How to start using SpecFuse

Learn the basics of SpecFuse and take the first steps towards defining your project and creating specifications for your software.
Daniel Baylis
25 October 2019

Welcome to SpecFuse!

We are pleased to have you onboard. We are on a mission to help teams build successful software applications that customers and users will really enjoy. SpecFuse is all about making a plan for what your software is all about, capturing your ideas for it, developing some clear specifications of exactly what it should do, and then managing your project as you develop it.


In this article, we are going to cover how to get familiar with the application and how to take the first steps.


We'll assume you already have access to SpecFuse. If you do not already have access, you can sign up for a free trial.


User interface tour

To get started, let's take a quick tour of the interface. When you first login, you will be on the home screen. The home screen is a central location where you can easily launch into different projects you are working on.


1
Main Menu

Here you can move between the home screen (shown) or various configuration and support resources.


2
Project Menu

Your list of projects will appear. Simply click on the name of a project to open it.


3
Action Menu

The action menu is where you can create new Projects, Specifications, Ideas, Tags, or invite other users.


4
Notifications

You can access your notifications by clicking on the bell icon. When you have unread notifications, it will be lit up to let you know.


5
User Menu

Here you can access your profile page, links to support resources on the 4thPortal site, or sign-out.


6
User XP

Your XP represents your total experience using SpecFuse. You'll gain additional XP whenever you complete activities in the app. It's just some fun to see how far you've progressed and to challenge your team.


Creating your first project

All work in SpecFuse is organized into projects. Generally, a project represents a software application or app that you want to work on.


There is no limit, and no cost for creating additional projects in SpecFuse. If you were the first user to sign up for a trial, you will need to create a project. If you were invited to join an existing organization in SpecFuse, you may already have access to a project.


To create a project, click on the Action Menu and select Create Project.


The project form will then appear. The only required field to start a new project is the name. The remainder of the form is used to create your product strategy.


A product strategy is a description of your application's goal, intended customers (or users), and the problems it will solve. It is intended to help you get clear on your plan, and capture a clear vision you can use to keep yourself and your team heading in the right direction as you develop it.


We recommend filling out as much as you can on the project form on your first attempt. You can always return to the form to update and further complete your strategy as you progress.


Understanding notifications

SpecFuse sends you notifications to let you know about key events in the app. These will appear in your applications menu, which can be access by clicking the bell icon in the top right.


When you have unread notifications, a numeric indicator will appear to let you know.


You will also receive an email to let you know about most notifications. This helps you keep up to date even if you are not using the application. However, if you prefer not to receive them, you can update your email settings in your preferences.


Navigating your project

Once you create a project, or select one from the Project Menu, you will then see the project name at the top of your screen. A new menu will appear under the project name to allow you to navigate your project.

Here is a breakdown of the project navigation menu:


  • Home - This is the home view for this specific project. This view shows a list of specifications assigned to you, as well as the next highest priority ones across your project.
  • Dashboard - The dashboard view provides a summary of the progress of your project, including the volume of specifications created and closed, and their types and focus areas. From this single view, you can easily understand how your project has progress and the work ahead of you.
  • Roadmap - This view allows you to view all the open specifications on your project, grouped by release.
  • Specs - Short for specifications, this view allows you to explore all the specs on a project.
  • Ideas - In this view you can see all the ideas that have been captured on a project and link them up to specs.
  • Strategy - The strategy view summarizes the information you entered on the project form, creating a simple one page view of your vision. New team members to your team should start on this view to get calibrated.
  • Activity - The activity view shows all the changes made across the project, providing an audit system and also making it easy to see what has been happening.
  • Admin - Only admins on a project can access this view. You are automatically an admin on any project you create. Here you can modify the project team (including appointing additional admins), create releases, configure your integrations, or delete a project if you need to.


Capturing some ideas

Ultimately, SpecFuse encourages you to create specifications for each feature or aspect of your application that you want to develop. A specification is a clear description of exactly what a feature must do. However, when you are first brainstorming ideas for your project, you do not want to get slowed down thinking of specifics. For this reason, SpecFuse enables to capture your broad ideas first, which can then expand into specifications later.


To capture some ideas, click on the Capture Ideas option in the Action Menu.

This will launch the ideas form. You can then safely capture ideas for your project, to be sure you won't lose the them. You only need to fill out a single field, making it a fast and easy process, and perfect for brainstorming and capturing lots of ideas at once.


Writing your first specification

In SpecFuse, a specification or spec is create for each feature or each change you want to make to your application. For example, you might write a specification for "the navigation menu", "updating profile details", "user password resets", or "saving articles as drafts" etc.


There are no rules for the scope of each spec.


You may find it easier to create many specifications that each only address a very small unit functionality, much like a User Story as described in agile methodology. For example, "add a button to open the notification menu", or "add a chart to the dashboard view".


Alternatively, it may work better for you and your team to have fewer specifications that each deal with an entire area of functionality. For example, "notification system", or "dashboard".


Internally at 4thPortal we lean towards few specs that are larger in scope when first planning a new application, and then larger number of smaller scope specs when we are maintaining and expanding on an existing project.


To get started, click on the Create Spec option in the Action Menu.



Here is a quick rundown of the fields on the specification form:


  • Name - A short name for the specification. Ideally this would be just 2-5 words describing the scope.
  • Release - Select a release that this specification belongs to. A release is a group of specs to be release at a certain point, or representing a specific milestone in your project progress. If you are not so familiar with this, just select the Initial Release option that appears by default on new projects.
  • Tags - To help you find specs later, you can associate them with tags. Tags must be configured in advance by an admin to be selectable here.
  • Type - A broad classification for your spec.
  • Drivers - A driver is the reason why this spec should be implemented. The aim of this field to help guide you to develop the most important features first, by being clear what each achieves for your app and for your business.
  • Background - A free form notes field for you to capture any background and notes related to the specification.
  • Requirements - The core of a spec are the requirements, sometimes also referred to as requirement statements. Each requirement is a short sentence the describes something that must be achieved for the spec to be considered implemented. For example, if you were writing a spec for "opening the navigation menu", you may break this down into specific requirements such as "a bell icon must be used for the button", "the button must change color when hovered or focused", "the menu must transition in", or "transitions must be a standard 300ms" etc.


Once you have saved the specification, you will be taken to a view of the completed spec.


Assigning a specification to yourself

Specifications can be assigned to anyone on the project team, to keep everyone clear about who is working on each spec.


To get started, you might just want to assign the specification to yourself. To do this, simply enter your name in the search field in the Assignment section, select your name in the search results, and then click Save.


Updating a specification as you progress

Specifications in SpecFuse can be moved through a workflow. A workflow means a series of stages that the spec flows from being first bring created, through to being complete.


Having a workflow helps you and your project team to stay clear on the progress of spec, and how far it is from being completed.

How you interpret the stages is up to you and your project team, but our guidelines are:


  • Pending - Specs enter this stage as soon as they are created. It represents specs that are simply in the queue, and no action has been taken on them.
  • Analysis - The analysis stage is where the spec is reviewed, and possibly refined to include additional detail and more specific requirements. In larger projects, this would be the key stage for business analysts where they work with the business to confirm and expand the spec.
  • Development - The development stage is where developers implement the spec in your application.
  • Review - The review stage is where a spec has been developed and now needs to be confirmed and tested. This could represent a review by a peer, a supervisor, or an entire quality management team - depending on what is relevant for your team.
  • Complete - Once a spec has been reviewed and implemented, it can be moved to the complete stage. The spec is then closed, and the dashboard view will instantly be updated to show the progress.


Next steps

In this article we talked about an overview of the application UI, how to create a project, including ideas and specifications for it, and how to get update those specifications as you progress.


Next, you might want to explore how you can invite other people to collaborate with, or explore additional features.

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