Feb 062016

Consider the last process you conveyed in writing. Was it a complex one? If so it took you some time to convey all the concepts in your prose. And then perhaps more time to fill in the sub-tasks, and then even more time to edit it to make it flow. Then maybe you had to add some concepts you overlooked. And then pictures. And then diagrams, and maybe flowcharts.

Plenty of diagramming applications will render a nice graphic. Plenty more will make a pretty flowchart. A few will even provide graphical, step-by-step guidance. One of these is a neat new web-based tool called Navitome. Navitome facilitates the creation of walk-through guides to explain a process or procedure. It renders any process into step-by-step workflows and tasks in clear, graphical, click-through guides.

Navitome is a startup out of Cambridge and a 2015 MassChallenge finalist. I recently did some independent contracting work for them, creating process guides and video tutorials. I’m not getting paid to write about their product; I really just find it a cool web-based tool that technical writers and instructional designers will find useful and easy to work with.

I used Navitome to make a process guide that teaches the process of performing an information-security audit. Here is a screen shot of part of the guide from the author’s point of view:

Screen shot of part of the guide from the author’s point of view, showing the sidebar and the main workspaceNavitome

Basic components are created on the sidebar and moved into place in the main workspace

Three basic components (workflows, tasks and questions) are created on the sidebar and moved into place in the main workspace. Tasks are the basic components; these are organized into workflows. Questions, or decision points, lead learners down varying paths, depending on their answer. For example, to decide how to do an information security audit, it’s necessary to identify which type of data an organization stores. That’s where the question comes in: What type of data does your organization store? If the answer includes “sensitive data that belongs to outside clients,” then the learner is led down the relevant branch of the process. If the answer is “We store only our own information — no client data,” then the learner is led down a different branch. The cool thing about Navitome is that you can create your process parts loosely or in order. It depends on how you think through the process. You can move workflows, tasks, and questions about, which makes it easy to add stuff later, or completely reorganize the process. It’s also possible (and easy) to incorporate images, videos, links and downloadable documents. Interactive features can be integrated in to a process, like checklists, text inputs, multiple-choice questions, and file uploads.

You can load more in-depth information into “learning libraries” that link to relevant parts of the process. For instance, I set up an “Information Security Worksheets and Links” library that came into play during various steps of the process, and that could be reached at any point in the process.

Here is a screen shot of one of the tasks in a workflow:

One of the tasks in a workflow

I worked on my guide with two remote subject-matter experts by giving them “author” access. When we were ready to go live, I just chose “Publish” on my dashboard.

Navitome also has an analytics dashboard that lets you monitor and track user progress and bottlenecks in each of your guides. You may also collect data submitted through web forms in your process. The data can be exported to a spreadsheet.

To see Navitome’s process guides in action, take a look at the guides created by Exceptional Lives, a nonprofit for families of children with disabilities. The people at Exceptional Lives created easy-to-follow guides for parents.

About Regina DeAngelo

Regina DeAngelo is a writer living in Charlestown, RI.