Guide to writing a technical specπŸ”—

This article borrows from the StackOverflow's article "A practical guide to writing technical specs". It is strongly recommended to read this article introduction for more complete information on the topic!

The technical spec template they provide however is too detailed for our needs, so instead use the one in this document.

What is a technical specification document?πŸ”—

A technical specification document outlines how you’re going to address a technical problem by designing and building a solution for it.

Why is writing a technical spec important?πŸ”—

Benefits to engineersπŸ”—

By writing a technical spec, engineers are forced to examine a problem before going straight into code, where they may overlook some aspect of the solution.

Benefits to a projectπŸ”—

Investing in a technical spec ultimately results in a superior product. Since the team is aligned and in agreement on what needs to be done through the spec, big projects can progress faster.

Tehnical spec templateπŸ”—

OverviewπŸ”—

Give a general overview of the issue. You should always start from the user's perspective: what specific problem does the user have? Provide as much context as possible and provide links to relevant forum threads or GitHub issues.

Then give a general idea on how you propose to solve it. Do NOT go into technical details at this point (no code, no filenames, etc.).

Problem descriptionπŸ”—

This is where you provide more details about the problem that needs to be solved. You can provide user stories, or quote from forum threads.

In this section, your goal is also to explain why this problem is actually worth solving.

SolutionπŸ”—

User experienceπŸ”—

Again, always start from the user's perspective:

  • How will the user interface look?
  • What actions will the user do to use your feature?
  • Provide as much details as you can: where will the new UI elements, such as buttons, list, etc. go?
  • How will you label the buttons or tooltip
  • If you're adding a keyboard shortcut, what keys should the user press, etc.

All these details are very important because they give a clear picture of what you are going to do, and it helps reviewer assess the implementation.

It's also an easy way for everybody, even non-technical people, to get involved and help you refine your spec.

Also, if you can, provide UI mockups.

Technical solutionπŸ”—

Explain in general terms how you are going to a solve the issue at a technical level.

Please describe what will be the impact and risks associated with your change. For example if it's just adding a button to change text formatting, it's probably low impact. If it's modifying the sync algorithm it's high impact, because there's a potential for data loss.

Mention what services or parts of the application you'll need to modify and how.

In this section you may mention code and filenames, but try not to go into too much technical details. These tend to become obsolete very quickly, unlike the rest of the spec.

Testing planπŸ”—

How do you plan to test your changes?

Please provide test units if possible.

If it's for GSoC, test units are compulsory. We don't accept pull requests without.

For information on how to created unit tests, please see the Automated Tests documentation.