Using the Decision Tree (Beta), a tool for building interactive flow charts, requires more upfront work than when creating most other content in the CMS. Once a Decision Tree is conceptualized, building it can be time-consuming, too.
The images and examples below are from the process our Digital Service team used to create the Choosing the correct content type Decision Tree.
The process to create a successful Decision Tree begins outside the CMS. Before building anything, users will need to have all of the questions and conclusions plotted out. This can be done using pen and paper, in a Word or Google doc, or with an online tool like Google Drawings.
A physical draft makes it easy to adopt changes when mapping the Tree, especially in the early stages when brainstorming questions and answers.
Users can also choose a tool like Google Drawings to create a cleaner version that’s easy to share with collaborators, at the beginning of or later in the process. These are easy to edit, especially for drafting the exact text of each Decision Tree Branch and Conclusion.
Think of the major question people need to answer when using the Decision Tree. What question will easily split people into distinct groups? This will inform what Branches and Conclusions the Decision Tree will need.
Every question on the Tree will need to split into at least 2 possible answers, with the option for up to 6 possible answers. Each of the answers must lead to a Branch with another question or to a Conclusion.
Continue to make questions, answers, and conclusions until the whole process with every potential Conclusion is explained or outlined. Once a complete map is drafted, it’s time to start working in the CMS.
This is the first page and basis for the rest of the Tree--the ‘trunk.’ Please remember to read about the required information for the Decision Tree content type before you begin.
Three important things:
Users should not add a Start button at this point. That will come later when the rest of the Tree is constructed.
The Tree needs to be connected to a Service page to save it as a Draft, but this will not make the Tree appear on that Service, even when the Tree is published. A Tree must be added to a Service in the Tasks area in the same way as any other child page.
The Decision Tree page will need to be published in order to create the rest of the Tree. It’s unlikely that this page will be found via search by anyone, as it’s new and not linked to anything else. However, if concerned about this, users can choose to hide it from search engines until ready for the content to go public.
Once the base Decision Tree is made, it’s easiest to work backwards on the rest of the Tree. Start by making all of your Decision Tree Conclusion pages.
Next, create the Decision Tree Branch pages. Again, it is easiest to work backwards. Start with the Branches that are furthest out that connect directly to the Conclusions, then work inward to the Branches until getting back to that first major question.
The reason for this is that the auto-complete fields need to be able to link to published Conclusions or Branches. So, if Branch A leads to Conclusion B and Branch C, then both B and C need to be published content in order for Branch A to connect to them.
Depending upon the complexity of an organization's offerings, just a few or as many as a dozen Branches and Conclusions might be required.
On Branch pages, the Description field can be used to add more context to a complicated question. For example, on this question, the Description field was useful for explaining what might be associated with an organization without making the question itself extremely long.
On Conclusions, it’s useful to use the Key Action field to create highlighted buttons that point to pages connected in some way with the Conclusion that has been reached. These could go to an Information Details page with more comprehensive information, a How-to page for the action the visitor needs to take next, a place to direct questions they may have, or any other appropriate page either on or off of Mass.gov. For example, the Key Actions on this Conclusion on the content type Tree both offer ways to get more information.
Once all of the Tree's Branches and Conclusions have been created and connected, go back to the base Decision Tree page. Now is the time to add that start button and connect the first Branch. Make sure to do some test runs through the Tree with people who aren’t as familiar with the subject, and make adjustments where necessary.
Once the Tree is ready for the public, add it to a Service page and make sure it’s no longer hidden from search engines (if this option was chosen while creating it).