A recent EAT Media blog post introduced a great acronym in the case we forget how to properly kick-off a content project: CANTEEN. I thought I’d riff off of that useful idea and see how it holds up when used as a means of project closure (I hope you don’t mind, Ian. It was such an inspiring, well-timed read!).

I recently was part of a team that had a project terminated due to unforeseen market forces. We learned a lot, but it also hurt a bit.

It’s been lingering in my head for a while and I’ve been looking for a means to gain some closure about it. After reading about EAT’s CANTEEN, I can’t help but give it a twist as a way to close the chapter on this particular project.

Here are some quick project facts (to remain anonymous to protect myself and others of course):

  • It was a software product with embedded user assistance and a novel interface design for its market.
  • It brought some pretty established hardware to life for a growing industry.
  • We based the design off of roughly ten years of in-house, open source work with our own twist.

However, lady luck was not on our side and we were forced to abandon ship abruptly.

So now it’s time to play with CANTEEN and see what we can learn from that bumpy ride of a project.

C-A: Content Assessment, you know, auditing and such.

Our team vetted plenty of industry-standard interfaces and content and shaped our own path with the project, including a wireframe and multiple prototypes. It was an ambitious vision, but we ultimately tapered it to a game plan to fulfill a usable “alpha” version.

It was nice to be given the time to do our auditing and homework properly. It really set the tempo of the project for our development team.

N: Navigation (and information architecture)

Wireless telecommunications has a pretty solid, albeit short, history of cryptic user interfaces. Our team took the challenge toward creating much more innovative means of using and navigating through our software.

What we came up with wasn’t too far from industry standard, but had our own flavor of useful extras to make our user’s jobs much easier.

T: Testing the product.

As the developing team, we did plenty of in-house testing and dug up a whole trove of bugs to fix. Our partners failed to deliver the product to field testing, which really bummed us out. We were hoping to see how it performed in a live, industry-standard setting.

E: Exit page.

Other than logging out of the software, there’s also exiting the actual usage of it or its experience. A user often will enter maintenance mode for the software that require firmware updates and revisions.

While one user’s exit might be the logout or the complete shutdown of the machine, another’s might be an exit into a different use case, such as maintenance. How we guide people from case to case and assume the best ways of doing so can make all of the difference.

E: Entrance page.

This was an easy element to create: your basic software log in. Could there have been room for more though? When content folks get a chance to work closely with developers, there’s a huge opportunity for meaningful embedded user assistance. We didn’t get a chance to implement some brief tutorials or handholding for newer users, which would have brought a lot of bonus value to this project.

N: Say “No” to communicating too much.

There could have been a lot more of this. My personal opinion was that the software said too much. However, the industry using the software relies on sheer productivity to bring food to the table. So, an abundance of information is likely not a problem.

I think it’s healthy to question over-communication, just as Ian Alexander recommends in his post.

Putting it away for now.

I can’t get into too much of the details about why the project ended, but I really enjoyed running through this reverse “CANTEEN” exercise (thanks, Ian).

While I don’t hope that any of you fellow content folks have to abruptly end or give your long-term projects, I hope that after each win or loss that you encounter that you take a brief moment to take in what you learned.

I can’t stress how much of a relief it is to take a bit of time for introspection—it takes a lot of weight off of the professional mind while giving you a moment to identify how to make the craft all that much better.

Phew! I feel a lot better now. Back to work!