About the README file

Version 1.0

What it is, best practices, and an example

Version control table

0.116/08/2023Initial draft
1.012/09/2023Published Document

Table of contents

What is a README file?

A README file is a fundamental component of any digital service, providing essential information to users, collaborators, and maintainers. It serves as a reference point for understanding the purpose, functionality, setup, and usage of the digital service.

Naming the README

Name the file “README.md” to make sure that the end users can effortlessly locate significant updates without unnecessary confusion, and it must be written in markdown language.

What is the purpose of a README file?

A README (Read Me) file is a concise yet comprehensive document that aims to communicate essential information about a digital government service. Its primary purpose is to:

  • Provide Context: Introduce the service, its purpose, and its target audience.
  • Explain Functionality: Describe the main features and capabilities of the service.
  • Facilitate Setup: Guide users and collaborators through the installation and configuration process.
  • Offer Usage Instructions: Explain how to interact with and utilize the service effectively.
  • Share Important Resources: Provide links to documentation, additional resources, and contact information.
  • Promote Collaboration: Encourage contribution and collaboration from developers, designers, and other stakeholders.

Importance of a README File

A well-written README file contributes to the success of a digital government service in the following ways:

  • Clarity and Understanding: It reduces ambiguity by offering clear insights into the service’s purpose, functionality, and usage.
  • Reduced Onboarding Time: It streamlines the process for new users and collaborators to get started quickly.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: It fosters collaboration by offering comprehensive documentation that facilitates contributions.
  • Sustainability: It ensures the long-term maintainability of the service by providing a reference for future developers and maintainers.
  • Professionalism: It reflects the team’s professionalism and commitment to user-centred design and development.

Best Practice Guidelines for Writing a README File

Creating an effective README file involves following these best practices:

Title and Introduction: Clearly state the name of the service and provide a brief overview of its purpose.

Installation: Provide step-by-step instructions to set up and install the service. Include any prerequisites, dependencies, and setup commands.

For example:

git clone https://github.com/gov-cy/govcy-design-system.git
cd govcy-design-system
npm install

Prerequisites: Note any prerequisites and dependencies needed for this project. For example Nodejs 8+

Usage: Explain how users can interact with the service. Include examples, screenshots, “How to” instructions (like “How to add a new page”), code segments and sample commands if applicable.

Configuration: Detail any configuration options, environment variables, or settings that can be customized.

Features: List the main features and functionalities of the service, along with brief descriptions.

Documentation: Provide links to comprehensive documentation, user guides, abbreviations, and API references if available.

Notes: Any other notes you considered important.

Contact Information: Include contact details for questions, feedback, and support.

For example:

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to reach out to us at dsf-admin@dits.dmrid.gov.cy

README file example

Here’s an example of a README file

# Digital Government Service Name
Brief description of the service.

## Installation
1. Clone the repository: git clone [repository URL]
2. Navigate to the project directory: cd project-directory
3. Install dependencies: npm install

## Usage
1. Configure the service by editing config.yaml.
2. Start the service: npm start
3. Access the service at: http://localhost:8000

## Configuration
CONFIG_OPTION_1: Explanation of configuration option 1.
CONFIG_OPTION_2: Explanation of configuration option 2.

## Features
– Feature 1: Description of feature 1.
– Feature 2: Description of feature 2.

## Documentation
For detailed information, refer to the User Guide and API Documentation.

## Contact Information
If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to reach out to us at dsf-admin@dits.dmrid.gov.cy.

More examples

For more real-life examples of README files created by our team, check out the following links:

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