Do you need a quick start guide?

22Feb08

As part of my ongoing flooring saga, I purchased a neat electric broom made by Hoover. It’s too early to tell how well it works, but I was impressed by the easy assembly. Like most people, I put it together first and looked at the instructions later. To my surprise, both the quick start guide and the user’s manual were quite short, only a few pages each. This raises the question: if your user’s guide is very brief, do you really need a separate sheet for initial setup?

Aside from the cost of writing and printing the extra documentation, having both a user’s manual and a quick start guide sends a message to the customer. It’s sort of like saying “This product is so complex that you’ll need the full manual eventually, but here’s a shorter one to get you started.” And for some products, you can’t avoid that. But for many others, you could probably just tighten up the user’s guide, make the first page or two really easy to follow, and ditch the quick setup sheet. In total, I think this creates a better first impression: namely, that the product can be operated without a large time investment on the user’s part.

If you do end up including both documents, it’s best to avoid ridiculous form factors for the quick start guide. You know what I’m talking about: those printer setup sheets that are like 3×5 feet when you unfold them, and never fold back to their original size again. These non-standard sizes just add more stress to the product setup process, since the customer has to deal with an ill-tempered poster just to figure out where the plugs go or how to remove the hidden packing tape inside the access door.

Of course, problems with the quick start guide can be avoided by making the user’s manual short and elegant enough that you don’t need a dedicated setup guide. In my case, the user’s guide that Hoover provided with the vacuum already had an easy-to-follow setup section right at the beginning. The quick start guide was only a little bit more simplified from there. Thus, Hoover could probably get rid of the quick start guide, make a few edits to the user’s manual, and see no decline in customer satisfaction. And I’ll bet people would rate the product as easier-to-use, since there would be fewer documents to contend with as a new user.



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