The four types of documentation

You probably already noticed from the title of this letter, the topic of documentation is still important to me. Now that I began spending time with it I notice the many different aspects of documentation. And there’s more than I thought.

Today I want to share a resource with you that taught me about the four different levels/types of docs. I didn’t even know that there were four levels, or why they mattered.
They start with something very important:

It doesn’t matter how good your software is, because if the documentation is not good enough, people will not use it.

And they go on with this:

In this article I will explain how you can make your documentation better, not by working harder at it, but by doing it the right way. The right way is the easier way - easier to write, and easier to maintain.

There are some very simple principles that govern documentation that are very rarely if ever spelled out. They seem to be a secret, though they shouldn’t be.

If you can put these principles into practice, it will make your documentation better and your project, product or team more successful - that’s a promise.

Principles that make your project more successful (aka increase its quality)? Please tell me more!

The secret

Documentation needs to include and be structured around its four different functions: tutorials, how-to guides, explanation and technical reference. Each of them requires a distinct mode of writing.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have told you the secret before you clicked the link? I don’t know. But if you want to learn something about how to improve your docs, do yourself and your readers a favor and read the article:

What nobody tells you about documentation

Yours,
Holger

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