How To Give Clear Instructions For Your Projects

There is nothing worse than trying to figure out poor instructions. Programmers need clear directions in order to be able to accurately meet the business needs of their clients. One of my favorites is “that does not look correct.” A clean list takes out the guess work. I have had clients put together run on paragraph of instructions that take more time to figure out what they want then actually jumping in and completing the task.

A numbered or bulleted list goes a long way in taking out much of the guess work. If the site has more than a few pages, it helps to provide the link to the pages. I have seen cases where a site will have 30 pages or more and the instructions only reference the page name. This adds another step of finding the page, rather than clicking on a link. Little things like this save time for the minimal amount of time it takes to put together clear instructions.

Here is a list of standards when sending instructions.

  1. Always reference the page and any object by name and location.
    This is a big one. I always get requests that involve changes on a web page that has a referring document.  I will give examples of both ways to provide instructions.
    Incorrect Method:
    “Please change the page with the content from the word document I sent last week”
    Correct Method:
    “Please change this page ________ with the content from ______.DOCX , located here ______________.”
  2. Keep it in a numbered or bulleted list.
    If it is in a clean list, it is easier to go down the list and make changes. I have had instructions sent over in “run on paragraphs” and it just makes the implementation of changes even harder. If there are notes needed, those would be located in the bullet item list.
  3. Keep everything in one place.
    This seems to be one of the hardest ones to overcome. I normally put a stop to it, but it gets out of control real fast if you’re not careful. The key here is to have everything in one place. It is very easy to be using a project management system program, Skype, email and find yourself with instructions and files everywhere. This will eliminate the “I told you last week” scenario.
  4. Content is Never Difficult.
    I have found that adding content to a site is the easiest or hardest task for web development. In reality there should be a section just devoted to this. My motto is “if I got the task of content roll over wrong, the person sending it did not provided me what I needed.” Content roll over should be just copy/paste. Programmers/designers are not content editors. In many cases, if a sentence or two change, it is easier for everyone to re-upload the entire page, rather than fixing a word here and there.
  5. Live Communication is a Must.
    Live communication is so important. Trying to finalize a project via email is almost impossible. A few fixes that can be done in a few hours over Skype can take days over email. All the while running up development hours.
  6. Send Screenshots.
    With the numbers of browsers and devices out there, screenshots are a must! There is a good chance the programmer will not see the same thing as the client, this eliminates a lot of back and forth operation. I feel that Jing by Tech Smith is one of the easier solutions. It is free and runs in both Windows and Mac.  This way, the screenshot can be uploaded as a link. A URL is a lot easier to manage then a static file.
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