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Minimum Viable Documentation – Write the Docs NA 2014

Minimum Viable Documentation – Write the Docs NA 2014

My talk at Write the Docs North America, 2014, on the role of documentation in the product development process.

Video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEZcodengwk&feature=youtu.be

Typefaces used are Adria Slab and Courier Prime.


Matthew Lyon

May 05, 2014


  1. Minimum Viable Documentation by Matthew Lyon @mattly Write the Docs

    2014 Portland, Oregon
  2. what is a 
 minimum viable product?

  3. “building software is
 expensive & risky” – money sloth

  4. test the feasibility
 of an idea

  5. by building 
 as little 
 as possible

  6. minimum viable

  7. early
 adopters mainstream users

  8. “No wireless. 
 Less space than a nomad
 Lame.” –

    slashdot, on the iPod
  9. what is the 
 of software?

  10. “software helps 
 solve problems” – product sloth

  11. it has to 
 work better than existing solutions

  12. “printing a form, filling it out, and faxing it in

    is less hassle than the Adobe Plugin” – me, about coveroregon.com
  13. how do we 
 help people
 solve problems?

  14. “we’ll provide a good 
 user experience” – design sloth

  15. As a _____________ I want to ____________ so I can

    ____________ do something user be awesome
  16. getting their world 
 requires empathy

  17. None
  18. how are people 
 going to interpret 
 this interface?

  19. how are people going to interpret these words?

  20. how are developers 
 using empathy to 
 help themselves?

  21. “I want to know when a change breaks something” –

    code sloth
  22. None
  23. None
  24. “what was I thinking when I wrote this two months

    ago?” – code sloth
  25. pair with new developers
 to document difficult things as they

    have questions
  26. who are your users? what do they want 

  27. None
  28. reference docs are an outboard memory

  29. None
  30. learn how to forget

  31. None
  32. how can you help them
 to do what they want?

  33. how can you help them
 to do what they want?

  34. None
  35. None
  36. None
  37. HOWTOs work with
 user experience design

  38. link to HOWTOs from your marketing site

  39. link to HOWTOs from your new user experience

  40. use your HOWTOs to regression test
 your user experience

  41. use your HOWTOs 
 to keep a handle on UX

  42. how can tech writers
 be proactive in lean development?

  43. some developers started writing their tests first
 and then the

  44. what if you 
 your user

 in words?