On one page guides

Beth Kanter has very kindly been tweeting about the One Page Guides I put together early last year – as she is planning to use some  as part of the We Are Media (check it out if you’ve not already taken a look!) project. If you’ve just arrived here looking for them, you can find all the posts on this blog with How To one pagers on here.

I’ve been meaning to do some work to tidy up and update the One Page Guides for a while now – but so far the opportunity has escaped me. However, as all of the guides are available under a Creative Commons licence you are very much encouraged to take them, update them, rebrand and remix them to suit your own projects and purposes. If you do make any updates to make these guides fit with the way some of the websites and services they describe have changed – please do let me know so I can replace the current versions with your latest copies.

Why one pagers?

Whilst some people are not so fond of the one-side-of-A4 format – I still find in tremendously useful in helping social media beginners to get started using new online tools, and as a great memory jogger for those who like instructions to refer back to.  The reality is, that even in the age of rich media, screen casts and blog posts on just about anything you could want to do with social media – most of the people I’ve run training for still work from scribbled notes they have taken in their notebooks from those videos and blog posts. So I’ve found it’s useful to provide pre-prepared supportive guides to go alongside any more flashy training and development resources.

In first creating these resources I also found the discipline of trying to explain a social media tool within the confines of one side of paper to be a really useful one. Unlike a blog post which can go on and on, or a video or screen cast which can always be added to – the limitations of A4 mean you have to communicate only the essential messages about an online tool – and that can really help make it feel manageable and accessible to the social media beginner.

The trouble with one pagers

For all their value – the one page guide is a bit of a beast. Web sites and services are always changing and the guides need updating. But it’s not as easy as editing a blog post – and I’ve found myself endlessly fiddling with layouts when I’ve had to tweak a guide to fit in a new step in a registration process, or to update the screen shots when a service is redesigned.

And whilst designing a one page guide with a specific task and audience in mind works really well, trying to create more general guides, that can be used in different contexts and settings can get a lot more challenging for anything but the simplest of online tools.

The future of one pagers

Whilst not everyone uses tabbed browsers, or is comfortable with a list of URLs and searching for their own How To resources, the ‘print out and keep’ one page guide still has a role. But collating and keeping them updated will remain a challenge. I’m certainly hoping to produce and share some more guides soon – but I’m also reflecting on how there might be a more sustainable supply and stock of these kinds of resources…

If you’ve got ideas, suggestions and reflections on the humble one-pager for social media teaching then I would love to hear them.

2 thoughts on “On one page guides”

  1. I’m sure I’ll get to this as I start putting courses together for the Digital Youth Programme. A possible option could be to create some online pages that either link to those places that are periodically updated eg. help & faq sections on services and then provide a print as pdf option (or just normal print this page).

    I think the key is to try and avoid too much specific detail and focus more on what the service provides, ways it can be implemented or be beneficial etc.

  2. Hey Mike

    This is interesting. With the one page guides in particular I’ve found two things which make this slightly tricker:

    1) The layout matters – when I’ve tried non-formatted versions of the guides they either end up running to more than one side – and become a tutorial set of pages that people file away rather than stick up by their computer as a reminder. Setting out the various blocks of the guides seems to really increase usability (or at least, that’s my perception… perhaps not).

    2) The more specific the guides, the more helpful they seem to be to the beginner. Showing how to work through the sign-up process for a service, with images of the key buttons to help someone find them on screen, is useful, I think, in getting people over the first speed bump of tool and technology adoption. So when I’ve tried to create more general guides – they can be useful things – but they don’t quite do the job I want.

    One of the ideas I’ve been exploring is how I could set up the guides as templates – and feed data into them from a Web CMS. Or how they could become two-pagers – with one page of ‘convince you why you need it context’ and then the practical hands on ‘what you need to do to get started’. This would allow the what you need to do to be slightly more general, with the specific application context in the first page.

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