Starting as the “How to Make Guides” project, the “Producing Guide Projects” project greatly ballooned as the project management process was highly scrutinized and upgraded.
To create a guide for producing guide projects.
This project will be successful if:
- The project followed all Cryptiquest Project Management guidelines.
- The project followed Cryptiquest draft and version protocols.
- The project used all applicable Cryptiquest tools and guides (as they are available).
- The project was alpha tested in the first quarter of 2020.
- The product is written for a 6th – 8th grade reading level.
- The product is designed for “mobile-first”.
- The product is made freely available in digital and print form.
- The product exemplifies the rules it teaches.
- The (digital) product can be updated based on user feedback.
- User expectations regarding process guidance (from concept-to-launch) are met 100% of the time*.
- User expectations regarding ease-of-use are met 100% of the time*.
*Based on testing guidelines.
The target audience is any creator who meets the following criteria:
- Can read at a middle school reading level.
- Can read English or can use tools to translate from English.
- Has a need to create a guide.
- Has motivation.
Sample User Cases:
- A Cryptiquest founder who wants to make a project management guide.
- An indie board game designer who wants to make an instruction manual.
- A high school student who would like to make a how-to guide for a school project.
- Planning the guide
- Drafting the guide
- Drafting supplemental materials
- Conducting an internal review
- Creating the example guide (self test)
- Alpha Test
- Creating the test plan
- Organizing the test
- Testing waves of users
- Identifying target audience and needs
- Preparing drafts for review
- Conducting necessary reviews and edits
- Conducting final edits
- Creating the guides in desired formats
- Uploading guides to website and update navigation
- Beta Test
- Planning tests
- Testing waves of users
- Assessing the target audience needs
- Creating marketing materials
- Launching to market
- Reviewing the life of the project
- Listing issues
- Analyzing issues
- Recording action items
- Identifying loose ends
- Tying up loose ends
- Alpha Test
- Beta Test
- Project Need Analysis Tool
- Objective Repository
- Alternate Task List Template
- Guide Style Standards
- Guide Template
Product Style and Format
- To be determined after the Production Phase
Producing Guide Projects
How to design, create, and launch a guide to help users complete a task or a series of tasks.
This guide provides step-by-step instructions to help you create a guide of your own. This guide incorporates Cryptiquest creative project management standards which provides a pathway from planning to publish. By following the process provided within this text, you will:
- identify what resources you need to make the guide;
- design the presentation parameters for your guide;
- draft and review the content for your guide;
- produce and test your guide;
- publish and launch your guide; and,
- debrief and officially close your guide project.
Preparing for Guide Production
You need the following items before continuing:
- A desire for producing a guide of your own; and,
- The means to create documentation.
Producing the Guide
Phase 1: Planning Your Guide Project
By then end of this phase you will have an understanding of what you are creating, why you are creating it, and how you are creating it.
Step 1: Identify the needs you are trying to solve.
You have a desire to create a guide. Now consider what needs this project is trying to satisfy. What problems are you hoping to solve or outcomes do you hope to gain?
It can be useful to journal questions to dig deeper into the project needs. Cryptiquest offers a free Project Need Analysis tool for you to use for this purpose. It is included in the Appendix of this guide for convenience.
Step 2: Describe the ideal solution if obstacles didn’t exist.
If money or physical limitations weren’t a problem, what would the best solution be to meet the needs of the guide? Performing this exercise may help you to better visualize the project goal or remove a preconceived idea from your head. Since the ideal solution you conjure is not necessarily within your means of production, it should only be treated as a tool and not serve as a commitment.
Step 3: Identify your target audience and their needs.
Before you begin to scope out your guide and project, you should identify who you think the target audience is (and isn’t) for the project. You need to explicitly answer the following questions:
- Who is going to use this guide?
- Who isn’t going to use this guide?
- What limitations do these users have?
Even though you might not be reaching out to the target audience until a few steps later, performing the need-analysis now is crucial for several reasons:
- The guide should ensure the needs of the users are met.
- Whatever additional user considerations the guide needs to have need to be planned out.
- Knowing your target audience now helps with the review process in the future.
To identify your target audience, use the journal technique until you feel like you thoroughly understand the answers to the three questions above.
Step 4: Explore the scope.
Exploring the scope works to define what both, your product and project, are and are not. There are two main factors to keep in mind: your product is the guide you are building and the project is the process you will follow to ensure the guide is successful.
Both your product (the guide) and the project (the process for making the guide) will have separate scopes since both entities have different definitions. The product scope will highlight the “must haves” for the guide while the project scope will cover the “must haves” for the production of the guide.
Another way to think of scope is to consider the limitations or constraints that your project faces: Is there a deadline? Are there any branding considerations you have to abide by? Are there target audience requirements that need to be met? etc. These constraints define the scope of your product and project.
Exploring the Product Scope
The scope for guides typically come down to the following parameters:
- Format: The medium in which the guide will be created (e.g. printed handout, digital PDF, etc.)
- Repository: The facility where the guide will be stored (particularly if online, the website, drive, server, or app where will it be hosted)
- Breadth: The depth at which the guide coves the topic (e.g. “this guide will teach the fundamental rules of chess but not strategy”, etc.)
- Subject Matter Expert: An authority in the topic used to pull information from (e.g. resource material, expert-in-the-field, etc.)
- Target Audience: The users you identified in the previous step of this guide (e.g. my fellow students, creators of at least 6th grade reading level, etc.)
- Usability: How successful the guide is in teaching the topic (e.g. 100% of those who use the guide correctly will be able to complete the task, etc.)
Exploring the Project Scope
The scope for guide projects typically come down to the following parameters:
- Deadline: The date something is due (e.g. the day the project should be finished, the day the product should launch, etc.)
- Hours: The amount of hours that can be spent on the project; sometimes this is controlled by budget and sometimes this is controlled by deadline as the “total number of hours before the deadline” minus the “number of hours of unavailability” (e.g. holidays, other obligations, etc.)
- Direct Expenses: Costs and fees for products or services needed to pay for this project (e.g. paper, professional editing, etc.)
- Indirect Expenses: Products or services that have costs or fees that may have already been paid for other projects (e.g. web hosting costs, ink, design software, etc.)
- Direct Stakeholders: The people who are directly affected by the results of the project and product (e.g. you, your company, the users, etc.)
- Indirect Stakeholders: The people who are impacted by the project but not necessarily the product (e.g. designers, reviewers, editors, etc.)
- Invisible Stakeholders: The people who could be impacted by your involvement with the project (e.g. your family, your friends, etc.)
- Materials: The items used to complete the project and product (e.g. paper, writing utensils, rubber bands, etc.)
Step 5: Define the project goal.
The project goal defines how your guide will meet your core need. Your goal will start with “to create a guide that will…” followed by a short description of the need being solved.
Step 6: List out the objectives for this project.
The objectives serve as a litmus test to determine whether the project was successful or not. They ensure that the project meets criteria that are important to you. If you don’t know what criteria are important to you then you may want to consider starting a separate project to determine your personal (or company’s) objectives.
As you list objectives, they need to be written with a measurable and neutral structure. Consider the following example: “The story is entertaining.” This is not objectively measurable. How do you determine if a story is entertaining in a way that’s not subjective? A better way to write this could be: “When surveyed, all reviewers report that the story is entertaining.” Even though the reviews themselves will be subjective, there is an objective unit to measure: reviewer survey ratings.
(Need to add step-by-step example using reference once it’s identified.)
Step 7: Create a project task list to provide a pathway toward launch.
The project tasks you identify will provide a pathway toward success. Your goal is to make a project task list – an outline which highlights the work needed for each phase in order from start to finish.
Each work item highlighted is called a “task”. A task can be as big as “create all marketing materials” or as small as “create a social media post”. The granularity needed for each task varies from creator-to-creator, project-to-project, and even phase-to-phase. However, a good point of reference is to break down a task to what can be achieved in a “session” (or the fewest number of sessions – in the case of larger tasks). A session is a chunk of time where you sit down to work on the project. This will vary based on creator (for example, Cryptiquest strives to use three hour chunks as sessions).
Often you won’t be able to predict what tasks are needed without first starting the project. Particularly, it is tough to predict implementation without production. So either make your best guess or list out each step of the project phase and use those as your project tasks (a template for this latter method is included in the appendix). You should refer to the project task list before and after every session, updating to reflect changes as needed.
Phase 2. Planning Your Guide
You’ve planned your project but now it’s time to plan the guide itself. By the end of this phase, you will have researched your guide, drafted and outline, and identified a presentation format for your guide.
Step 1. Research Your Topic
Before you can properly produce your guide, you should understand the topic, estimate an outline, and determine the design style that is necessary.
If you do not understand the topic then you need to conduct some research. You hopefully identified one or more trusted sources during as part of the scope of the project. If not, now is your chance to do so.
To research the topic, review the sources and note, highlight, or otherwise document points that should be explained in your guide. Do not attempt to write the guide yet – just write down notes for now. By the time you are done with this step, you should have read through your sources and created a collection notes to work from. If you do not feel as though your notes are complete enough, consider seeking out new sources to draw from.
Step 2. Revisit Project Objectives and Scope
Once you have conducted your research, read back through your project objectives and product scope to ensure your results align with your vision. If they are not aligned then you either have to refine your notes, find different sources, or run through the planning phase again and update it to reflect a new direction.
Step 3. Draft Your Outline
You’ve now conducted your research and it matches your vision for the project – the next step is to draft an outline for your guide. You most likely already have an idea of how the information will flow. Most guides follow the following outline:
- Preparing for “the Endeavor”
- Phase 1
- Step 1
- Step 2
- Phase 2
- Step 1
- Step 2
- Phase 1
Step 4. Determine Presentation Format
Think about how you wish to present your guide and be sure to pay special attention to parts that require more than just text to explain. Cryptiquest has a helpful guide for formats (included in the Appendix of this guide). Above all else, remember that the goal is to guide your reader and you should do what you can to ensure they can read it as easily as possible.
Phase 3. Drafting Your Guide
With an outline in hand, it’s time to draft your guide. By the end of this phase, you will have a complete first draft of your guide and have internally reviewed it.
Step 1: Run your outline items through a string of journaling sessions.
Using your outline, start from the top and work your way down, conducting journal sessions until you get to the end. Some smaller outline items may be grouped together to be completed in the same session (the title, version, and summary) while some larger items take a full session (the phases, generally), while still the largest items may need to be broken up into multiple sessions (some appendix items).
When drafting your guide, write your copy in the session notes. This may require many iterations before you are satisfied with them. Once you are satisfied, take the final iteration and place that into the draft of your project document.
While writing, you may discover that something isn’t working – for instance, an item might be missing from your outline or the sequence you’ve planned might not make sense after all. Setbacks like this are perfectly normal and to be expected. In this situation, you’ll want to spend a session or two to journal through the problem. Through journaling, explore what the problem is and identify multiple solutions. Once you’ve decided on the best solution, consider what steps are needed to complete that solution and how those steps will change your task list.
Step 2: Conduct an internal review and make edits.
The goal of this step is to iron out large or simple mistakes that you can catch before sending it to reviewers. Reviewers will find easy-to-catch mistakes before tackling more nuanced editing that you more likely need help with. By removing those easy fixes, you will assist reviewers in digging deeper to provide a more effective review. To conduct an internal review, read the first draft in the following ways:
- Silently read through the draft to yourself (and edit);
- Read the draft aloud (and edit); and,
- Look over the project’s objectives and read through the draft again with the objectives in mind.
- Once these three readings are complete, you should be ready for the next phase. By all means, keep editing if you think it isn’t ready for others to read.
Step 3: Perform one or more alpha tests.
Once you’ve conducted the three readings, it’s time to perform an alpha test. The alpha test is where you pretend you are a user (or group of users) and follow your guide as they would, step-by-step.
For example, if your guide is an instruction manual for a two-player game, you will follow the instructions as two players new to the game until the game is over. Or if your guide is a tutorial for using a tool, you would pretend to be a new user and follow the steps in the tutorial until completion.
As you perform your alpha test, write down errors, problems, typos. Then once you are complete, edit your guide or conduct a journaling session or two to tackle bigger issues. Feel free to conduct multiple alpha tests until you’re convinced that you won’t be able to uncover any more errors on your own.
The purpose of performing the alpha test is to try to see the guide through the eyes of your users. You’ve spent so much time writing the guide from your perspective that it’s a good idea to shift your thinking to consider how others might see it. This is crucial to finding glaring logistical errors before presenting it an external audience.
Phase 4: Peer Reviewing Your Guide
By the end of this phase, you will have gathered feedback from various sources to refine your work into a semi-final draft.
Step 1: Research your target audience and how to reach them.
Now that a draft has been created, internally reviewed, and alpha tested; it’s a good time to review your target audience and research outreach. Review the target audience section of your project document that you created in Phase 1. (If you didn’t follow that step, it’s pretty important to do so now.)
Take a session to explore methods for reaching your target audience. Are there groups that they are a part of that you can easily address? Or perhaps there are online forums where some users exist? Once you discover where your target audience might be reached, the next thing to consider is the best way to approach them. Professional sales pitches might be better for some groups while genuine, down-to-earth “I’m just a fellow creator looking for help” requests might be better for others.
Even though you might not be reaching out to the target audience until a few steps later, performing the need-analysis now is crucial since reviewers often wonder how they are supposed to perceive the material. They will want to know what kind of audience they are reading for and what that audience is supposed to take away. This information will help them advise you more effectively.
Step 2: Prepare the drafted work for external review.
Prepare the drafts in the medium in which you are going to share them with the reviewers. Are you going to print out the material and mail/hand it to them? Are you going to place it into a cloud service and email it or message them on a social media platform? However you plan on presenting it to them, prepare it and perform another review (silent-read through). Sometimes seeing it in the new format reveals typos you missed the first time.
Step 3: Send the drafted work for confidant review.
The first draft for an external audience is sent to one or two confidants. Ask them if they would be willing to critique your work but be respectful of their time. When asking for their help, provide them with the amount of reading involved before they commit. Only upon their acceptance of the critique should you provide them with the work (to avoid the risk of coming off as presumptuous).
Step 4: Edit the work then send out for second-draft review.
Ensure you thank your reviewers upon their review. It is important to note that you do not need to implement every (or any) change that they suggest. Often times, reviewers are good at identifying problems but their solutions are less helpful (since they cannot fully understand the intent of your work as well as you). Carefully consider the suggestions and make changes that help meet your project’s needs.
Once you make the changes, send the latest draft to the “second-draft” group. Reach out to the target audience using the methods you identified in Step 1 (if possible). This group of people should consist of 3 – 5 people who are different than the confidants. It’s good to have a larger pool to choose from as this group might not be as regularly committed to the task or as knowledgeable of your cause. Despite this, their critiques are just as valuable and their efforts should be equally appreciated. Again, be respectful of them and their time: ask them if they are willing to critique your work and wait for their affirmation before sending them the material.
If you do not have a group of “second-draft” reviewers at-the-ready, consider joining an online forum or finding a local group in a newspaper or library.
As you get feedback, make edits to the draft following the same principles stated in the first paragraph of this step.
Phase 5: Prototype Testing
By the end of this phase you will have generated at least one prototype of your guide and performed at least three different tests.
Step 1: Analyze Your Prototype
Once the copy for your guide is peer-reviewed, catalog what parts are missing (e.g. illustrations, etc.). If the missing parts are necessary for users to understand the instructions then assess how much work is needed to create those parts.
For elements that might require costs or professional design (e.g. an illustrated example, etc.), consider if a sketch or other quick draft could suffice. You do not want to spend time or money on something that might be changed after testing.
Step 2: Build Your Prototype
Spend as many sessions as needed to prepare your prototype but only spend as much time as necessary so users can test your guide.
Step 3: Perform Prototype Testing
Reach out to Testers
Once the prototype is ready, it’s time to conduct prototype tests. Reach out to your confidants and target audiences to try to request their help. Follow the same guidelines as if you were requesting a review: Ask them if they would be willing to test your guide but be respectful of their time. When asking for their help, provide them with the amount of time and work involved before they commit. Only upon their acceptance of the critique should you provide them with the prototype (to avoid the risk of coming off as presumptuous).
You may orchestrate the tests so you are present to document the user’s experiences with your prototype or have them provide feedback after they test it. Either way, the goal is to receive feedback about what works or what needs work.
After receiving feedback, you may need to spend a journaling session or two to figure out what the feedback means, what changes are needed, and how best to implement those changes.
Repeat Prototype Tests
Ideally, you would be able to test a prototype until it requires no further changes. That’s not always feasible – especially if your pool of testers is limited. Cryptiquest recommends testing each iteration of your prototype until three tests for the same iteration prove no need for changes. Once this is achieved, you can move on to the next phase with a degree of confidence.
- Versioning system was never established.
- Do not have “Testing Phases” in project plan guidelines.
- The results when identifying project needs have been inconsistent
- “Project Scope” needs to be split into “Product Scope” and “Project Scope”.
- A sample guide will be needed for this guide.
- A need to split the first project phase into two phases: Exploration and Planning was identified.
- There needs to be a repository for objectives.
- This project has blown way out of scope since it’s upgrading the project planning process.
- A need was identified to separate formal project content from project notes.
- A section is needed to identify the target audience during project planning.
- Need a “how to have a session” guide
- Need a “Styling your guide” guide
- Need a section or guide (or section in the how to have a session guide) about PM journaling.
- A section is needed in project planning for creating the project document.
- Need to add a Target Audience section to the project document.