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Why Documentation Is So Important: Part 2

Matt Brown
Why Documentation Is So Important: Part 2
Matt Brown

(Part 2 of a 2-part Blog Series on Documentation)

In Why Documentation Is So Important: Part 1, I explained the importance of behind the scenes documentation in order to avoid miscommunications. In part 2, I will explore some examples of clarifying questions to ask for best documentation practices.

Take this as an example: A client asks for a slider carousel on the homepage of their website to promote content. Simple request, right? We can move on? Not necessarily. Here are some immediate questions that come to mind:

  • Will there be only images in the carousel, or videos as well?
  • Should the slider automatically rotate, or will the user need to click an arrow to get to the next slide?
  • If the carousel should rotate automatically, how many seconds should it take between slides?
  • What should the transition effect be from one slide to the next?
  • What should the dimensions of the slider be so that you can create content that fits appropriately in the space?
  • How should this work and display on mobile and tablet?
  • If there are going to be videos in the slider, how should the videos play? Will they play just within the slide itself or will it prompt a lightbox pop-up? Should they autoplay?
  • How should videos be uploaded to the backend Content Management System (CMS)? Will these just be embedded videos from YouTube and / or Vimeo? Or will you need to upload the videos themselves to the backend of the site?
  • If they need to be uploaded to the backend of the site, that will require a custom video player, which prompts an entirely new conversation and set of requirements - which could affect scope of the project, if not previously discussed

So, as you can see, what was originally just a simple ask from the client turned into something a bit more involved that needs to be discussed and nailed down before moving forward. It’s important to keep in mind that those are just some initial questions, since it’s very possible that as you work through answers to these questions with the client, new questions will arise that need to get worked out. This is a great opportunity to offer suggestions and guide the client through this process so all the details are worked out and documented up front.

In situations such as this, I’ve found it to be very advantageous to get visual examples that clients have seen and liked before on other websites. This will be extremely helpful, because in many cases you will be working with a client who has never been through this process before and they might not be familiar with the terminology, which is completely fine. It is part of the Project Manager’s duties to explain certain functionality that may be confusing or foreign, and having visual examples available to understand the features requested goes a long way to avoid miscommunication and keep the client comfortable and well informed.

Overall, writing project specifications is an instrumental building block to every project, and a practice that all Project Managers should be taking part in. This will save a lot headaches on current and future projects. Having detail-oriented documentation will help your team accurately estimate budgets and timelines moving forward based on prior experience. During your next project, definitely keep documentation practices top of mind and leave a comment below if you have any other tips!

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