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Software Design Documentation Template

Software design documents explain how a specific piece of software or software feature should be developed. They're important technical documents that focus on the how of the development process.
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What is a software design document?

Software design documents, sometimes referred to as software design specification documents or technical specification documents, explain how a specific piece of software or software feature should be developed. They're important technical documents that focus on the how of the development process.

Pro Tip: The software design document (or SDD) is a little bit different from the software requirements document. The requirements document focuses on what your product will do, rather than how you get there.

The software design document is a vital documentation tool in the software development, software engineering, software business, and even project management industries. They're normally developed by product managers, the product owner, software designers, and other high level design team members. Then, they're passed on to software engineering teams so that they can get started with their coding and development processes.

Some people dread dealing with software design documents and would rather get right down to business, but these powerful documents are well worth the time investment necessary to put them together and are key elements in developing a great software product.

What does software design documentation include?

A variety of different sections can be found in software design documents, but here are some of the most common elements:

  • Basic information like software title, version name, current date, and author names.
  • A functional description and overview that introduces your software product, explains what it'll do, and describes how it'll work.
  • A guide regarding software design considerations like assumptions, dependencies, constraints, software requirements, objectives, and methodologies.
  • User interface design, end-user experiences, and user stories.
  • A breakdown of developmental milestones.
  • System architecture strategy & details.
  • Testing & monitoring information that includes references to expert testing, the experiences of end users, and failure conditions.
  • A glossary.
  • Best practices, general criteria and/or guidelines for completion, and even a style guide.

What are the benefits of software design documentation?

Software design documents aren't exactly beloved by software developers and engineers, but they can truly work wonders for your software development process. They offer tons of benefits, including:

1. Saved Time

Let's face it, the reason people dislike software design documents is because they force them to put the work in and get organized early in the game. This is actually a great thing. When a development team gets their thoughts down on paper at the outset of a project, it helps everyone get organized and avoid doing unnecessary work.

2. Increased Transparency

No one likes conflict with clients or other external stakeholders. Putting together a great software design document helps avoid just that. A great design doc can act as a kind of informal contract between clients and programmers. You'll both agree on the most important details of your software development at the outset, fostering clear communication on both sides.

Pro Tip: If any client misunderstandings arise in the future, you'll be able to refer back to what you agreed upon in your design docs.

3. Effective Teamwork

Software design documents aren't static files anymore; they're dynamic and foster great collaboration, especially when they're developed on a collaborative platform like Slite. Since the vast majority of software is designed collaboratively, software design docs provide a central document for various team members to refer back to.

Slite's free software design documentation template

When looking for a software design document template, one of the most important things to keep in mind is collaboration. As mentioned above, the best software design documentation is written collaboratively, and you'll need to find a platform that facilitates team members working with each other effectively.

After all, the easier it is to write software documentation, the more team members will enjoy doing it.

That's where Slite comes in. We have a software design doc template that's perfect for all your software project needs. It's free, highly customizable, looks sleek across different devices and browsers, and is easy for anyone to use.

If you're a developer, software engineer, or work on a software engineering team, our software design documentation template is a dream come true.

How can I write software design documentation?

From our point of view, every software developer needs great software design documentation skills in their repertoire. If you're ready to start writing one for your software system or product, begin by:

Brainstorming With Your Team

When beginning the development of a SDD, make sure that you get started on a collaborative document. It might feel like a lot of work and meetings early on, but you'll be thankful that you did so further down the road. You'll be able to collect early suggestions and feedback from key team members and establish team workflows that'll serve you well throughout your development process.

Make Your Document Visual & Concise

You'll want your software design document to look like something that someone would want to read. Staring at a page full of text isn't exactly enticing. Be sure to include visual elements when writing about your software project (think photos, charts, and diagrams). This makes your documentation easier to read and can actually help you explain yourself (and proposed solution) better.

Keep Your Goal In Mind

An excellent software design document has one objective: if someone read your SDD and wasn't able to talk to you in-person or ask any questions, they wouldn't have any trouble getting started developing the piece of software right away. Although this is unlikely to happen in reality, keeping this in mind when writing your document will steer you in the right direction.

Be Clear

Last but not least, make sure to write clearly when writing your software design document. Even though you're producing a technical document, keep in mind that it should be as accessible as possible.  Don't use unnecessarily complicated language, and simplify whenever you can. Design docs aren't always the easiest reads, so this ensures that everyone from a client to a graphic designer to a software developer could read through it and understand the gist.

...voila! You look like you're ready to write a high-level software design document. If you need guidance, refer back to this article as needed and get ready to soak in the benefits of this effective software documentation tool.