Quick Start Guide?

Subject: Quick Start Guide?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Deborah McNally <tig -dot- techwriter -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2006 16:28:00 -0500

Deborah McNally wonders: <<Normally I write online help and printed manuals. I've been asked for a 'Quick Start Guide' for one of our products. Does anyone have a suggestion of where to start?>>

The first place to start is with the person who asked you to do this. <g> What do _they_ want you to do, and _who_ are you doing it for? Is the "what the boss" wants relevant to "what the audience needs"? If not, how can you reconcile the conflicting demands?

A quick start guide may begin and end with the installation; it may completely exclude the installation, and start with "my first form letter". It may include both. You won't know which approach is correct until you answer the above questions. In short: define the goals and the audience, and that will tell you what belongs in the document. Anything else is extraneous, at least for the moment. That being said:

<<I don't want to put *too much* into it, but I want to make sure that I hit all of the points that should be in a quick start.>>

You can't decide to include until you know what you're trying to accomplish. There are a few general criteria, however, for once you know what topics must be included:
- Focus on providing basic context (what the reader might want to do and why) so the reader knows why they're reading this and what the possibilities are.
- Provide just the basic description of how to do that ("to print your document, open the File menu and select Print"). Don't sweat the details: think about the high-level task, not the many variants of that task ("printing a single copy of the whole document", not "printing multiple copies of discontinuous page ranges in reverse order using the printer's duplexing function").
- Provide a cross-reference to the part of the manual that contains the details for those who have successfully done the basic printing thing and are now feeling overconfident. ("For an explanation of all the tabs, widgets and dohickeys in the Print dialog, see page 75 of the manual.")

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca

(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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Quick Start Guide: From: Deborah McNally

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