Home A Guide to Software Development Documentation

A Guide to Software Development Documentation

Software development documentation helps developers and users understand the working and functionality of the software. It includes technical manuals and scripts that contain information related to the software development process and its use.

The documentation encompasses the development of software from API to building notes, which allows the developers to complete the project efficiently and give users a resource for operation & troubleshooting. This article is a complete guide to software development documentation as it discusses its types, purpose, and importance.

What is Software?

The term “software” refers to the set of programs, documents, and associated data. Software instructs computers about the way they should function hence without software, computers won’t be of any use. Unlike hardware, the software is not a physical aspect of a computer and does not perform any actual work.

For a deeper understanding, it’s essential to know that software is commonly written in high-level programming languages which are then converted into low-level machine code using compilers and interpreters. Our system understands this machine code and functions accordingly as per the instructions provided by the software.

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What is Software Documentation?

In the software development life cycle, software documentation is information including source code, help guides, technical manuals, and API documents related to the software that helps understand its functionality and usage. It facilitates software usage and helps in proceeding with the software development process.

A document contains detailed information including the code, and APIs of the software so developers are considerate of its maintenance throughout the software development life cycle. The process of software documentation starts with documenting Software Requirement Specification (SRS) and the development life cycle involves six steps as mentioned below:

Software Planning

Design and Customization



Implementation and Evaluation

Administration and Maintenance

Types of software development documentation

Drafting software development documentation includes various technicalities. Thus, for successful software documentation, the work needs to be distributed among individuals and teams. Different types of documentation when developed individually result in the final formulation and formatting of the document. Thus, the 7 major types of documentation involved are as listed below:

1. Requirement Documentation

Requirement documentation is prepared during the initial planning stages of the software. This documentation covers information about the appropriate setup needed for the development of the software. It helps you stay ready with all the required resources in hand. It includes:


  1. Products needed to develop the software effectively
  2. Hardware specifications
  3. Compatibility
  4. Functionality requirements
  5. Regulatory requirements
  6. Non-functional, level-user requirement

2. Planning Documentation

A software’s plan documentation is a representation of its entire planning process. Here are some prospects that are kept in the record by a software planning document:

    1. The reason behind software development
    2. An outline for how work shall proceed
    3. Methods of development


Planning documentation for software is just as important as the entire planning process. Software Development Plan (SDP) helps an organization or a developer in addressing the following factors:


  1. Helps in defining the end goal of developing the software
  2. Helps in identifying the required resources
  3. It addresses the primary function of the software
  4. Sets control of the order of development
  5. Assists in distributing responsibilities and roles among the working team members
  6. It highlights the problems the software aims to solve
  7. And finally, assists in recognizing the development approach that the team will use

3. Metrics Documentation

Metrics documentation is used to track the work process of the development team. It gives insight into how a software development project is handled by the team and traces their performance. These documents are important as they help an organization maintain productivity in the workspace. Metrics documentation assists an organization in the following ways:


  1. It will help in comparing different development methods
  2. Set high productivity environment 
  3. Prepare quality specifications 
  4. Helps in maintaining a feedback loop between managers and developers

4. Product Documentation

Product documentation contains information related to product use. It may include instructions on how to create and use a particular product. It is always product-specific. Broadly, this includes:


  1. User documentation
  2. System Documentation

These types of documentation are of great importance in software development documentation. The user documentation and system documentation are further explained in detail in this article.

5. System Documentation

System documentation describes all about the system, its parts, and components. This also includes the source code of the software. A system document is used by the design and development team to track the progress and predict the software’s future functionality. System documentation takes charge of various aspects of software including:


  1. Design
  2. Capabilities
  3. Operation
  4. Maintenance

6. Technical Documentation

In this class of software development documentation information related to software use and functionality is documented using technical language. This document is used by developers, software engineers, and specialists who use it in designing and finalizing the software. This includes:


  1. API development
  2. SDK (Software Development Kit) development
  3. RFPs
  4. Software product requirements

7. End-user Documentation

To mitigate the difficulties in using and navigating a new software, an end-user document is prepared after the software development life cycle. It includes details related to the software interface and how it functions to make the user familiar with the software. End-user Documentation can be a user guide, installation guide, or manuals that contain information about the licensed software.


It is to be noted that end-user documentation does not contain any information about the source code or design of the software. This can be further classified into various categories, which include:


  1. Installation instruction
  2. Operating system requirements
  3. Troubleshooting tips
  4. Description document
  5. Product manual
  6. FAQs
  7. Instructions on how to use the software, etc.

Purpose of Documentation

In the process of developing any software, its documentation is an important aspect that needs to be completed beforehand. Documentation is focused on the areas of software development and helps keep track of all the required prospects during and after the completion of the development process. Other than this, here are some important keys that when combined forms the purpose of documentation:

Importance of software development documentation

By now, we have an idea about what software development documentation is and what its types are. But, why exactly do we need such documentation? Why is it drafted and why is it so important in the software development life cycle? Here are some of the reasons that justify the importance of software development documentation.

In long processes like software development, keeping track of all aspects of the software can turn into a hassle. This problem is easily handled using software development documentation.

Software development documentation assists the development team throughout the development process.

Software development documentation increases coordination among team members.

Developers often end up doing the same task multiple times. Keeping your software documentation ready cuts down duplicative work thus increasing productivity at work.

When everything is planned beforehand, the quality standards of software increase automatically.

Understanding code becomes easier with software development documentation.

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