How important is documentation to you?


I have been completing open-source development as part of a module at university. I was just wondering how the community felt about documentation - how important do you believe it to be? Do you think enough is being developed? What are its advantages and disadvantages to you as a developer?

Can’t wait to hear your ideas!


As an MDN writer, I’m kinda biased, but here goes :wink:

There are different schools of thought on this. Many people (myself included) think that documentation is an essential part of any project (open source or otherwise). You need documentation if you want a decent number of users or contributors, and if you want your project to be usable/maintainable/installable.

Some people seem to regard documentation as an afterthought, but without it I believe your project’s community will be limited to the elitists that built the thing in the first place, or were smart enough to figure it out in spite of the lack of docs.

One excuse for minimal or no documentation is lack of expertise in writing documentation — it is a distinct skill, and one that engineers are often not so good at. I am happy to accept this to a degree — bad documentation can be worse than no documentation. But you should still be willing to accept that your project needs documentation, and try to find someone to help.

There is a lively community dedicated to documentation: This is another place that might be useful for you to ask questions at.

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I agree with Chris across the board; products with no documentation (or poor documentation) are not complete products. Good documentation is essential; nothing is ever 100% “inherently obvious” or “self-documenting.” Products without documentation will lose customers to products with even okay documentation, even at times at cost of some lost features.

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I agree with Chris too. Documentation is important to an extent where users would need help and advice based on their activities in the community. If we did not have documentation, Resources with very limited and developers would struggle because of this.

Developers tend to rely on documentation, as it guides them. However, Documentations must be done at a high standard, by producing good content as well as, correct grammar, punctuation and spelling. It is very important.

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