12 Types of Technical Documentation +Examples (2024)

12 Types of Technical Documentation +Examples (2024)

Technical documentation is essential for all companies, regardless of their industry. Whether it’s consumer-oriented, such as assembly instructions for furniture, or internal procedures for invoicing, every standardized process requires proper documentation. 

These documents provide users with an overview of the product or process, explain what to expect, and guide them through each step or challenge to achieve the desired outcome.

In order to help you effectively communicate with your users, staff, and potential customers, we’ll review the 12 common types of technical documents and how they can provide guidance on how to use your product, explain internal processes, and even enhance sales and marketing efforts.

12 Common Types of Technical Documents in 2024

  1. Product manuals
  2. Repair manuals
  3. User guides
  4. API documentation
  5. SDK documentation
  6. Project plans
  7. Business standards
  8. Test schedules
  9. Market requirements documentation
  10. White papers
  11. Case studies
  12. RFPs & proposals

Types of Technical Documentation

All types of technical documentation fall into three main categories: product documentation, process documentation, and sales and marketing documents. Here’s how you can differentiate between them:

1. Product documentation

Product documentation encompasses in-depth guides, training manuals, and information that show users how a product should work or how to use a product.

When most people say “technical documentation,” they’re usually talking about product documentation. Product documents typically cover instructions and tutorials to help end-users accomplish a task. They include guides, illustrations, and reference sheets that cover:

For product documentation, it’s recommended to leverage technical writing software and software documentation tools to create easy-to-use and help documentation.

2. Process documentation

Process documentation, on the other hand, is a document that shows an internal team what they need to know to execute a task properly. It covers information that helps create consistency and accountability within your organization, including:

  • Plans, schedules, and notes that establish standards and patterns for different processes
  • Reports and metrics that track project, staff, and resource performance
  • Internal wiki

To assist your creation of documentation, there are a variety of process documentation tools to choose from. Consider your unique industry and business needs to find the right tool.

3. Sales and marketing documentation

Sales and marketing documentation present information to help your organization establish its niche in the market and provide sales enablement content to win more customers. A few technical writing examples of these types of documents include:

  • Market requirement and business plan documents that help set the groundwork for a company
  • White papers and case studies to show potential customers the real-life application of your product or service.
  • RFPs and proposals that help attract and secure business partners and new contracts.
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5 Types of Product-Based Technical Document

There are five major types of product technical documents; product manuals, user guides, repair manuals, API documentation, and SDK documentation.

1. Product manuals

A product manual explains the parts of a product, where you can find each part, and what each part is used for. It details everything a user needs to know about how a product functions.

Although product manuals are most common with physical products because most of them contain product part diagrams and illustrations, they can be created for any kind of product.

Here’s a page from the product manual of networking solution provider Cisco:

Source: Cisco

To create product manuals, there are three main steps that need to be followed:

  • Decide what the manual is going to cover
  • Create appropriate illustrations for the sections that need them
  • Write clear explanations of each step in the process

You may decide to offer your product manual as an interactive experience that combines UI patterns like walkthroughs, pop-ups, explainer videos, and beacons to encourage learning in the flow of work – or stick a more traditional interactive PDF.

2. Repair manuals

Repair manuals explain the correct way to fix a damaged product and make it easy for customers to navigate hardware problems or a combination of issues.

When people deal with these kinds of situations, it’s helpful to have clear, concise information that walks them through repairs quickly and efficiently. To create an effective repair manual, you need to anticipate every kind of product damage customers may face, then explain how to navigate it.

Source: Manualzz

3. User guides

User guides are a common form of user documentation that explain how a product works to its users. They are particularly useful during the onboarding process, especially interactive step-by-step guides, as they help users achieve their desired results quickly. These guides employ simple language and demonstrations to explain complex features and troubleshoot common issues, making them easy for beginners to understand.

To create a helpful user guide, it’s important to know what users want to achieve and adjust the language accordingly. For instance, if the guide is intended for developers, it may be helpful to provide code samples. However, for non-technical users, it’s best to provide clear and easy-to-understand guidance.

4. API documentation

API documentation explains how developers can integrate other products with your product using an API (application programming interface).

Source: Dimensions

When creating API documentation, it’s important to think about both the advantages that clients will gain from using your product (business value) and the technical specifications for how the API should be consumed to work effectively. This means including details about the API’s functions, classes, arguments, and return types in your documentation.

5. SDK (software development kit) documentation

SDKs are helper documents or libraries that describe the tools used to develop apps for a specific platform or product. Developers use SDK documentation to guide them when they create apps for a specific product/platform.

To create your product’s SDK doc, you’ll need to compile a library of tools, compilers, debuggers, code samples, APIs, etc.

Source: Dimensions

3 Types of Process-Based Technical Documents

Technical documents outline the necessary steps for your team to complete specific tasks. The following are the most common types of technical documents you may come across:

1. Project plans

Project plans define a project’s goals and objectives and offer a map of how to get there. They describe every step you and your team need to follow to complete a task or deliver a product. They help you stay focused on your overall goals and also document key dates so you can track progress toward them.

At the start of a project, project managers develop plans, whether it’s for implementing new accounting software or developing a new computer program.

2. Business standards

Business standards define the rules, guidelines, and benchmarks your business should always meet in particular areas (e.g., customer service benchmarks, quality benchmarks, operations). They’re used during employee onboarding and as helpful references in a moment of need.

To create your company’s business standards, define your company values, explain how staff should respond to situations in ways that reflect your values, and set your organization’s benchmarks.

Source: Rewo.io

3. Test schedules

Test schedules explain the steps, tasks, dates, and responsibilities involved in software testing. They’re used to anticipate and assign resources, like the equipment and engineers needed to run a test. Test schedules help to minimize the risk involved with software development because it allows you to catch issues earlier with constant testing. They help to prevent accidents — or at least reduce the duration of those accidents.

When creating a test schedule, it’s important to start by developing a test plan that outlines the process for reviewing, tracking, and approving tests. Once the plan is in place, then list specific dates such as release and beta entry dates.

Source: IBM

4 Types of Sales and Marketing Technical Documents

Technical documents related to sales and marketing provide valuable information that can help you attract and retain customers. By utilizing these documents, you can effectively pitch your products or services and generate interest from potential clients. 

To give you an idea, here are four types of sales and marketing technical documents:

1. Market requirements documents

Market requirements documents (MRDs) provide a comprehensive overview of your potential customer base, their specific needs, and the competitive landscape. By thoroughly analyzing these factors, businesses can gain valuable insights to inform their product strategy, improve customer satisfaction, and gain a competitive advantage in the market.

To create an MRD, collect info on customer problems and the reasons for the issues. You’ll gather data like the market problem, market opportunity, customer demographics, and use cases.

2. White papers

White papers are in-depth reports or guides about specific topics. They’re used to convince readers of your expertise and subtly suggest that your product is the best product to solve their problem.

To create an effective white paper, keep it focused on delivering value — including original data and expert analysis — rather than selling your product. Even without making a direct sales pitch, white papers are helpful for your marketing because they build brand trust.

Source: BDO

3. Case studies

Case studies are an excellent way to prove your value to potential customers because they show how your product helped a specific customer achieve their desired results.

You’ll typically need to interview a current or past customer to create a case study. The interview should include questions that help you get hard numbers to prove that your company delivered results. You’ll also document the customer’s unique story of how they struggled before your product and the change your product brought.

4. RFPs and proposals

A request for proposal (RFPs) is a document that announces a project and solicits bids for it, while proposals are documents that persuade customers or investors to buy a product/service. Companies use both to attract their ideal business partners, whether that’s vendors, investors, or customers. In both documents, you’ll need to mention key points like the project overview, company background, project scope, and goals.

Source: Venngage

Tips for Creating Technical Documentation

Creating technical documentation that is clear, concise, and easy to understand is essential for any product or service. To achieve this, here are some helpful tips and best practices:

  • Understand your audience: The first rule of any writing is to know who you’re writing for. Tailor the complexity, tone, and style of your documentation to match the knowledge and needs of its intended readers.
  • Use clear, concise language: Avoid jargon and unnecessary technical terms where possible. If you have to use technical terms, provide a glossary and make definitions short and easy to understand.
  • Organize information logically: Structure your documentation in a way that makes it easy for users to find the information they need. Use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to break up text and make it more digestible.
  • Include visuals: Diagrams, screenshots, and other visuals can help explain a concept more clearly than text alone. You can use them to illustrate complex processes or workflows.
  • Write step-by-step instructions: When explaining a process, break it down into simple, step-by-step instructions. This makes it easier for users to follow along.
  • Provide real-life examples: Whenever possible, include real-life examples to illustrate your points. This can make abstract or complex concepts much more relatable.
  • Keep documentation up-to-date: Outdated documentation can be worse than no documentation at all. Make sure to regularly update your documents to reflect any changes or updates to your product or service.
  • Test your documentation: Before releasing your documentation, have someone who is not familiar with the product try to use it based on your instructions. This can help identify any gaps or areas that are unclear or confusing.
  • Use tools and templates: There are several tools and templates available that can help streamline the process of creating technical documentation. These can help ensure consistency and save time.
  • Gather feedback: Encourage users to provide feedback on your documentation to help you identify areas for improvement and better meet the needs of your users.
  • Accessibility: Make sure your documentation is accessible to all potential users. This might involve considering font sizes, language, color contrasts, devices, and providing alt text for images.

The goal of technical documentation is to help users understand and effectively use a product or service. Always keep this in mind when writing and organizing your documents.

Create and Deliver Technical Documents Your Customers Will Read

Technical documents can be like a knowledgeable museum guide, highlighting the best parts of an exhibition and creating a pleasant experience for both users and the team. However, if done poorly, technical documents can be a nightmare. It’s like going to a museum and finding out that your guide doesn’t speak the language you understand – just as frustrating as encountering long, uninteresting technical text.

Whatfix enables you to present technical documents in an engaging and interactive manner. You can use a variety of tools, like on-screen guides, pop-up prompts, tooltips, chatbots, and in-app knowledge bases, to teach users how to use your product. Your goal should be to create all the necessary technical documents that effectively promote your product and make them enjoyable and effortless to read.

Discover how Whatfix can enhance the creation and adoption of your technical documentation. Learn more today.

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What Is Whatfix?
Whatfix is a digital adoption platform that provides organizations with a no-code editor to create in-app guidance on any application that looks 100% native. With Whatfix, create interactive walkthroughs, product tours, task lists, smart tips, field validation, self-help wikis, hotspots, and more. Understand how users are engaging with your applications with advanced product analytics.
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