There is another perspective of viewing the entire documentation process. This process is similar to that of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), if you have studied software engineering or how software development process takes place, you can relate to that as well. In this chapter, you will learn about the DDLC model and its various phases that are required in the documentation of any particular content in technical writing.
Document Development Life Cycle
DDLC can be defined as the practice of the development of a document that involves a systematic process that continues in cyclic order. It is essential for developing a document to enhance the precision as well as understandability of the document for end-users. If your end-users or readers can interpret the writing smoothly, then technical writing is considered perfect.
- Requirement Analysis
- Designing Phase
- Developing the content
- Editing / Proofreading
Let us understand each of the stages in details:
Requirement Analysis Phase
In this stage, technical writers or content developers have to collect specific information regarding the product from product requisite, SME, online help or seniors, and clients. It is because technical writers have to prepare the content as per the audience. It has an essential subsection, i.e., Audience analysis where professional writers and documentation experts have to explore who will use the product associated with the writing, user's need of building the product, as well as assess of skill along with the expertise of the target audience before writing the document.
Usually, technical writers assemble such information from Subject Matter Expert (SME). This saves the writer's time to understand the product. Since every company has SMEs for various departments, technical writers and content creators can approach them. Another potential target to get info regarding the product and its working mechanism is from software developers. Time, cost, and resource estimation are also done in this phase.
Phase of Designing
In this designing stage, technical writers need to design the document or content by making use of proper layout, format, and style. Professional writers use various authoring tools and bulk document processing applications such as RoboHelp, Adobe Frame Maker, Madcap Flare, MS Office, Help N Doc as well as Author. Also, for capturing screen images and product designs, capturing tools like Print Screen Tool, MS. Snipping, Snag-it, etc. are used. XML and DITA are also used for creating better formatting of documents. Camtasia is another application used for video capturing and editing. These are some tools and technologies technical writer needs to know.
Content Development Phase
Now the content is written as per the product features, requirement, and understanding made in the first phase. Once the product is analyzed, the product is run, drafting is done as per format and template.
Next comes the editing phase where the document is tested, as per the client/user's necessity, requirements, and product features. Technical writing editors, peer reviewers, or the content review expert (who might be the head of the professional writing dept.), will test and check the complete documentation. Here, technical writers verify the technical part, figures, grammar mistakes, and format of the document. Proofreading is a part of it where content experts check the entire draft to remove bugs from the documentation drafting.
Here, in this stage, technical writers bring out the document, i.e., release it with the product or as online help and may take a print of the entire document. The print is taken to check if the alignment is proper or not, and reading the hard copy also helps in getting a clear picture of the format and a few other documentation errors. Hyperlinks are added to the content in case of online release.
In this stage, if there is an update required to the document after the initial release, technical writers or content developers add updates, alter or modify the documentation. As the release of new products into the market, the online documentation or the document released earlier is updated.