How MDX is a game changer for your React Project's Documentation

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Documentation is essential to any project and it can really "make it or break it".  However documentation is time consuming to draft and can sometimes be forgotten, or updates and amendments to it left behind as the project moves forward.  Additionally, creating your documentation with Markdown has its limitations, so you may not end up with the result you want or that your contributor needs. 


By using MDX you can combine Markdown with code and integrate it into your React project.  Documentation becomes a more streamlined and efficient process and dare I say it...fun. 

Eddie Jaoude
Eddie Jaoude
28 min
08 Dec, 2023

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Video Summary and Transcription

Good documentation is crucial and can make or break a project. Word of mouth is important in the industry, and great documentation can attract users. MDX is a powerful tool for writing documentation, allowing for customization and reuse of components. Documentation should be treated like code, with testing and continuous improvement. Responsible AI usage is important, and a balanced approach to documentation, including inline comments and different formats, should be used.

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1. Introduction to Docs with MDX

Short description:

Hello, React Day Berlin! Today, I'll be talking about Docs with MDX and how it can be a game-changer for your project. Good documentation is crucial, but not many people want to write it. Incorrect and outdated documentation frustrates me. Let's improve the numbers by the end of my talk. Docs are just as important as code. Remember, every pull request with code changes should also have tests and docs.

Thank you so much for that warm welcome. Well, hello, React Day Berlin. My name is Eddie Chow and I'm super excited to geek out with you today on Docs with MDX and how it can be a game-changer for your project.

We all want good documentation, but it seems that not many people want to write it. I get frustrated when docs don't exist. And I also get frustrated when they have a hello world example. I want a real-world example. But you know what really, really gets me? When the documentation is incorrect and out of date. And unfortunately, it happens too often. And let me just clarify, by good, I just mean correct, up to date, and it looks nice. I don't think that's too much for us to ask.

I mean, who likes reading good documentation? Let's have a show of hands. I mean, hopefully, most of us. Great. Thank you so much. Great to see you all awake as well. Like I said, nothing fancy, it's what we expect. I mean, who likes writing documentation? Okay, a few people, some people unsure. Okay, well, hopefully, we can improve those numbers by the end of my talk.

Docs are just as important as code. And if there's one thing you take away from this entire talk, please remember that. We might not treat it like that, though. We don't get the same buzz. And also, we don't get the same street cred from our peers as well. When someone says, I wrote this cool feature, I used library X, and everyone's like, oh yeah, great. And if someone says, I documented feature X, literally silence, you don't get that same street cred. And I think that has a role to play as well. But hopefully, we can all agree that documentation is important, and it's our responsibility to have good documentation. Tests are also really important, but that's a separate discussion, and we did chat about that yesterday here at TestJS. So I believe every pull request that has code changes should also have tests and docs as well.

2. Importance of Documentation

Short description:

Why is documentation important? Out-of-date documentation can be worse than no documentation. It can mislead users and cause frustration. Just like riding a bicycle with no brakes, documentation should be reliable. Missing steps in documentation can lead to errors and confusion. It's important to contribute to open source projects by reviewing and improving documentation.

Why? Because everything should be reviewed. What is worse than no documentation? Yes, there is something worse than no documentation. Out-of-date documentation. Why? Because people trust it. So when something goes wrong, it's even more painful. We're guiding people down the wrong path, so no docs can actually be better. People know to go look at the code, or try and figure it out, or phone a friend.

Have you ever ridden a bicycle with no brakes? I actually have. Earlier this year in Bangkok, we're at a hotel, we want to go to the park, and they said, you know, we can borrow our bikes. But they have no brakes. But because we knew it had no brakes, we went slower. I made sure Sarah went in front, so I could use her to stop. No, I'm just kidding. But if a bike has brakes, you expect them to work. And the same with documentation.

I mean, how many of you have seen this before? I'm sure you've seen this a lot of times. My core project, and then no documentation. That's one scenario. Another scenario is docs with missing steps. Hopefully some people can shout out what the two steps are missing here. Yes, so before install dependencies, navigate into the new directory that was created by the Git clone, and then install dependencies, and then run npm run dev. There's nothing wrong with this. This isn't incorrect. It is just missing some steps. If someone gets an error on that second step, and Googles it, they're probably going to get, you know, try and install dependencies. Okay, package.js is not found. Right, navigate into the directory, install dependencies. And they'll get there because this is great. And by the way, you'll see this on so many open source projects, so it's a great way to contribute is to go through the documentation and don't make any assumptions because if you're familiar with projects like this, then you'll know what commands to run. But people who are new to tech or new to the project won't.

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