So far you have been acquainted with SDLC-Software Development Life Cycle, the cyclic process in Software Engineering that sets an order for the work flow, but today, another kid has born on the block-DDLC. DDLC stands for Document Development Life Cycle, surprised! I’m sure you must have thought Database instead of Document but the Document is absolutely right here.
Today words have become everything and until something is communicated in an emphatic manner, no one has time to hear what you have developed. So companies have finally rose to uplift the most ignored part of software Development Life cycle, documentation as an important, in fact very important aspect. This has given way to Technical writers not just breather but a respected job at work. Earlier most of the Tech-Writers used to work on contract basis or as a freelancer. But now, scene has changed and the writers are not only being paid highly but also getting all due importance. So in this article, let’s see what are the phases a technical writer goes through to create a document?
o Requirement Analysis
Requirement Analysis -This is the initial stage where the technical writer gathers all the requisite stuff and then analyses the actual requirement. The available matter must be properly mapped with the requirement so that right from the start, flow moves in right direction and each passing hour can be counted towards completion of the task.
The writer meets the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and coders of the application several times to gain the understanding of scope of software and main features. Most of the writers believe that one meeting should be enough, but I think that every time you meet the experts, more functionality of the application gets unfolded. Simply because, initially only user level functions are told, then slowly in further meetings, developer reveals the way each component functions. The depth knowledge of the environment, end users, and related functionality helps writer understand the project well. And well understood project can be document in best way.
Here only interviewing the experts is not sufficed, the writer must use the software to gain the details of functionality. The entire analysis should be noted down in legible format. This will later be very handy and while documenting, no more rounds of SMEs or developers would be needed.
Designing – This phase is very important as it creates the skeleton for the document. Right from the cover page to summary to Table of Content (TOC) to actual text to glossary to Index, here a design is created. For example, if you are using Microsoft Word 2007, then you just need to place the skeletons of TOC and Index. Later as you keep writing, these tables get updated provided you click update option.
In the design phase, you have all the structure ready and only the content is missing. Once you are ready with design, a rough view of document’s shape starts emerging.
Developing – This phase is the actual writing phase. If you were writing a rough document, you would have started from this phase and ended here only. Here actual text is written and if TOC and Index is being maintained, the titles, book marks, references are established along with writing. Writing also means placing tables, images, titles, notes, detailed elaboration etc.
The development phase although enjoys the central place, still it shines when associated and mapped with rest of the phases exactly as planned.
Testing – As the title implies, this phase comes after you have written the document and have updated all the tables including TOC and Index. Clicking a particular heading in the TOC must take the control to connected page. Further links and hyperlinks should be well connected and checked. Apart from these tests, grammatical check, punctuation check, and regular flow of sentences, and sensible phrases, are natural test elements.
Remember, if a link does not work properly, you can be reprieved, but as a technical writer, any grammatical error or flaw in the flow of sentence cannot be taken lightly by any means.
The document for software normally follows a style guide which tells how a title should be written or paragraphs should be framed. So the used of style guide must be adhered by heart.
Once tested for aforementioned regulations, a document is sent to the SMEs and Software coders who then read the document between the lines to confirm that what is written is exactly what happens. Any problem reported is communicated to writer who then ensures the veracity of words.
Publishing – Once all the text is well framed, managed, and proof read, it is ready for publishing. If the document is going to be published outside the company, it’s suggested to take a printout of the document and see how it will look after printing. As once the printing is done at big level, any change will cost too much and also will affect your reputation as a technical writer because the writer is not just responsible for creating docs but also for the proper formatting. The writer must ensure that the document is apt for reading and suits the eyes of reader. Font selection, size choice, and usage of brightness in pictures are few points that can turn an odd looking document into a masterpiece.
Maintenance – As usual, this is the longest and perhaps never ending phase. It includes addition, deletion, and update of the document. If more features are added to the software, they must be added in a highlighting manner so that existing readers can directly pay attention to the newly added stuff.
In case if the authoring tool has been upgraded, the writer must learn new features and incorporate them into existing document and so on.
The aforementioned phases have always been followed but in an unknowingly manner. Now we have an idea, why not stick to the phases and ensure that the output is absolutely wonderful and professional.