How to write documents for SaaS web applications

SaaS and web-based applications are becoming more popular as they replace desktop or network installations. How you document them is mostly the same as documenting traditional but there are some difference. Let’s take a look.

  • Registration – explain how to set up the account, register an account, common setup issues, and troubleshooting, for example, if they lose their password.
  • Settings – this includes the log in, log out, and account settings. What the user can do once they are authorized to use the application.
  • Navigation – explain to the reader how to get around the application. Are there any additional settings they can turn on? Can they customize the screen? If so, how and where?
  • Windows – identify the main windows and dialog boxes, and what you can achieve in each.
  • User Interface Controls – describe the location and purpose of buttons and icons on the user interface.
  • Configuration Settings – explain to the user how to change any setting on the application. For example, how to change the size, color, position, or values of the screens. Another option is to show them how to add new columns, fields, or customize it, for example, changing the background to a different colour.
  • Tasks – make a list of the main task. Gather related tasks under specific headings. This usually matches the user interface but there can be overlap with other screens. Prioritize the list and describe the most important tasks first.
  • Reference – this explains the purpose of every column, text field, drop-down menu, and every option in these menus. Most of these are self-explanatory but you need to account for fields whose purpose is unclear.
  • Known issues – identify any known issues with the application. For example, if more than five screens are opened at the same time, performance may be impacted.
  • Warnings – protect users from losing valuable data. Highlight actions that cannot be undone or could have catastrophic consequences.