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15 Jan 2024

The lessons I learned during my Google Season of Docs program

Two lessons I learned during my Google Season of Docs program.

Damilola Oladele

Damilola Oladele

Google Season of Docs visual2

Yay! I finally completed my Google Season of Docs (GSoD) program. The program is important to me as it's my second open-source mentorship program with Wagtail. I'm grateful to my mentors, Meagen Voss and Thibaud Colas, for their support in making the project a success. I’d also like to thank Storm Heg and Kalob Taulien for their quality contributions and support. For more information on Wagtail’s GSoD 2023 program, read Case study: Create Wagtail developer onboarding tutorials.

Completing this program made me reflect on many things, particularly how the Wagtail project and community have fueled my development. In this blog post, I'll highlight two lessons I learned while working on the Wagtail developer documentation for the Google Season of Docs (GSoD) 2023 program.

Now, let’s dig in.

Your documentation is never complete without a comprehensive getting started section

The first time I used the Getting Started section of the Wagtail developer documentation was during the contribution stage of my Outreachy internship in 2022. During this period, it took some time for me and other Outreachy contributors to complete the tutorial contained in the section of the documentation. We resorted to asking questions on the Wagtail Slack support channel to complete the tutorial and set up the Wagtail CMS. One major reason for this delay is that while the section covered enough Wagtail features, it needed more context for new users unfamiliar with Django. This experience made me realize the importance of a comprehensive Getting Started section of the documentation.

The Getting Started section of a documentation is crucial for any product or service since it gives the first impression, facilitates user onboarding, reduces support queries, and enhances the overall experience. It's vital to a product's success, user satisfaction, and community building. So, it’s important for organizations to regularly update the Getting Started section of their documentation to reflect the current realities of their new users.

With support from the GSoD program, I got a chance to improve this section of the Wagtail developer documentation.

For details of the improvements I made to the Getting Started section of the Wagtail developer documentation, check out my first progress blog post.

User empathy is the soul of great documentation

Another lesson I learned while working on my GSoD project is the importance of understanding user needs and perspectives when creating effective and user-friendly documentation. The fact is that quality documentation goes beyond simply explaining features and functions. Instead, it must effectively guide users through their journey with the product and anticipate their questions, concerns, and pain points.

This is the essence of the final part of my GSoD project—A new tutorial series for the new year. The idea is to help new Wagtail developers expand their knowledge by building a project that can be useful in their day-to-day lives. The tutorial takes users through a journey of converting the blog site they built with the Wagtail Getting Started tutorial into a fully deployable portfolio site. One important part of the tutorial is the deployment section. Deployment is one aspect that's usually a pain point for new and existing Wagtail users. The tutorial provides a deployment option, which they can use in their subsequent Wagtail projects. You can get more information about the different Wagtail features covered in the tutorial here.

In summary, my experience working with the Wagtail developer documentation for the GSoD program taught me two lessons—the importance of a robust "Getting Started" section in any developer documentation and the necessity of user empathy. I'm grateful for the enriching experience and committed to building on these lessons to contribute to user-friendly open-source projects in the near future.