Re: Quick-start guides?

Subject: Re: Quick-start guides?
From: Richard Danca <rdanca -at- UIE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 28 May 1999 10:18:05 -0400

Interesting discussion about Quick Start guides. I get the digest
version of TECHWR-L, so apologies in advance if I've missed the
whole thread.

When we studied some doc usability questions, we found that the
Users Guide was single document people were most likely to read (if
they read anything, of course). Unfortunately, we did not ask about
Quick Starts, though we've seen many users at least glance at these.

On the other hand, some companies don't make it easy for Quick
Starts to succeed. We once studied the usability of scanners. These
things come bundled with tons of software, each with its own set of
manuals. In one case, the user opening the box was confronted with
five (!) manuals that ordered him to "Read Me First."

In the July/August 1977 issue of our newsletter, Eye For Design, we
reported the results of a questionnaire we administered to 50-plus
users. Of these users:

-- 9% said they read the User's Guide; 80% said they skim it
-- 11% said they read printed Tutorials; 26% said they skim them
-- 11% said they read the printed Reference Manual; 46% said they
skim it
-- 17% read printed Reference or Hint Cards; 35% said they skim
-- 7% said they read online documentation; 54% said they skim it

It would be interesting and valuable to know:
-- Is there one piece of documentation users reach for first?
-- If we knew which piece that was, what would it need to include
-- What makes online *tutorials* [NOT docs!] more appealing than
printed ones? Does this mean they're more effective?

Of course, if software developers would give users better interfaces,
maybe we wouldn't need to worry so much about providing good

Remember, we're talking about self-reported answers, so, as always,
your mileage may vary. I'd love to know if someone else has
additional/different testing results on who reads what.

Richard A. Danca User Interface Engineering
mailto:richard -dot- danca -at- uie -dot- com 800 Turnpike St., Suite 101
978-975-4343 North Andover, MA 01845
978-975-5353 (fax) USA
Send me your postal address and I'll send you a free copy
of our newsletter, Eye For Design

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