Start with a picture instead of words

Often when I go to document something complex, I try to draw it out on a whiteboard first. I then go over to someone else's whiteboard and draw it out again - recreating it from scratch and explaining it along the way. As I do this, I get their feedback. Then I go find someone else, and do it all over again.

I keep doing this for a couple of reasons. First, it helps me clarify my thinking on the topic before I start writing stuff down. Second, I'm shortcutting the feedback cycle by getting direct feedback on the concepts before I codify them with a bunch of words on paper. Both of these lead to documentation that has both fewer words (because I'm more succinct and often include my pictures) and fewer rounds of edits (because people have already given me their substantive feedback).

This tip was part of a brainstorm developed at the September 2011 Indianapolis Workshop on Software Testing on the topic of "Documenting for Testing." The attendees of that workshop (and participants in the brainstorm) included: Charlie Audritsh, Scott Barber, Rick Grey, Michael Kelly, Natalie Mego, Charles Penn, Margie Weaver, and Tina Zaza.