A QuickBase Getting Started Manual

I hope you noticed recently that our help and other documentation (like our Knowledge Base) are getting some great attention. You can thank one of our newest team members, Jessica Mantaro, for this.

As Jessica has helped us build out a strategy for "user content" (a broader category than just help), one of the things we’ve been bouncing around is creating "the" manual for getting started (and keeping going) with QuickBase. As opposed to help, which serves a needed purpose as a reference, this manual would be more of a workbook/action planner. For example, the chapters might be something like:

  1. Top 5 concepts to get you grounded, and the exercises to prove that you are.
  2. Decomposing your problem into QuickBase.
  3. Building your first application that other people actually use.
  4. Taking a step back to realize what you’ve just accomplished and what it means.
  5. Advanced features for the curious and the geek in all of us.

A few questions for you on this…

  • The easiest question… what do you think of the outline above? It is high level, but right now, I’m not so much worried about being on the same page, but being in the same book. (Sorry, I couldn’t help that little pun.)
  • What do you think of online manuals versus printed? Where have you seen online manuals implemented well, and where poorly?
  • The above is geared more to app builders, what about your end users? What topics are most important for them to get in order to make your life easier?
  • And the last quick question I have… and this one sounds a little strange to ask, so let me explain first. QuickBase is not in the business of publishing content, so it is possible that we’d partner with someone to deliver this. If it were online specifically, there is an opportunity to deliver something that’s got more life in it, i.e., updated regularly with more and more info. What kinds of things would you want to see from content like this that was provided as a subscription service? For example, regular brain teasers, case studies, tips and tricks, developer Q&A, etc. What would provide you with the most value to you?

As always, thanks for your thoughts!

  • http://techlifeblogged.blogspot.com/ Scott Kingery

    Hi Jana,
    I think an online manual the is printable is what is needed. Either provide a PDF or the proper CSS to have it print well. Personally I like electronic because I can search it but I’ve always found there are people who need physical paper to put them at ease.

    As to your last question, developer Q&A; is great as are tips and tricks. Case studies a little less so and brain teasers way at the bottom of my priorities. We developers need to know now and have way too much info to sift through. Some of the content could even be repackaged from the Quickbase Community Forum.

    A sense of community is huge in my opinion. Also I’m more apt to use a product that has a good community following because I can post a question and have at least some hope of an answer.

    Now a nit…user management is still not straight forward. For example, how do I rename a user who’s name is spelled wrong?

    [Reply]

  • http://techlifeblogged.blogspot.com Scott Kingery

    Hi Jana,
    I think an online manual the is printable is what is needed. Either provide a PDF or the proper CSS to have it print well. Personally I like electronic because I can search it but I’ve always found there are people who need physical paper to put them at ease.

    As to your last question, developer Q&A is great as are tips and tricks. Case studies a little less so and brain teasers way at the bottom of my priorities. We developers need to know now and have way too much info to sift through. Some of the content could even be repackaged from the Quickbase Community Forum.

    A sense of community is huge in my opinion. Also I’m more apt to use a product that has a good community following because I can post a question and have at least some hope of an answer.

    Now a nit…user management is still not straight forward. For example, how do I rename a user who’s name is spelled wrong?

    [Reply]

  • Mark Shnier

    I think that you are on the right track. It needs to be short enough so as not to be daunting, and provide links of where to go for more detail. The online documentation is in fact excellent for a specific issue – I think that what you are trying to create is something to get people started when they are new to QuickBase – or perhaps have been a User but not a Creator of applications.

    Once you get the hang of it you realize that every Application has common elements – like a checklist that you need to think through and tidy up before releasing it to your users.

    I’m sure that Jessica knows the checklist, but in my mind it is something like.

    What does a record represent in your application.

    What field elements will you need?

    Understanding the concept that there are many types of fields that each do special things – and importantly, where you go to get that list of formula functions – in the beginning I had endless hours of frustration in getting the syntax right, and spent a long time looking at red error messages on formulas.

    What types of Views are available.

    How Roles and Security and Access control works.

    Setting up the Overview Page.

    … that would be QuickBase 101, then there could be more advanced topics, and Tips and suggestions and shortcuts, and then the concept of Relationships.

    Mark

    [Reply]

  • Mark Shnier

    I think that you are on the right track. It needs to be short enough so as not to be daunting, and provide links of where to go for more detail. The online documentation is in fact excellent for a specific issue – I think that what you are trying to create is something to get people started when they are new to QuickBase – or perhaps have been a User but not a Creator of applications.

    Once you get the hang of it you realize that every Application has common elements – like a checklist that you need to think through and tidy up before releasing it to your users.

    I’m sure that Jessica knows the checklist, but in my mind it is something like.

    What does a record represent in your application.

    What field elements will you need?

    Understanding the concept that there are many types of fields that each do special things – and importantly, where you go to get that list of formula functions – in the beginning I had endless hours of frustration in getting the syntax right, and spent a long time looking at red error messages on formulas.

    What types of Views are available.

    How Roles and Security and Access control works.

    Setting up the Overview Page.

    … that would be QuickBase 101, then there could be more advanced topics, and Tips and suggestions and shortcuts, and then the concept of Relationships.

    Mark

    [Reply]

  • Nikole

    I’m finding that I am having a problem getting questions about functionality answered and a manual would be great, especially in the PDF printable format. Is there a place for me to post my questions in a support forum as well? Usage, how-to questions etc?

    [Reply]

  • Nikole

    I’m finding that I am having a problem getting questions about functionality answered and a manual would be great, especially in the PDF printable format. Is there a place for me to post my questions in a support forum as well? Usage, how-to questions etc?

    [Reply]

  • James LaCorte

    I think QB needs an online and printable version. CBT or other forms are nice but harder to update and most people do not have time for a CBT. They want the answer now.

    Also, there needs to be a very basic generic user guide on features a general user sees. This would be helpful to administrators of applications when they are training or need to provide a user more info.

    The admin guide topics you listed sound good. I know there needs to be time spent on difinition of groups and what it means. Also user management in general.

    Advance area that talks about sharing info across applications and API type info as well.

    [Reply]

  • James LaCorte

    I think QB needs an online and printable version. CBT or other forms are nice but harder to update and most people do not have time for a CBT. They want the answer now.

    Also, there needs to be a very basic generic user guide on features a general user sees. This would be helpful to administrators of applications when they are training or need to provide a user more info.

    The admin guide topics you listed sound good. I know there needs to be time spent on difinition of groups and what it means. Also user management in general.

    Advance area that talks about sharing info across applications and API type info as well.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.jamesmartinpa.com/ Jim Martin

    I have subscribed for 2 months and still have not set it up for actual use; I could use a printable manual. That’s the way I usually learn new tech products, unless they are very intuitive.
    By the way, I get confused with calling QuickBase “QB” since I have had QuickBooks for years and use the same initials for it.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.jamesmartinpa.com Jim Martin

    I have subscribed for 2 months and still have not set it up for actual use; I could use a printable manual. That’s the way I usually learn new tech products, unless they are very intuitive.
    By the way, I get confused with calling QuickBase “QB” since I have had QuickBooks for years and use the same initials for it.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.quickbase.com/ Jana Eggers

    Jim, where are you having problems with getting to actual use? I’ve heard several different barriers, like implementing process, deciding on process, getting data modeling correct, etc. Love to hear people’s thoughts on the hardest places.

    Regarding QB as the initials… boy, do we ever have the same problem here at Intuit! We even had some autocorrect in Word changing qb to QuickBooks, which didn’t work well for our team, as you can imagine.

    Thanks for the comments… this is helping!
    Jana

    [Reply]

  • http://www.quickbase.com Jana Eggers

    Jim, where are you having problems with getting to actual use? I’ve heard several different barriers, like implementing process, deciding on process, getting data modeling correct, etc. Love to hear people’s thoughts on the hardest places.

    Regarding QB as the initials… boy, do we ever have the same problem here at Intuit! We even had some autocorrect in Word changing qb to QuickBooks, which didn’t work well for our team, as you can imagine.

    Thanks for the comments… this is helping!
    Jana

    [Reply]

  • Liz

    I think an approach to the manual such as that used in the Visual Quickstart books would be the most helpful. (I don’t have a link to a specific book but they are made by Peachpit Press.)

    It is important to lay the groundwork for building your application, so don’t forego that, but answering questions like “How do I do X?” is a great way for people to learn how the system functions, because they would learn by example. Long manuals that talk about features without putting them in the context of how we will want to use them end up being tedious.

    Additionally, a handbook in this format would continue to serve as a refernce as the user gets more comfortable with the system because they will be able to find answers to specific concerns. (In my experience with learning new languages and programs, learning by example has been by far the best way to do things.)

    [Reply]

  • Liz

    I think an approach to the manual such as that used in the Visual Quickstart books would be the most helpful. (I don’t have a link to a specific book but they are made by Peachpit Press.)

    It is important to lay the groundwork for building your application, so don’t forego that, but answering questions like “How do I do X?” is a great way for people to learn how the system functions, because they would learn by example. Long manuals that talk about features without putting them in the context of how we will want to use them end up being tedious.

    Additionally, a handbook in this format would continue to serve as a refernce as the user gets more comfortable with the system because they will be able to find answers to specific concerns. (In my experience with learning new languages and programs, learning by example has been by far the best way to do things.)

    [Reply]