Monday, March 3, 2008

A guide to guidelines?


A friend who works with an NGO was recently pestering me to help her put together a set of guidelines for a very specific target group. The topic is controversial and for our purposes not important. Anyway, she had some notion that I do something like a curriculum design 'or something of that nature' for a living and so can help her. Well, having taken time off from work and gotten used to the luxuries of lotus-eating, with consternation, I proceeded to draft a mail in reply to her pleadings. Writing Guidelines- sounded pretty nichy and relevant so I thought it would be interesting to share some of my thoughts and also get some from our community. Also, i get to offload some work and go back to my lotus-eating ways ;-) And Veronica better appreciate all my hard work :-D.
>>If the objective of your assignment is to provide a> training kit for the target audience, you need to take into account their comfort with the language you will use for the guidelines. So do a bit of research and choose a language that would suit them.
>> Within a language, take care again to stick to a level that would communicate clearly- for example avoid> jargon (if the audience is not privy to this particular jargon).
>> Other things you can do is to organise the guidelines in a specific way that would be more intuitive. For example, look at categorising them into relevant topics/sections- also label these categories to provide the users with a mental model and also for easy reference. Provide this list of categories upfront so users can choose to move to guidelines of interest.
>> You can also organise using other principles- just choose something that will make sense to the users and be intuitive. Other organising principles include chronological sequencing, simple to complex, general> to specific.
>> Guidelines can use the format of "Dos" and "Don'ts"
>> Highlight consequences of not following guidelines.
>> Depending on the audience, see if you need to provide examples and cases to explain/illustrate the guidelines. Include images, diagrams, graphs and pictures for promoting better understanding and retaining interest.
>> Will it make sense to include things like quizzes and exercises?
>> At the outset, don't forget to articulate the relevance of the guidelines to the users- why and how it will help them.

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