Progressive Documentation

September 01, 2018

When building out JS libraries and components, everyone knows the importance of good documentation. Without it, good code can end up going unused, which leads to duplication.

For many libraries, markdown is an excellent format for writing docs since it's based on HTML and renders nicely in a variety of tools like GitHub.com. But markdown can fall a little short when documenting front-end UI components, where demos and the ability to interact with a component in the browser is immensely helpful.


MDX was built with some of this in mind. It gives you the simplicity of writing markdown combined with the ability to import and use React components with JSX. More and more tools are adding support for MDX, making using it as a documentation format a no-brainer.

Documentation Tools

While there are several great tools out there for creating high-quality documentation sites, such as Next.js, Gatsby, Docusaurus, and Docz, many of these tools require custom setup and configuration outside of your source code and can be a distraction if you're trying to quickly create documentation for something new.

Additionally, these tools don't always make it easy to set up documentation to serve as a development tool while working on the source code. There are other tools out there for quickly developing components in isolation, but they tend to use proprietary APIs and don't scale well, still requiring separate documentation as a project grows.

Introducing mdx-go

mdx-go is a development tool for progressive documentation and is meant to be used alongside your tools of choice for building documentation sites. It allows you to quickly prototype, draft docs, or build simple demos outside of a larger application.

mdx-go is built with the following goals in mind:

  • Make it easy to focus on writing docs, not setting up an application
  • View and interact with components with zero setup or configuration
  • Always have a dev server ready to go, even alongside your source code
  • Reduce lock-in and embrace the portability of the MDX file format

Don't boil the ocean

By starting docs for a new project with mdx-go, you can focus on writing docs immediately, and you won't be locked into custom APIs or build setups, meaning that upgrading to other documentation solutions later on is easy when you're ready to. The related mdx-docs project is one way to migrate a directory of MDX files over to using Next.js.

mdx-go also works well as a local sandbox development environment, and you can continue to use it alongside other documentation tools. It offers static site exporting for sharing work-in-progress demos or drafts with others.

Choose the right tool for the job

Tools like mdx-go make it easy to try things out without a lot of setup or getting locked into proprietary APIs. Every team is different and has different needs, but I hope mdx-go is a helpful addition to your development toolkit.

To learn more see the mdx-go docs.

Further Reading