Self-Help Guides: Provide a Clear Focus

An effective Self-Help Guide (SHG) makes it easy for users to find the information they need. To accomplish this, it is important to have a clearly define purpose as well as an understanding of who the audience is for the guide you are creating.

Define a Clear Purpose

A SHG is more likely to be easy to understand and use if those creating it can easily answer this question: Why is this SHG necessary?

A clearly defined answer to that question will promote a clear focus when writing the SHG. Consider these additional questions when determining the goal:

  • What is the problem or concern to be answered in the SHG?
  • Is the SHG meant to introduce new information or a new process?
  • What indicators will show that the SHG is helpful?

Draft a clear purpose statement for your SHG based on the answers to these questions.

Know the Audience

Take time to develop a clear picture of who will use the SHG. Carefully consider these questions to help analyze your audience:

  • Who is going to use this SHG? Students? Faculty? Staff?
    • Will they be frequent users of the application or process?
    • Do they have the background to understand most terms used in the SHG?
  • How would you describe the expertise of the intended audience as it relates to the SHG topic?
    • Based on levels of expertise, what information should be included? What should be omitted?
    • Will the SHG will be used regularly, or is the topic such that the SHG will be used infrequently?
    • Identify someone in the targeted audience who could provide feedback.

 A successful SHG begins with a clearly defined audience along with a specific purpose.