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I am wondering what would be the formal and the most commonly practiced method of documenting business rules? Also how do you document the UI specifications of development artifacts (e.g. Documenting form fields and how buttons behave on form, info text .. etc)

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"Formal" is rarely the "best way" . Your title is confusing me :-P – Joppe Jun 28 '11 at 18:59
I have changed it, I hope that is less confusing :) – Maro Jun 28 '11 at 19:04

Probably the most common form is Use Cases. You can supplement them with screen mock-ups and descriptions.

A book I'd recommend is "Writing Effective Use Cases" by Alistair Cockburn. It describes how you can write use cases at various levels of detail, how to avoid falling for the 'template' driven approach, and just sticking to documenting the necessary and relevant bits.

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Documentation is often done in use cases and other prose forms. In addition it can be extremely useful to have UML diagrams and other graphical forms that give you an overview on a higher level and are easy to comprehend in a shorter time than reading pages and pages..

And last but not least the best documentation imho are test cases that execute the business rules. That way you can change the code and find out that you are violating a business rule. Otherwise the documentation is always under the danger of becoming stale and out of date.

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Whatever method you use, be sure that they can be actively maintained. They should be living documents. Housing the documents in a Version Control system or some sort of document management system like Sharepoint, can go a long way towards keeping them maintained. Keeping track of business rules through word documents attached to emails is a horrible way to deal with the issue, since it leads to multiple versions floating around.

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