There's more than one type of quickstart guide, so which type should you create? In this video, learn how to identify the outcome of the quickstart guide and choose which type to write.
- Before you write anything at all, you need to decide what type of guide you're writing. To figure that out you need to have a crystal clear idea of what you want your guide to accomplish. Will your quick start guide help your user learn about your product, process, or tool? Tell your user how to do the series of steps required to get started? Or tell your user how to do a single task? Each goal is best reached by a particular kind of guide.
To get a better understanding, let's look at an example of each. These examples are also available in the exercise files for this course. First let's examine a learn about, also known as a conceptual, quick start guide. A conceptual guide introduces the main concepts of your product, process, or tool. Say, for example, your company has an updated version of its project management software, Red 30 Tech Software version 13.5.
As you can see here, there's no sequence to the four sections of this guide. Users can choose which section to read first or just read about one or two and skip the rest. Because it won't really matter if a user reads about sharing files before monitoring staff schedules or vice versa, we can design the guide to communicate that. The next type of quick start guide tells the users how to do the series of steps required to get started with your product, process, or tool. These series of steps to get started guides are known as procedural guides, and they should list the steps you should complete before you begin using the product or service.
You write a procedural guide if your users must complete the series of steps in a particular way or if they wouldn't know what the getting started steps are unless you tell them. Here's an example of a procedural guide. It lists the series of steps to get started that users would read before applying for a type of professional certification. This guide helps applicants understand that they have to upload transcripts, pass a test, pay a fee, and schedule an interview before they apply for professional certification.
They can complete those four tasks in any order they like, but they have to get them all done. There's a second type of procedural guide that you'll want to know. In this type you explain to the user how to take specific steps in a specific order. Here's an example of a procedural steps you must take in this order guide to starting up a new user account. Here we have a guide for creating an online account in a facility's rental system.
Now bear in mind that this task-specific procedural guide may be the only guidance outside the facility's rental system itself. Users will rely on in-software help after they have created their new account. So this guide is really about getting started. Notice the use of numbers and the arrangement of steps which show that there's a specific sequence of tasks required to complete the goal. Though some quick start guides are a blend of conceptual and procedural, each guide should have a single overall purpose.
If you're very clear on the type of help your users need, you'll know which type of guide to produce.
- Explain the difference between a conceptual guide and a procedural guide.
- Determine how to address a user when writing a quickstart guide.
- Recall a tactic that helps avoid too many notes.
- Identify the benefits of using plain language.
- Name the most important aspect of formatting.