We build bridges – from ideas, sketches, rough content, personally-held knowledge, organizational intellectual property to tangible, usable, accessible online systems. Here’s the first of three stages of that process…
Step 1 of 3 – Create the content, transfer the knowledge: in many cases, the content already exists in some form, possibly as a program developed and used within a company or school or even a home. It’s created to fill a need by a motivated person, and it may never see use or exposure beyond the quiet, local, remote usage it was intended for. But occasionally, the author recognizes it has value, or others reflect that through their success with it or simply seeing it in action. Now, the author is faced with a decision: how to package, or re-package it, how to document and ensure that it works, and who “out there” will likely benefit from it?
In some cases, the content may not exist in a tangible form, it may be embedded in an organization or process or someone’s head. Now, it’s time to facilitate a process to model it, articulate it, and create an information architecture. This includes the target user or audience, the goals or objectives of the content, media types needed, and a comprehensive approach to get it written down so we can work with it.
* Effectiveness: unfortunately, there’s a lot of crap out there. The trend towards evidence-based development, more rigorous research, development of educational standards, and enlisting independent, qualified third parties to evaluate materials, systems, tools, methods, and applications is gradually weeding out the ineffective and unproven, and placing higher standards on what gets to market. Any author or content owner looking for a wider audience or new market must ask: does the content or material produce the intended outcome, and how do I test and demonstrate that?
* Relevance: a product or program or content can be effective and produce the outcomes it claims, but does anyone care? What need or pain does the thing address, and is that pain acute and widespread? Is this a solution looking for a problem, a product looking for a customer, or does it answer burning questions that don’t have answers now? This, of course, is a fundamental business question, but authors or educators or artists not familiar with market basics can become too enamored of their baby, and be too close to their project to be able to objectively assess its relevance – or simply not have the skills, experience, or tools to research it sufficiently.
* Target audience: intricately interwoven with the two challenges above – and all three of these are inseparably interdependent – is the essential question of, “who is this for?” The answer to that must include a number of factors, including their technical environment, education level, access to funds (depending on price), and most importantly, exacting what problem will they solve with this, and how will that happen exactly? As with all definitions in this realm, complete answers must include an accurate assessment of scale (how many people will need and use it?), and what’s the trend (is that group growing or shrinking, or might they vanish overnight due to some temporary condition in the world today)?