Our digital landscape is every-evolving, and technical documentation is a source of truth for any customer support, IT or dev team.
We build and share technical documents to answer questions, troubleshoot issues and help internal and external use our tools effectively. This documentation process is often nuanced, with many moving parts. Before creating and publishing a technical document, you have to consider the end users, formats, purpose, urgency and several other factors. Add the task of upgrading past documents to this equation, and you'll be pulling your hair out.
This articles digs into the 12 different types of technical documentation, each with a real-life example to inspire your strategy. These technical documentation examples highlight how other companies approach this process, so you can get started.
But first, let’s briefly run through why you need to spend time documenting your tech knowledge.
What is technical documentation?
Technical documentation refers to all the documents — guides, instructions, notes and more — that explain a product's functionality or features. Companies create technical documentation for end users and developers to ensure everyone has the information they need about the product.
Types of technical documentation
The 12 most common types of technical documentation are:
- Standard operating procedures
- Software requirement specification
- Project plan
- UX research report
- Scope of work
- Status report
- User guides
- Release notes
- API documentation
- SDK documentation
- Troubleshooting instructions
Why is technical documentation important?
Documenting your product’s functionality may not seem like the most exciting project. But it can help in many ways, such as:
- Improved customer experience: It’s no surprise that 53 percent of customers look at a product’s technical documentation before making a purchase. Clear and accurate documentation fulfills customer expectations, improves their overall experience and elevates product sales.
- Effectively organize information: An average employee can spend 30 percent of their workday scrambling for the correct information. A solid technical documentation framework creates a single source of truth for all stakeholders, reducing the time wasted searching for answers.
- Drives consistency and efficiency: Documented knowledge keeps everyone on the same page and unifies how your team functions. What's more, a set of guidelines can maximize efficiency in the product development process.
- Minimizes the scope of error: 97 percent of employees claim that a lack of team alignment can derail a project. By bringing your team together, documentation reduces the risk of making mistakes. You can create meaningful resources for employees by following technical documentation best practices.
💡 TLDR; Technical documentation can reduce friction for internal teams and enhance the overall experience for end users. It's a great way to get more out of your product during and after development.
12 examples of technical documentation
If you’re wondering how to write technical documentation, here are 12 technical documentation examples from company products and processes. These real-life examples can give you a reference to help create your own documentation framework.
We’ll broadly cover two kinds of technical documentation: process-based and product-based.
Process-based (internal) technical documentation examples
Process-based documentation streamlines the development process for internal teams. It can be as simple as step-by-step instructions, or as in-depth as a manual.
It combines several elements to introduce the tool.
- Step-by-step guides.
- Links to helpful information.
And note that while the tool itself is complex, the Page is easy to read and very personable. That's because:
- It's targeting a beginner audience (no tech jargon here).
- It matches Scribe's voice and tone (we're pretty fun, if we do say so ourselves).
When developing process-based docs, you'll have to keep these elements and audiences in mind. And while no two pieces will be exactly the same, you'll need to outline a structure that readers recognize and understand.
There are six main types of process-based documentation you can create:
1. Standard operating procedure
A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a step-by-step guide to completing a task or process. It lists clear instructions on performing routine workflows for consistent outputs.
SOPs build operational efficiency to strengthen your team, and really comes in handy during new hire training.
You can follow any SOP format to document user processes more effectively. This documentation type saves major time and prevents knowledge loss for DevOps teams.
Here’s an SOP by Mike Cardona, a GrowthOps executive. He created an 11-step SOP to create a linked record in Airtable and make a more dynamic database. This SOP comes with click marks and text instructions to seamlessly guide the readers through the process.
But here’s the best part: Mike created this fully annotated and easy-to-follow SOP in <30 seconds using a simple browser extension — Scribe.
Scribe writes your process documentation for you. Just turn on the extension, go through your process and let Scribe do the rest.
Once you’ve created and customized a Scribe, you can share a link, embed or export it in any format.
2. Software requirement specification
A software requirement specification (SRS) document defines what the team is creating. It outlines the product’s main functionality and lists hardware and software requirements for building it.
An SRS also explains how hardware and software components interact. Most teams consider an SRS a start-to-finish plan of action for building a product.
Sahara Next’s SRS for a farming-related automation tool shows what the document typically includes.
This 93-page document covers different aspects of the software, like its purpose, interface, functionality, performance and requirements. It also details various product features to explain how it'll work.
3. Project plan
A project plan clearly defines a project’s objectives, scope, milestones and timelines to optimize resource management and complete it without scope creep. This document lists every team member's responsibilities to avoid confusion and maximize collaboration.
Here’s a good project plan example by Gameforge that outlines the project scope, explaining required inputs and expected outputs.
The plan clarifies the product’s:
These details give the team a better understanding of what they're building. Risk management and project schedule sections are crucial to streamlining development and completing everything on time.
4. UX research report
A UX research report summarizes the user research process and findings, including details about the methodology, data collection and analysis workflows, stakeholders and insights.
This report is helpful in journey mapping and storyboarding to create a foolproof product development roadmap.
Here’s an excellent example of a UX research report for an app by Karma McCartney, a UX researcher. The intuitively designed report chalks out the entire process in different sections:
- Research: Heuristic evaluation and C&C analysis.
- Interviews: Questions asked in the interviews and notable quotes.
- Synthesizing: Affinity mapping, pivot points, personas, scenarios and problem statement.
- Ideation: Feature prioritization, user flow and wireframe design.
- Testing and iteration: Usability tests to detect issues.
- Future steps: Recommendations to improve the app.
5. Scope of work
A scope of work (SOW) document defines the specific details of a project, like the deliverables, milestones, timelines, outcomes and responsibilities. It prepares a solid groundwork for any project by translating expectations into concrete results.
An SOW is a critical part of the planning phase — 61 percent of project managers agree and always create this document before starting a project.
Here’s an SOW example from monday.com. The template document first defines the problem areas the project will focus on. It also maps these problems to action along with description and status update sections.
The guide also describes the project goals, performance measures, milestones, stakeholders and cost-benefit analysis.
6. Status report
A status report is a formalized update tracking a team's progress against the main project plan. It informs all stakeholders how things are developing to maintain proactive communication and transparency.
This status report template by Lucidchart perfectly summarizes key details to include. The document has all the essential information, such as the project summary and executive overview.
Lucidchart analyzes the progress through project health, individual task status and milestones. The report ends with a rundown of potential and known risks, along with a list of tasks planned for the upcoming period.
Product-based (external) technical documentation examples
Now that we’ve looked at process-based document types, let’s shift our focus to include product-based documentation examples.
This technical documentation format shapes the user experience by explaining everything about the product that a user might want.
Here are the six popular types of product documents with examples:
7. User guides
A user guide, also known as a product manual, is a product-centric document covering all product features and functionality.
It helps users get the maximum value out of a product with feature walkthroughs, step-by-step instructions, pro tips and more details.
Ghost’s user guide is the perfect example of a comprehensive and well-designed manual. , The user guide contains four main areas comprising a series of resources. Each article includes a balance of text and visual content to guide users through the product.
💡 Scribe tip: Want to replicate Ghost’s intuitively designed user manual but don’t know how to get started? Try Scribe Pages to compile all your guides, instructions and SOPs on a single platform and enable users to do more with your product.
8. Release notes
Release notes communicate new updates and changes to deliver a more transparent product experience. A release note can cover feature enhancements, bug fixes, new features or any recent changes.
Here, we categorize our release notes by monthly. Each note follows a standard pattern — icon, headline, publishing date and relevant user type followed by the main info. Most companies use release notes templates to standardize the information.
9. API documentation
API documentation covers the instructions for integrating the product API. It essentially details how to use the API and its functions properly. This technical documentation also covers any updates or changes to the API.
Here’s how LaunchNotes presents its API documentation. This help center article covers various aspects of the API on a searchable portal. Users can find more information about using and verifying this documentation here.
10. SDK documentation
A software development kit (SDK) contains tools, instructions and resources to build applications for a specific device. Companies offer SDK documentation to help developers install and use the product in their systems.
Here’s what Loom’s SDK documentation looks like. It includes two categories of SDK — recordSDK and embedSDK. The documentation contains instructions and code for both the SDK varieties, with a separate section to troubleshoot and resolve installation queries.
11. Troubleshooting instructions
Troubleshooting is all about solving user problems. Teams create troubleshooting instructions to give users fast and easy solutions for any query. Unlike a help center or user guide, troubleshooting documentation focuses only on the commonly faced issues and offers quick solutions.
Whereby’s troubleshooting documentation perfectly fits the bill. The brand has a dedicated troubleshooting section with subsections for different product functions. Each part has a few quick answers and direct links to relevant deep-dive articles.
💡 Scribe tip: Use Scribe to generate visual troubleshooting guides — complete with text and annotated screenshots.
Got several docs for one process? Bring multiple Scribes together with Pages to create a full-fledged troubleshooting document to deliver a smooth customer experience.
A whitepaper is a high-level doc format that presents original and nuanced insight on a subject, backed by appropriate ways to use a product. It’s different from other technical documentation, as it reads more like a research paper (think back to your college days) than a guide.
This whitepaper by Qualtrics is a good example. The content tackles a relevant topic and highlights different ways readers can use Qualtrics for an omnichannel (a fancy way to say “many channel”) customer experience.
Use these technical documentation examples to build your own
Technical documentation is more than just a nice-to-have for product-based companies. You need clear, concise and updated documentation to streamline backend developments and deliver a flawless user experience.
Are you struggling to create an airtight documentation workflow? Or maybe you don’t even know where to start.
We’ve got your back! Use Scribe and Pages to create several types of technical documentation — effortlessly.
With these tools you can:
- Auto-generate engaging docs with a shareable link (and easy embed).
- Customize your docs to match your branding or add additional info (steps, tips… even GIFs)!
- Combine your Scribes with rich media and text on a Scribe Page.
- Make universal updates in seconds.
Prioritize your technical documentation by taking advantage of the tools that make it simple and seamless. Build visual technical documentation in seconds — for free!