The strategy & ideation stages of digital product-building are breezy. That’s where you can let the ideas and planning have free reign. Untethered from reality and unworried about the actual implementation or delivery...
Well, time to spoil the party. In this workspace, we’re going to begin giving our online course, ebook or digital product some real shape. The good news is, by this stage we should already have:
- Our Topics list;
- Our shortlisted features;
- Our nominated Product Type (i.e. ‘Course’, ‘eBook’);
- Our target persona; and
- Our first value proposition ideas for the product.
(If not, you can always keep planning those as you consider and get stuck into your digital product outline.)
It may not be enough to go out and build an entire product right away, but it’s enough to work with while we sketch out a shape for how we intend to deliver this product.
How do you outline an online course?
Outlining an online course or digital product is about understanding: 1) the key content to include; 2) the flow of information delivered; and 3) the mode(s) of delivery you want to adopt.
Let's begin with the meat of your product: content.
If you're building along in the Digital Product Lab, you will by now have already filled out the Best Content List. This is simply a table to help you reflect on the content that's already working for you--and resonating with your audience.
We start with content that we know is performing because this is how we can confidently respond to our audience's needs. If they're telling us they want more SEO backlinking content, then it might not be a bad idea to structure our digital product or online course around backlinking (or at least to include a section on it).
Reflect on your analytics data to find the key topics that are performing well with your audience, then try to shortlist 3-4 topics that could be the main pillars of your online course.
From there, you'll be in a better position to break these 'pillar' topics into smaller lessons and sub-topics.
How to structure your online course or digital product
The next piece is to consider the flow of information. Supposing you have your pillar topics and content ideas, it's also important to consider the order in which you'd like to deliver this to your audience.
As well as 'subjects' or 'lessons', now is a good time to start thinking about other elements of the course you want to introduce. Features like:
- Video lessons;
- Templates; or
If any of these feature ideas are swimming around in your head, then now's a good time to consider the flow of those interventions.
Will you, for example, follow up each lesson with an exercise and a quiz? When would be the best time to run a Q&A--perhaps after a particularly tricky subject, or just regularly, once per week?
You can use the Product Outline gallery to move cards around, experiment with new features introduced in between and simply experiment with different structures for your final course or product.
Video, Email, Lessons: How to deliver your online course or product
The final piece for planning out your online course is to consider the mode of delivery.
Will this be a video-intensive course that students can watch along to at their own pace?
Will it be run in cohorts--introducing a real-time element + accountability to the online course experience?
Will you host it on your own website, or share it through a platform like Skillshare or Udemy?
Spending some time with each of these questions, now, will help you structure your course or product in a way that's compatible with future delivery. If you do opt for sharing via Skillshare, for example, then there will be formatting requirements that will either help or hurt the actual structure and flow of your course.
Common Formats For Online Courses & Digital Products
- Chapters (e.g. by ‘Topic’);
- Email Sequences;
- Course Lessons; or
As you’ll see in the default Product Outline gallery, there are some placeholder ‘Topics’ littered with a few other Features from our Features table—such as an Introductory Quiz, an Exercise and a Discussion Prompt.
While you’re building out your Product Outline, don’t forget to leverage aspects of work you’ve already done, including:
- Research and inspiration from similar product types;
- Competitors and what they’ve produced + how they’ve structured their products; and
- Always return to your value proposition to help guide the actual substance of your product outline—’End of the day, what do I actually want to deliver?’
How do you outline an online course?
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good
While building out your Product Outline, try to avoid Feature creep. There is a space you can use to help manage this, in the ‘Releases’ section of your Roadmap.