A quick reference guide to creating quick reference guides

elearning expertsI’m working on a little project at the moment which involves converting a face-to-face course into elearning. Rather than convert all of the course content into elearning we decided to keep the elearning duration to a minimum and provide learners with support resources they could refer to on demand via the intranet.  One piece of material I came across in the pile of content I was handed was a “quick” reference guide. I say “quick” in inverted commas because there was actually nothing “quick” about it!  Remember people, if your quick reference guide needs an index it isn’t a quick reference guide, it’s a user manual!  So thanks to my lovely client and the author of that document for giving me the fodder for this little blog post 🙂

A quick reference guide to creating quick reference guides


  1. Keep to one page or two pages that can be printed off as a double-sided document
  2. Keep font size reasonable to read without a magnifying glass
  3. Use visuals wherever possible and keep words to a minimum
  4. Find out from users what they want on the QRG rather than assuming you know what they want or trying to tell them everything
  5. Use clear headings and labelling that don’t make the visual too busy
  6. Think about what people will be doing when they need to use the QRG and structure content in that format so they can easily find what they need


  1. Try and get an entire system manual onto one page
  2. Repeat instructions, eg. if two screenshots have a copy button on them only explain it once – people get it!
  3. Let system developers write quick reference guides 😉

Anybody got anything else to add to our DOs and DON’Ts?

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