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Three Principles for Writing Effective Analytics Documentation

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Documentation is a crucial part of your analytics implementation. From your Solution Design Reference document to your internal wiki for all resources, making sure that you can write and edit your documentation is key to ensuring a cohesive and thorough understanding of your implementation.

With effective documentation, you can:

  • Prevent knowledge gaps among team members and assist in onboarding efforts.
  • Engage team members in techniques or observations that may otherwise be lost to memory.
  • Ensure that knowledge can easily be diffused and transferred across team members and departments.
  • Adhere to standards that allow your team to eliminate any ambiguity or uncertainty when it comes to their work.

During your time with analytics implementation, you will likely be responsible for writing many pieces of documentation. To help you with writing analytics documentation, here are five principles for writing effective analytics documentation.

Write for Someone with No Knowledge

The core question to think of whenever you begin to draft a piece of documentation is this:

“Can someone with no understanding of the work or tasks being performed be able to understand the work and perform the tasks after reading your documentation?”

It can be difficult to write effectively with technical language, as you risk alienating non-technical audiences due to the complexity involved. However, a more process-oriented approach with writing with a focus on steps helps to keep a consistent cadence while allowing for more technical information to be presented.

While the outcome is important, the process conveyed through the documentation is crucial to a more thorough understanding of the work itself. By understanding the process, your end user can work more easily towards the outcome by synthesizing their own ideas with the knowledge they receive from your documentation.

Because of this, here are some tips to write with a process-first approach:

  • Perform each step as you write and write as you perform each step; make sure that your actions align with what the end user would do.
  • Use an organized approach with each step, ensuring that primary information is presented first while reserving any secondary information for a note or addendum to be visible after the primary information.
  • While editing, try to work backwards from your outcome, reversing the approach you took to complete the process; your end user should see each step of the process as part of the outcome itself.

With this approach, you can incorporate technical syntax into your writing with the end user in mind while ensuring that non-technical users can understand the process.

Use Standard Conventions and Syntax

It’s important to remember that conventions and syntax often go hand in hand; when writing effective documentation, you should always outline and define any conventions or syntax beforehand, while also making sure that it remains consistent throughout your documentation.

In analytics, this could refer to standardized columns and charts to convey important data to stakeholders, or even naming conventions for tags that are used to organize them within a Tag Management System (TMS). Consider using the following to make sure that your conventions and syntax align with what is expected:

  • Ensure that a glossary or lexicon is maintained, updated, and reflected as the terminology and syntax of your documentation is changed.
  • Use acronyms whenever appropriate, but always make sure to remind the end user of what they mean periodically as to prevent disruption in understanding.
  • Outline a set of guidelines and standards for your documentation and adhere to them as you write, while always auditing your documentation for any instances where it doesn’t align.

It’s important to minimize any disruptions you experience when it comes to writing any documentation, as any breaks that come from having to understand or interpret a piece of syntax or convention impact the effectiveness of your documentation.

Become Obsessed with Details, But Remember the Big Picture

Details are an important tool when writing effective documentation. Using more detail and being more descriptive when it comes to your documentation reduces any ambiguity or uncertainty that may result from your end user reading your documentation. Here are some ways to incorporate detail into your writing:

  • Use practical and simple language as you explain each step of a process helps to remain grounded in the process while avoiding any misunderstanding of what is being written.
  • Organize your information in a clear, readable format from top to bottom; once you have the big picture, you can elaborate, consolidate, or minimize complexity in your writing as necessary.
  • Have each section contain relevant information and be modular in that each section can be interpreted on its own without the need to reference each section.
  • Look to include more details for any information that is not considered self-evident or understandable without reading the previous section.

As you include detail, make sure that you balance the amount of detail included with the flow of the overall section. This minimizes the amount of time it takes to understand it while relating to non-technical audiences who adopt and interpret the documentation without too much investment.

I hope that this article helps you to write more effective analytics documentation. Happy writing!

Thoughts on “Three Principles for Writing Effective Analytics Documentation”

  1. Thank you for sharing these essential principles for writing effective analytics documentation. Your clear, concise guidelines make it easier for the rest of us to produce useful and user-friendly documents. This is incredibly valuable for anyone involved in data analysis and reporting. Really appreciate the thoughtful breakdown and practical tips!

  2. These principles are really very effective in any data documentation and very practical tips in any reporting. keep posting.
    Thanking you

  3. Dear Waden Greaux Thankyou for sharing these analytics documentation writing tips. Your simple instructions help us create useful and user-friendly documents. Data analysts and reporters will benefit greatly from this. I appreciate the thorough explanation and practical advice!

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Waden Greaux

Waden Greaux is a Technical Consultant for Perficient, specializing in Adobe Analytics and Adobe Launch. He is certified as an Adobe Analytics Developer Expert.

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