depth research and analysis process.
One of the biggest mistakes any writer can make is not putting in enough effort while researching content – be it for a blog or a technical document. After all, what is the point of writing if one is unsure of the content’s accuracy and completeness? Therefore, research and analysis is the first step of the document development life cycle.
An Ideal Research Process
As per the Document Development Life Cycle, the tech writer should conduct in-depth research before beginning to write. Given below are some of the best practices that can be followed by writers in the pre-writing, drafting, and post-writing phases:
- Product Concept Note & Design Specification Analysis
Usually, the documentation process begins when the Product Manager communicates the documentation requirements to the tech writer. Product managers should share the concept note containing complete information about the new product/feature to be documented, along with the proposed designs, and provide a complete walkthrough of the product. The tech writer should then read the concept note and come prepared for the session with a set of questions.
- Competitor Documentation Analysis
The tech writer needs to analyse the topic from different perspectives. For example, they can visit the competitors’ sites to learn about their products and their approach to documentation. This could help them to understand how the competitor is pitching their product and what consumer asks they are catering to.
Based on this research, the tech writer should create a research document containing the competitor analysis and a proposed outline of changes to the documentation. This can help the tech writer visually map the documentation changes before creating the first draft.
- Hands-On Software Testing
Apart from writing skills, the most important quality a tech writer can possess is user empathy. We write documentation for users, so it is necessary to put ourselves in their shoes. One of the ways we can do this is by performing user-acceptance testing of the software before and during the writing process.
This helps us experience the product from the user’s perspective, provide clear instructions, and add relevant FAQs. It also allows us to share user-side feedback with the product manager and the Tech team. Not only products, but the tech writer should also test APIs and webhooks to ensure that the user gets accurate and complete information.
- Feedback Analysis
Research does not end once the draft is published. Even after the documentation goes live, the writer should monitor the feedback. This can be done by having a feedback mechanism in place and by conducting user interviews.
The writer should also stay in touch with the Product Manager to know about any product updates and makes necessary changes.
Having an extensive research process ensures that:
- Accurate and reliable information is shared with users. This builds trust among users about Razorpay products and increases adoption.
- The visual mapping process helps to tie related information together. Therefore, users get all the information in a single place.
- Troubleshooting information is identified and added to the documentation. By trying the software out, the Tech Writer can determine what kind of errors can crop up and how users can overcome them.
Research is integral for tech writing. With a well-defined research process, Tech writing teams can ensure that the information provided to the users is detailed, accurate, and reliable. While the above-mentioned points do not form an exhaustive list, they provide good reference points to help tech writers get started with the research and move a step towards building world-class documentation.