It’s not just software that needs documentation. As the line between “app” and “site” blur, every site is an app and has software running. Much of it is critical to the operation of the site. Other parts are small plugins/modules, scripts that require minimum development beyond the install. Still, all these parts are potential failure points.
Website Documentation Saves Debugging Time
As developers we want to minimize the debugging process that happens if a bug appears on a site. Let’s say you upgrade a plugin and some custom feature breaks on your website. The more details we have about the feature, the faster we can find the source of the problem. Just realizing a feature is “custom built” on a website is important, again something that would be noted in any documentation. Often if we take over management of a site, it’s not immediately clear what is made from contributed plugins versus functionality altered via theme code, or custom plugins.
Any site that has custom plugins definitely should have documentation along with those plugins. A plugin should be thought of as a piece of software.
Finding Time and Money to Write Website Documentation
Of course all the good intentions about documentation don’t help if you don’t have the budget or the time to write documentation on a project. Often project limitations make documentation difficult. Still, we feel developers should always remind clients that documentation will save them time and money in the longer-term. As well as making the site more manageable in the short-term.