Good technical documentation doesn’t just happen. It’s a process that takes time to develop. It can be complicated to write. And, it takes lots of practice to perfect. To be a professional technical writer, you need to be able to consistently produce good technical documentation regardless of the subject. The key to doing this is to know how to write and to understand the needs of your audience. In addition, professional technical writers must have a natural curiosity, be technically adept, and have the ability to follow up on details. In the hectic world of technical documentation creation, flexibility is also a necessary trait. Experienced technical writers are able to "course-correct," as priorities change, without breaking stride
Step 1: Planning
Planning. Know the purpose and scope of the project before you begin. The planning phase defines what needs to be accomplished, what regulations and style guides need to be followed, when the documentation needs to be completed, identifies the deliverables, considers what resources are available (internal, contract or outsourcing), and identifies the costs involved. Time spent up front planning tends to reduce the actual writing time for many technical documentation projects.
This is the phase where you outline your work. When developing the content outline, keep in mind that the user needs to be able to understand, navigate, and find what you’ll be presenting. So that you don’t miss important content, start with a high-level outline on all topics to be covered. Then, begin gathering the specific content information and supporting graphics. Leave placeholders for any information gaps. When drafting procedures, do a self-review to make sure you can perform each procedure as you’ve written it. Make adjustments as necessary.
Typically, SME formal reviews take place upon completion of a first draft and a final draft. Depending on the type of content you’re developing, however, you may want the SME to check individual sections or topics. New content where the product information is still in flux, may take more reviews; existing content, may only need to be reviewed upon completion of the first draft.
Writng Flow Process
Document improvement requires:
Once all revisions have been made to your initial draft, set up a peer review to test its accuracy. Testing your document with someone who was not involved with the development of the document may make it easier to identify some small factor that was overlooked previously. Adjust the content as necessary, making sure that it is presented in a way that makes the content intuitive for your audience.
Adding a second set of eyes to the technical writing process increases the credibility and professionalism of the entire process. As an independent member of the documentation team, the technical editor provides value-added support to the technical writing effort by making sure the language has a logical flow, and the content is complete and consistent.
Once a document is signed-off by its reviewers, it’s ready for publishing. At this point, the document falls into a new status—Maintenance. As products evolve, it’s important that users continue to have accurate and complete information. To make sure this happens, documentation must be reviewed on a regular basis and brought up to date. For FDA regulated companies, proper maintenance is critical to avoid warning letters from the FDA.