How Do You Design a Design Doc?

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When you think about design, the word “documentation” probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

Documentation

But documentation is a key part of the design process for many teams.

In a casual Twitter poll, 1 in 3 product designers said they spend at least 25% of their time reviewing or writing documentation. The funny thing is, many design classes don’t even talk about documentation.

Yeah, I know a document isn’t as sexy as an interactive prototype, but a design doc is where ideas can grow quickly. It’s where thoughts morph into words, and words blossom into solutions.

At Dropbox, we make design docs for every project. All projects need to start somewhere, and for us, it often starts in a Dropbox Paper doc.

But how do you design a design doc? I asked a few designers on our team for tips on creating documentation. Here’s what I picked up from them.

Connect the Docs

Most of the time, a design doc is just one doc in a sea of other project docs.

So one thing Emily Miller does to keep her docs connected is to create an index at the top of her docs. The index shows related project docs, and all those docs have the same index at the top. “It’s like a mini website nav,” explains Emily.

Let’s say her design doc is called “Project Popup [Design].” The engineering doc and copy doc would follow a similar naming pattern: “Project Popup [Eng]” and “Project Popup [Copy].”

It’s a quick trick that goes a long way in helping her team find all related docs quickly and easily.

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