6 Great Tools for Web Project Documentation

Any great online project can partially attribute their success to a properly documented structure, like work plan, technical information, management documentation, etc. Project documentation serves a number of important purposes. It allows companies to reach milestones, based on initial plans, and provide a manageable roadmap for a smooth development process. It offers historical data and traceability, which are important in cases when things go sideways and you might need to backtrack certain updates and decisions. In  other cases this information allows easier management, specifically when the project is handed over to another developer or a new contractor.

It’s also immensely useful for design. Now, design might not be the prime detail in your business. But at the same time, brand awareness, recognition and image are all created with the help of specific design standards. In this regard, it’s important to be able to replicate design concepts, ideas and details in order to preserve the brand.

So now, how can you ensure that all of these things are properly implemented and documented? There are tons of various tools for web project documentation. Some allow you to create a blueprint of your web project, others serve as a template that can guide you or your developers in the right direction. Let’s review some of them.

Docco

Screengrab of Docco

It’s a great documentation generator that’s very easily to install and use. Its functionality is very simple – it displays your code along with a textual annotation that explains its functionality. It’s written with Literate CoffeeScript, a language that compiles into JavaScript. After running it against your code, you’ll receive a neat HTML page for each of the source files. It also provides a convenient menu for navigation among the pages on the list. It’s released under an MIT license and is available for download at GitHub. It supports multiple programming languages. It also has a Ruby port.

Stylify Me

Screengrab of Stylify Me

This is a great style guide creation tool that allows you to generate basic design documentation in a matter of minutes. All you have to do is paste the URL of the target website and this tool will create a list of properties that can be used by designers, who are going to work on the project in the future.  This might also be useful for freelancers,  as a visual guide. You can download the report in a PDF format, which will contain info on typography, fonts and their colours, image dimensions and image samples, along with a screenshot of the page.

Style Guide Boilerplate

Screengrab of Style Guide Boilerplate

This is an advanced style guide tool that will help you promote consistency in your design, brand image and workflow. This documentation tool is an invaluable way of increasing the efficiency, with which you’re making updates to your website. All of the credit goes to Brett Jankord – an experienced software engineer that knows a lot about front-end development and its optimisation. The best part is that it’s available for free from GitHub. If you find it to be too bulky – you can always delete the unnecessary fields.

Google’s HTML / CSS Guide

This is not a tool per se. It’s a guide that will allow you to uphold specific and detailed coding standards. It can easily be adapted for your specific requirements and used as a very handy template for any HTML/CSS related documentation.

JSDoc

Screengrab of JSDoc

JSDoc allows you to easily document classes that follow ECMAScript 2015 specifications. The beauty of this tool is that it automatically recognises classes and their respective constructors. To do that it parses your code. Its functionality is similar to that of PHPDoc and JavaDoc.

After it’s done, an HTML web page is generated with the results. JSDoc is an invaluable tool for documenting your JavaScript’s API, which is crucial for large integrated projects. It takes care of everything from namespaces to method parameters. You can also easily add descriptions and tags to your documentation for an added layer of transparency and efficiency.

Daux.io

Screengrab of Daux.io

Daux.io is perfect for end user documentation. It works great for code authors, 3rd party developers and even marketers, because it’s loaded with some really useful features. It’s conveniently mimics Github’s markdown, so you need less time adjusting to it. Not to mention that it makes code review easier for other users. It auto generates navigation pages and supports multiple languages.

It’s particularly useful for collaborations with marketing departments, as its flat design, mobile friendly UI and shareable link structure allows tighter interaction between marketers and coders. Daux.io also supports Piwik and Google Analytics.

Conclusion

There are a lot of other tools and ways of doing web project documentation. An important aspect of doing that is to make sure that it’s readable by other users. Run it through your colleagues or other people, who are qualified to understand the topic. Don’t forget that certain aspects of the code, like specific tags or comments are not always understandable by default to anyone outside of your coding team.

Also remember that your standard environment that you work with might already have the necessary tools. For example, phpMyAdmin allows you to create a database dictionary with specifications/hints for your database entries.

 

Do you know any other great web project documentation tools? Share them in the comments below!

Alex Plotnikov

Alex Plotnikov - CMO at MageCloud.net, a unique PaaS that allows you to launch online stores in a matter of minutes by automatically deploying Magento, themes, extensions and updates.

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