Minimum Viable Documentation (MVD)
by Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp — all-in-one help authoring tool
High-quality product documentation is equally important for startups and enterprises. The tricky part here is knowing where to start, i.e., what documents are more important than others. Of course, the bare minimum documentation useful to customers is better than no documentation at all. Newbee technical writers tend to think that all technical documentation is crucial.
Let’s sort it out.
The first thing that comes to mind is a concept called Minimum Viable Documentation (MVD). It includes the most critical information that users need and categorizes it to make things easier to find and use.
When you have a product with no helpful documentation, the first thing to do is create a minimum of such documentation. Here are some tips for doing that:
- Define your minimum. To do that, you should talk to your colleagues who can give you an understanding of the target users and their goals.
- Watch your competitors. This way, you can analyze and identify how such companies provide documentation about their product.
- Assess the state of your documentation. This is applicable if you already have some documentation.
- Define the structure. Information architecture best practices will be of great help here. This will be the initial structure that, of course, will change with time.
- Start creating your content. Think about critical information for your users and create a basic functional framework. Minimal workflows will do for minimum viable documentation. Such as ‘Get started with…’ or ‘Accomplish a Task….’ You’ll have a chance to add to such documentation after the iteration.
- Proceed with more complex things that your product contains. Here you might need help from SMEs (subject-matter experts). Stick to the complex aspects of the key customer workflows, crucial cases, and the essential information customers need most.
- Get feedback and iterate. If there are important releases coming up that will affect one of the key workflows on your list, you might want to document that workflow sooner. Engineering and product management teams can give you a clue about what your customers are paying attention to, and you can edit your content accordingly.
When you realize that you’re starting to add to existing topics or write about new features and not the existing ones, your MVD is ready. Finally, you have the skeleton structure to add to. The next step is filling in the details and settling into the routine work of modern technical writing.
It is true for technical writing always to want to add to tech documentation, and it’s hard to find time for everything you want to write. So create strong networks with your colleagues for discussions, and never stop asking who your user is. Things might take longer than you expect, but you will improve with time, and your efforts will pay off with the excellent documentation you’ve created.
Have a nice day!
Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp.com — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors