Documenting Components ๐Ÿ“ƒ

Documenting Components ๐Ÿ“ƒ


3 min read

I've already covered a lot of aspects in my previous articles on how to add properties seamlessly to components, how to use modern theming and even the new property types (Experiemental!). In this article, I'm going to share a technique I use to help with documenting components; or more specifically, providing documentation for components for other makers.

What are the options today?

Honestly? Not much. I guess this goes hand in hand with promoting components as well, in my opinion it's not the best experience and there's a lot that could be improved with this. Think more App-Store experience, less displaying a list.

You can make others aware of your component by, firstly sharing the component library with them, and then giving it a description. You'll also probably need to actually tell them about the component as well.

There's a few problems with this:

  1. It's text based, no one will get a visual representation of what the component is, or does. It's not so bad if you obtained the library from somewhere else and you know what you're loading, or you built the component. But what about others? How will they know that Header will look right in their app without loading; yes, the entire component library into their App?

  2. It's limited to 1300 characters, so whilst you could go War & Peace with the description, there's still some limitations to this:

  3. This is only shown when you load a component in, it doesn't really serve as persistent documentation users can refer to later on.

Enter the ReadMe Input

What I'm going to propose isn't a perfect solution. It doesn't help with visibility but what it CAN do is help future makers make best use of your components.

ReadMe isn't a new concept, almost all software is shippped with some sort of "Readme" file, letting the user know they should look in the file for more helpful information. Wikipedia does a great job in summarising this concept.

I've been adding ReadMe documentation directly into my components. How? Through a Text Input Property.

Making a ReadMe input

The concept is fairly basic, but I do find it's an effective option when others need to use your components. Create a Text Input called ReadMe. We're not going to reference this anywhere in our components, we're not going to access it through any controls or outputs, it'll exist just to serve the ReadMe to makers.

But what about the contents? Maybe rightly or wrongly, I just insert a comment block into the default value with the information I want to provide to makers.

This has some great benefits, such as:

  1. Providing URLs to other makers, which can link to more visual examples of the concepts you've incorporated into your components

  2. Allows you to format your text better than a Description box

  3. Nearly limitless character count

  4. Persist in the component. It'll always be available when the component is added. If the user deletes this, it can be retrieved by adding the component.

But what should I include? ๐Ÿค”

Here's an example of what I add to the ReadMe

  • Component Library Name

  • Component Name, maybe also include a description/use case

  • In the above example, I include an "override" section, as certain controls can be overriden for theming

  • Inputs: List all inputs, types and what their purpose is. Break down tables and records with an example

  • Outputs: List all outputs, types and what their purpose is. Break down tables and records with an example

  • Using new property types? Include Behaviours, Functions and Actions here. What are their inputs, outputs and their purpose/how to use.

Let me know what you think of this approach to providing documentation to other makers. I'd love to hear if you have any other approaches to this.