Documentation in UX can feel like invisible work, mainly because organizations usually focus on deliverables and prioritize product delivery above internal practices.
This is especially true in companies with small design teams or low UX maturity levels. Also, it might be challenging to keep up with UX design documentation for products that are still in the early stages because they are constantly changing.
However, documenting your design processes will improve work routines, keep everyone informed, and optimize efforts.
In this article, you will understand why project documentation is essential, the best practices of documentation, and a great tool to help you in this process.
Why is design documentation so important?
Documenting means to record facts or events through files, certificates, proofs, etc.
In this sense, the process of project documentation is something that complements and creates argumentative support for the design process as a whole.
With this in mind, we can list three main reasons for the importance of project documentation in UX Design:
- Establishes a reliable source of information: well-structured documentation keeps everyone informed, preventing misunderstandings, negligence, or failure in communicating a project. Furthermore, it is an official source of all the knowledge acquired during a design process;
- Helps team collaboration: the design process integrates several areas and stakeholders. Therefore, documentation is essential to keeping all agents aware of project decisions;
- Inform future projects: the documentation of a current project will serve as desk research for a future project. So, a new design process can benefit from the previous results and analyses.
Therefore, documentation in design is not about adding bureaucratic work and slowing down development. It is rather an important activity for the efficiency and productivity of the team and the business.
Hands-on: How to document UX projects?
To explain how to document your projects, this article will address the design process in 3 major steps: Research, Development, and Usability Testing.
UX teams learn more about their users and their needs during the research stage. We can separate the documentation process of the research stage into 2 distinct moments: data collection and data presentation.
When collecting data, it is important that your documentation contains:
- Methodology: specify which methodology will be used in the research process, what they are, the timeframe, and the tools that will be used – interviews, questionnaires, desk research, etc.;
- Interviews with stakeholders are part of the research process to understand the design project's objectives. In this sense, it is important to document the interviews and the briefing sent by the stakeholders. Having clarity and documentation of expectations will let you know if the project's objective is being met or not;
- User interviews: understanding the user and their needs is paramount in a design process. So be sure to document all the questions you ask and what the users' answers are;
- User research: surveys are simpler tools to be carried out than interviews, and their scope ends up being wider;
- Market Analysis: besides understanding the users, it is important to analyze the market in which they operate and how their competitors work and act. Having a market analysis in your documentation helps to argue the decisions that will be taken throughout the project.
The research findings provide essential outputs for your documentation process:
- Personas: Who are your users? How do they interact with your product? The entire development will be based on your users, aka personas;
- Scenarios: in addition to the personas, it is important to define and document the situations in which these personas find themselves;
- User Journey: the journey map lets you understand the interaction points between your product/company and users, and the user goals at each point. Documenting the user journey is essential for future reference in the design process.
All this documentation is indispensable in the research stage of the design process.
In the Development stage, documentation basically corresponds to everything that is built.
In this sense, for each project, there is specific documentation depending on the tools that were used to create the interface and product design. However, some fundamental documents can be cited:
From the User Journey, it is important to establish the user flow. The flow corresponds to a map with all the possible actions and paths that the user can take while interacting with a digital product.
This will help teams identify a priority and see if anything can be discarded or simplified in the product.
Sketches, wireframes, and prototypes
Designers will make sketches, wireframes, site maps, and prototypes during the development phase. Thus, it is important to include all the files derived from this stage in the project documentation.
So don't forget to consider any paper or digital sketches and wireframes here. Also, document the processes and final versions of your prototypes, whether they are:
- Low and High-fidelity prototypes.
At first, it may seem that documenting all this is a lot of paperwork and pointless. However, it is important to create documents that allow you to check later about the work done and how the final versions of the product came to life.
This way, any future modifications or updates can be carried out with more information, quality, and speed.
Specifications and Style Guide
It is essential in UX to build specification documents like style guides.
These documents establish communication between UX and UI Design, detailing aspects such as:
- color scheme;
- specifications about elements and how they behave;
- patterns and content.
Usability tests stage
During the usability tests, it's time to analyze if the decisions made during the design process are working.
However, it doesn't mean that the process is over. Remember that UX relies on iterative methods, so you'll keep collecting data from usability tests to make product adjustments.
Therefore, the project documentation required for the testing stage includes:
- Test plans: they should include the objectives of the tests, how and when they will be conducted;
- Test script: a list with all the tasks the user must perform during the test, as well as the questions the facilitator must ask;
- Results: what could you identify and analyze at the end of the tests? What were your conclusions? This document is essential to define the following decisions and further steps to take in the project.
Best practices in UX documentation
Besides the basic project documentation mentioned above, a few other practices support this entire process and are just as important.
1) Briefing and context description
The briefing is where your project's objectives, goals, and expectations are stated. This introduction is fundamental to your documentation, as it helps understand and clarify the expected outputs and the budget available for the project.
An excellent complementary practice is contextualizing the scenario to understand precisely why the project is being developed in the first place. In this sense, adding context means:
- Making it clear what problem the product is going to solve;
- Explaining the solution;
- Detail what the deliverables will be and what KPIs and metrics will be used to measure the success toward those goals.
Contextualization as a complement to UX documentation facilitates communication between teams and stakeholders and, therefore, is a practice that significantly supports the project from its inception.
2) Write to communicate
Another good practice in UX documentation is paying attention to how you'll write the information so that viewers can easily find the information they are looking for.
Therefore, don't forget to write clearly and concisely. When you're writing to document design processes, make sure to:
- Write clearly, with a professional language that anyone can understand—even those who are not UX/UI Designers;
- Include a glossary to explain technical terms;
- Think about the readability of the document: separate your text with headings and subheadings, use bullet points to highlight important information, and make your text scannable;
- Add visuals like charts and images to illustrate and highlight metrics or other important content that would otherwise pass unnoticed.
3) Keep information connected
As seen, UX documentation is developed through all stages of a project. Thus, all documentation should make sense when they come together and tell the same story.
That is, the documents are not just isolated pieces but part of a broader picture.
Therefore, create links, references, and prefaces to connect information and build a consistent narrative.
4) Continually improve your documentation process
As you get used to it and gain experience, you will increasingly improve your documentation process. However, here are a couple of tips to help you get better at it:
- Create templates to maintain consistency and make day-to-day project documentation easier;
- Share the templates and other documentation knowledge with your team;
- Take notes throughout the project to facilitate the process of documentation;
- Ask for feedback to understand what can be improved in your project documentation.
Extra tip: Notion for UX documentation
Up until now, we have discussed how to create and prepare the documentation for your designs. But perhaps one question has been hanging in the air: how and where should I make these documents?
The documentation can be made in any writing software available and shared in a directory on your company's system.
However, Notion is a handy tool for creating documentation and sharing it with your team. Here are a few of the features we like about Notion:
- You can create custom workflows for every design project;
- Easily imports files from Asana, Google Docs, and Trello to centralize files;
- Use the drag-and-drop interface to create custom dashboards or docs;
- Choose templates for different use cases, including project roadmaps, meeting notes, design systems, employee onboarding, etc.
Notion is a project management and note-taking software. You can create lists and calendars, organize tasks, add tags, and easily take notes with it.
Also, the software allows you to create Wikis: libraries of content and documents that can be shared with everyone on your team.
How to create documentation on Notion?
Creating the Document Repository
Start by creating a new page within your Notion. To do this, click the button in the interface's lower-left corner.
Then, click on table to create a spreadsheet that will serve as a repository for your documentation.
Creating docs templates
Inside your repository, click New and select New Template.
Once you create a new template, you originate a quick-access default document for drawing up new documents more easily.
Additionally, for each template, you can define the document properties.
The properties can be tags for search, dates and deadlines, persons responsible, or other information that Notion allows you to place as the document header.
Notion has an interesting system where you can add pages within pages.
This way, you can establish links between project documentation and organize all the references used for each document and file.
Also, within each document, you can place files from other software like:
- Google Drive;
These integrations help to make documents consistent by facilitating the inclusion of additional and essential files for the project.
Creating task lists
Another simple but very useful feature in Notion is the task lists to organize your projects.
To do so, you can go to any document and click the "/" button on your keyboard. This shortcut will open a menu where you can choose, among other alternatives, a To-Do list.
Use this feature as a checklist, so you don't forget any step in your design or documentation process.
Fill your repository with documents.
Create a new template page within your document repository for each document or project.
Keep this folder organized and share it with the necessary people so they can always access the project documents.
Notion is a complete tool with great features for organizing tasks, documents, and activities. This is a simple step-by-step guide to help you get started with this tool and UX documentation.
For more tips on how to use Notion, visit the website and watch the video tutorials.