How is a quick start guide different to an instruction manual?

Junior Strategist


A quick start guide (QSG) is a short process document that enables the user to get their new product up and running as quickly as possible. 

We’re going to explain the difference between a quick start guide and an instruction manual in this article, but it is important to state that we don’t advise throwing away an instruction manual in favour of a QSG. They are two different, complementary types of documentation that a user will need at different stages of their journey with that product or service.

What is the difference between the guides?

An instruction manual, also known as a user manual, is an often large book of instructions where a user can find information about their product or service whenever necessary. It can include actions and instructions for different features of the product and advice for different scenarios.

A quick start guide, by contrast, covers just one step in the user journey with the product or service. It helps the user to complete their set up process efficiently.

As this article suggests, your quick start guide should be based on your instruction manual, reducing user confusion and ensuring consistency in communications about the product. 

A quick start guide accompanies a user manual, rather than replacing it.


Conceptual or procedural quick start guides?

It depends on the product! As Talkdesk discusses in their article, a quick start guide can be either conceptual or procedural. A conceptual QSG introduces the main concepts of the product or service; presenting information that a user might need in no predetermined sequence. 

A procedural QSG details the actions and steps that a user should take in a specific order so that they can begin to use the product.

When we discuss quick start guides in this article, we lean on our knowledge and experience of procedural quick start guides.


Why are instruction manuals important?

Comparatively, an instruction manual or user manual is a longer, detailed document that explains every scenario a user might face with that product or service. This UserFocus article outlines their tips for writing one and states that ‘user manuals have a bad reputation’.   

It is likely to contain everything the user needs to know about the product and cater for every expected malfunction or confusion.

Douglas Krantz, an electronic technician with experience in helping users to install systems, states that an instruction manual is ‘the communication provided by someone who knows how a project should be done to someone who needs to know how to do it.’ Substitute ‘project’ with ‘product’ and ‘done’ with ‘used’ and it’s a perfectly apt description of a manual. 

As that article discusses, there are various audiences, explanations and scenarios that a user manual (or instruction manual) should cover. This is essential information that a user may lean on when they encounter issues with using their product or service.


What are quick start guides and why are they useful?

QSGs are for various audiences, but cover just one scenario. This is something we explored in our article on the importance of quick start guides here. Manualise observes two reasons why quick start guides are useful. 

First that they take ‘less time reading’ and second that ‘If the installation takes place without any hick-up and/or the first user experiences are nothing but positive, self confidence leads to the motivation to explore the product even further.’

As implied by Manualise, the guide is used for ‘installation’ only. The user’s further exploration of their product would be carried out using the user manual.


How have quick start guides helped our clients?

As well as improving the overall customer experience and brand affinity, quick start guides can reduce costs, save the customer time and release the pressure on customer services and support. 

We’ve worked with Virgin Media to create quick start guides for 5 years and the challenges that the QSG helped them address are twofold. Firstly, they improved the Virgin Media NPS scores (Net Promoter Score Services – a simple way to measure customer experience) and then they lowered their operational costs by empowering customers to solve their own issues, reducing the number of customer service calls and resulting engineer call outs. 


Have a call

We’d love to talk to you about how Make it Clear can support your organisation. Book a call here.



September 1, 2023

Mobile UX: unlocking higher conversions for a mobile-first world

Here we covered the importance of mobile UX in conversion optimisation, understanding mobile users' behaviour, and what to consider when designing for mobile devices

August 25, 2023

Usability testing for conversion optimisation: optimising UX to drive conversions

In this article we discuss how usability testing reveals nuanced user behaviours and can lead to more effective conversion strategies

August 21, 2023

UX Audit checklist for optimal website performance

Throughout this article, we will outline the essential areas to evaluate within a user experience audit checklist, along with key insights and recommendations