Milestone 3: Overview
In Milestone 3, you will create guides showing how to replace the major components of your device.
You are finished with your guide images when they:
- Are well-lit and correctly exposed
- Are shot in landscape orientation
- Show a person's hands performing the actions being described without obstructing the view
- Place the action in the center of the frame
- Are zoomed in far enough to see relevant detail
- Are in focus—not blurry or grainy
- Have correct white balance without a colored tint
- Have a clean, white background free of distracting clutter
You are finished with your guide text when it:
- Is easy to understand and follow for an audience with an average to below-average technical background
- Is clear and concise—free of verbose and muddled directions
- Avoids vague language
- Describes the procedure with adequate detail
- Correctly identifies the device components and tools being used
- Is free of major errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling
- Includes the head types (e.g. Phillips #0) and screw lengths (in mm) of every screw
- Follows the standard format for titles ([Device Component] Replacement) for the guides
You are finished with your guide mechanics when they:
- Correctly use prerequisite guides to create an easy-to-follow "chain" of replacement guides
- Have a brief summary on each guide
- Include a descriptive introduction outlining why the procedure is necessary, background on the procedure, and other relevant information
- Include all parts of the Details section, such as the difficulty, time required, and tools
- Properly include colored markup in guide photos with appropriate bullets colored to match them
- Make proper use of the Note, Reminder, and Caution bullets
Email Us When...
...your first guide is complete. We'll be happy to review your guide, answer questions, and provide feedback to help with the rest of your guides.
In this milestone, you will create separate guides for the replacement of each major component of your device. (Remember, you are not responsible for creating a teardown or for repairing broken components.) Since reassembly is usually just the reverse of disassembly, you should not write reassembly steps. The final step in each guide will show the removal of the component being replaced. By default, each guide automatically concludes: “To reassemble your device, follow these steps in reverse order.”
Each completed guide should contain the following:
- A title and brief (1-2 sentence) summary
- A descriptive introduction
- Estimated difficulty and time required
- A list of any required tools
- Step-by-step instructions written in clear, complete sentences
- An accompanying photo or photos to demonstrate each step
- Visual markup, when appropriate, highlighting key areas of the photos, matched to color-coded bullets in the text (See guidelines here.)
Keep in mind that your final guides will have a global audience, so you shouldn’t rely on the text alone to communicate key information. Ideally, your readers should be able to complete the guide using only the photos, or only the text. Both the written and visual portions of your guides should work together, yet be able to stand on their own.
WHICH GUIDES SHOULD YOU WRITE?
The number of possible guides you could create will vary depending on the complexity of the device. For example, the iPod Nano 3rd Generation has only four guides for the entire device, while the iPhone 5 has more than 20. To come up with a list of possible guides, first determine the major components within your device.
For example, a typical laptop might contain the following major components:
- Hard Drive
- Optical Drive
- Heat Sink
When choosing which of these guides to write, try to determine which components are most likely to fail or require an upgrade. You can find a list of suggested guides for common devices in the Student FAQ.
Remember to only take on guides that you’ll be able to finish! It's far more useful to have five finished guides than ten half-finished guides.
The following examples from past projects give a good idea of what your completed guides should look like.
- Bose Wave Radio AWR1-1W Button Panel Replacement
- iRobot Roomba 870 Bumper Sensor Replacement
- Toshiba Satellite C55-C5240 Motherboard Replacement
To see more awesome student work, check out our Featured Student Guides page.
use prerequisites to save time
In most devices, you'll want to remove the battery early in the repair process. Instead of having to repeatedly explain how to remove the battery at the beginning of every guide, you can write the battery replacement guide once, and then select the battery guide as a prerequisite in future guides. After adding the prerequisite, your battery replacement steps will show up automatically at the beginning of your new guide, and you can add further steps from there.
The battery is just one example; any number of guides can be used as prerequisites.
Effective use of prerequisites can be a huge time saver, but there are potential pitfalls. You can only use prerequisites for portions of the disassembly that are sequential. For example, suppose we’re writing guides for the iPhone 5. After investigating the design of the device, we've concluded that the components can be removed in the following order:
1. Front Panel Assembly
3. Volume Controls
3. Logic Board Assembly
Notice that the volume controls, vibrator, and logic board assembly all share the same number. This means that once you've removed the first two components, you can choose to remove any of the next three. The volume controls guide is not a prerequisite for the vibrator, because you don’t have to remove the volume controls to take out the vibrator.
This can get tricky to keep track of in your head, so drawing a tree diagram showing the order components are removed from your device may be helpful:
You can see that before you even get to the volume controls, you must go through the same steps that are found in the battery guide. The battery and front panel assembly guides are both prerequisites for the iPhone 5 Volume Controls guide.
We’ll go over how to import a prerequisite guide a little later.
Disassemble your device, and take some notes. Decide which components you will create guides for. It’s very helpful to sketch out a prerequisite map, as this will save you time later.
Don't use metal prying tools in your guides except as a last resort. The nylon spudger and plastic opening tools included in your toolkit are ESD-safe and are less likely to cause cosmetic damage. Only instruct your readers to use a metal spudger when safer tools aren't up to the task. Never use a screwdriver to pry open your device.
Take some awesome photos. Use the guide below to start taking great-looking pictures to document each step in your procedure.
- Click the “Create a Guide” button on your device page.
- For guide type, choose “Replacement.” All your guides should be replacement guides for your device’s components, unless you’ve made arrangements in advance to do something different.
- Don’t change the text in the “Device” field. This is filled in automatically and must exactly match the name used on your device page. If this text is altered, your new guide won’t show up on your device page.
- Type the name of the component you’ll be replacing in this guide in the next field (Battery, Display, etc.).
- Don’t change the guide title unless you notice a problem. This field is filled in automatically based on your earlier selections. It should only be changed if the auto-generated title doesn't convey what the guide is doing.
- Write a short summary for your guide. The summary is used in search results, so keep it brief (one or two sentences), and include any terms or phrases that your readers would be likely to search for. A good example of a summary might be, "Replace your dying battery to bring the power back to your iPod."
- Click the “Show More” button. This brings up some additional fields for your guide.
- Write a short introductory paragraph for your guide. The introduction should contain any background information a reader would need before they begin. Think about what you would tell a friend before doing this guide: any special requirements, hazards, why this repair might be needed, etc. This is also a great place to add any corresponding information from your troubleshooting page.
- Leave the “Flags” section alone for now. At the bottom of the page, you may see some auto-generated "In Progress" or “Student In Progress” flags that mark your guide as being part of a student project. Don’t try to remove them! We’ll do more with flags in Milestone 4.
- Click “Save.” Congratulations! You’re ready to start your guide, and will now be taken to the Edit page for the first step.
WHILE WORKING ON YOUR GUIDES
Don’t work on the same step at the same time as your teammates. It's okay for multiple team members to work on the same guide at the same time, as long as each team member works on different steps. If more than one team member tries to edit the same step at the same time, they may overwrite each other's work.
Keep the “Public/Private” option set to Private. We’ll publish your guides after they’ve been reviewed and scored.
Your guides and activity will be visible on your team's page. You can view your team activity by logging into iFixit.com, clicking on your name in the upper right-hand corner of the page, and selecting "My Team."
Don't worry about adding step titles. Even though your guide steps say "Add A Title," students actually don't have the necessary privileges to edit them.
For each step in your guide, you'll add both written instructions and photos demonstrating those instructions. Let's go over photos first.
preparing and uploading your pictures
Before adding pictures to your guide, you can use Photoshop or other software to lighten up or crop them so that they look better.
- Please do NOT use Photoshop to remove photo backgrounds. Your backgrounds don’t have to be perfectly white; a nice uncluttered background is less distracting than one that has been crudely cut out. Even if you really, really know what you’re doing, your time is better spent on other parts of the project.
- Please do NOT use Photoshop to add markup to pictures. Instead, use iFixit's built-in markup tool. This way, anyone can change the markup in case a mistake is made, whereas Photoshopped markup is permanently attached to the picture.
- Take the picture with the device against a solid white background that is well-lit, with the camera in landscape orientation.
- Keep your pictures as large as possible in terms of resolution. If a picture is 4000 x 3000 pixels in size, so be it!
- To upload a photo, add/edit a step and click the camera icon. This brings up your personal media manager, where you can manage your existing photos and upload new ones.
To crop a photo, go to the step editor and click on the gear icon in the upper right corner of the image. Select “Crop."
In the new window that opens, click and drag the corners of the selection box to frame your photo. Once you have your photo in position, click Save.
Once your photos are in place, you can use iFixit’s markup system to highlight the location of screws and other key components when necessary.
- To add markup to an image, first click the gear icon on the image thumbnail, and then click “Markers…”
- Start off each step with red markup. Use additional colors only if there are more items that need to be marked up in the same step. Use them in the order they appear (red, then orange, then yellow, etc.). (Exception: If you’re marking up a red object—or any other color that doesn’t provide good visibility—feel free to skip to a color with better contrast.)
- Use circles for screws, and squares for other things (connectors, clips, etc.).
- Don't add lines, arrows, or brackets. The markup editor can create lines, arrows, and brackets, but you should not use them for this project.
- Don’t overuse markup. Only add markup where it is necessary to point something out that is not otherwise obvious in the image. In many cases, a well-composed photograph that is centered on the action won’t need any markup at all.
- Here is an iPhone 5 guide that shows proper use of markup.
Guides on iFixit are written in a step-by-step, bullet-point format.
- Each bullet should represent one idea or action.
- By default, each step starts off with a single black bullet.
- You can use up to eight bullets per step if needed.
- Some additional controls are found at the bottom of the window:
- Indent the text to the right (or left)
- Add a new bullet below
- Delete the current bullet
Click on the bullet to select additional bullet colors or types.
- Use a colored bullet to match the color of any corresponding markup on the image.
- Use colors in order. Just like with markup, when using colored bullets, always start with red, then progress to orange, yellow, etc. as needed.
- Use colors in order. Just like with markup, when using colored bullets, always start with red, then progress to orange, yellow, etc. as needed.
- Use special bullets as follows:
- Caution: Warns users of something potentially hazardous to themselves or the device.
- Note: Provides information other than instructions which may be helpful in completing the repair.
- Reminder: Provides reassembly tips (anything that differs from simply reversing the existing steps.)
- Use special bullet types sparingly. Constant use can overwhelm your readers, making the special bullets ineffective.
- Don’t write the words “Caution,” “Note,” etc. when using special bullets. The special bullets already alert the reader to pay extra attention.
Technical writing is a little different from what you've done in other English classes, so we created this "cheat sheet" of sorts to help prevent you from committing any word crimes. (For writing more advanced guides, such as “How To Use Your Samurai Sword For Zombie Defense,” check out the Tech Writing Handbook.)
- Gear your writing towards an audience with little technical knowledge. iFixit is a website by everyone, for everyone—not just the gadget whizzes of the world. When writing your guides, ask yourself if your aunt and uncle who still use dial-up could follow your instructions.
- Use the active voice. You're telling someone what to do in your guides, so tell them something to do. Simply stating that a component can be removed is passive and weak.
- Be clear and descriptive, yet concise. Writing instructions that people actually want to read requires finding a middle ground between vagueness and verbosity. Read your own text out loud to yourself. You'll quickly have a feel for whether or not you've found the happy medium.
- Tell your audience what to do and how to do it. It's important to be thorough when describing your repair procedure. Instead of simply saying "Remove the battery," describe how to remove it. "Use a plastic opening tool to pry the battery up and out of the case."
- Write complete sentences. Don’t let those bullet points deceive you—proper grammar is critical to a clear and comprehensible guide. Remember to include all punctuation, including commas and periods.
- Use articles like “a,” “and,” and “the.” Articles tell your brain that a noun is coming.
- Identify tools and components correctly. This might sound obvious, but once you open your device up, you may run into things you've never seen before. Help your readers by correctly identifying which components each particular cable and connector correspond to.
- List all screw lengths (to the nearest tenth of a mm) and head types. For example, you might instruct your readers to remove four 5.5 mm Phillips #00 screws. This gives your readers a safety net in the event that they accidentally drop or otherwise mix up their screws.
- Keep it simple. Avoid writing obvious steps like “Remember to keep track of your screws,” or “Locate component X.” Your readers will quickly tire of reading tedious or repetitive instructions, but they’ll thank you for text that is accurate, to-the-point, and concise.
Clicking on the Details tab at the top of your guide’s Edit page gives you access to some important fields. These fields are critical to help prepare and empower people to fix their device. Before you finalize your new guide, be sure to complete the following:
- Estimate the time required. Keep track of how long each of your repairs takes (not how long it takes to write the guide), and provide an estimate for your readers. This should be the total time from the start of the repair to the moment it's finished. Remember that you’re writing for a non-technical audience, so it’s best to be a bit conservative with your estimate.
- Estimate the difficulty level. Click on the drop-down menu for an explanation of each difficulty level, and select the most appropriate one. For example, “Easy” requires minimal disassembly and common tools, whereas “Difficult” requires specialty tools or skills such as soldering.
- List any prerequisite guides. (Review this page for an explanation of prerequisites.) To add a prerequisite, simply start typing the name of the component from one of your existing guides—as long as it’s a guide for the same device, it should appear in the drop-down menu.
- Adding a prerequisite adds ALL of the steps from that guide; you can’t add just one part of a guide. If you delete a step, you will delete it from the original guide, not just the new one.
- Note that if the guide you’re importing as a prerequisite has any prerequisites of its own, you’ll need to import them separately—they won’t carry over automatically.
- List any required tools. 99% of the tools you are using are already in our database, so as soon as you start typing they should appear in the drop-down menu. If you’re unsure what a tool is called, check the Tools and Materials page. If you need a new tool added, just drop us an email! Remember to include tools used in prerequisite guides as well; you can easily add them by clicking "Import tools from prerequisite guides.”
- Don’t list any required parts. You’re not responsible for sourcing replacement parts for your project.
- Check the conclusion. By default, the conclusion reads, "To reassemble your device, follow these instructions in reverse order," so reassembly steps are not necessary. But if this is not the case (which is rare, but it happens), then reassembly instructions can be added to the applicable step using the "Reminder" bullet.
YOU SHALL NOT PASS...
...until you review the guidelines of the milestone carefully. There are a lot of tricksy little hobbit-sized details in this milestone that you don’t want to miss. You shall not pass the class without making sure you’ve used all powers of your fellowship (or group) to review your guide. Make sure you’ve got a good pair of elf-eyes on your guides before you email us at techwriting[at]ifixit[dot]com with your finalized drafts. We’ll let you know when it’s safe to cross into Milestone 4.