Documentation – Google Doc Drawing Tip

I’ve created documentation in lots of platforms with lots of people over the last 15 years. These attempts tend to fail, or fail to thrive, for a variety of reasons. I can’t address all of the human factors but I can look harder at a few of the mechanical ones.

Here are a few of the questions I ask myself.

  • Who is supposed to be contributing to the documentation?
  • What tools do they use now?
  • What is the fewest number of tools we can use?
  • What enables the most people the easiest path to creating/editing?

Based on those considerations, my latest attempt is to use Google Docs. It’s a super common tool that our entire team is familiar with. We can easily make it available online to anyone we want. It’s also a single tool that will all of our basic documentation needs (video is another matter). The place Google Docs doesn’t do well is in creating a public-facing static index or search box for all the content. I’m looking into API options around that at the moment.

I a, doing at least one thing that I believe might make a difference. For instance, all of the images are inserted as drawings. That’s a little thing but one that eliminates a tool and allows for flexibility down the road. Ordinarily, I’d edit the screenshot in Skitch (or something) and then upload the image as . . . an image. As a result, if something changed or someone wanted to add/refine something they would then have to create a fresh screenshot and annotate it in their editor of choice and then upload it. That sucks.

Instead, I can Insert>Drawing and then insert the image and do whatever annotation I need right in Google Docs. If anyone needs to change it they can simply click on the image and choose edit. I made a Google Doc detailing that here.

There are a number of other documents in our current collection. Most of them are focused on WordPress. I’m trying to look for patterns in what I’m asked repeatedly and make sure we have all that covered.

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