Thoughts on Guides for the Quick and Dirty Audience

A few month’s ago I wrote about the two major audiences I see reading WoW guides. To quote myself:

Guides generally have two different audiences: “I want to jump in and play” and “I want to understand”. The vast majority of a guide’s readers will be in the former group, what I’ll call the quick’n’dirty players. They can range from new players who want to tank a 5 man with a freshly boosted monk, to experienced players who want to try a new class, to casual players who want to spend their precious few hours of free time playing a game instead of reading about it. They are interested in getting an introduction that is easy to digest and follow. Cookie cutter builds are targeted to this type of reader, and they often get frustrated when the answer to their customization questions is presented as subjective. They build the body of a readership and are really important for establishing an audience.

The latter group, the “I want to understand” people, or what I’ll call the comprehensive players, are more interested in why these choices were suggested and how to master the spec they are already familiar with. These are a smaller group that usually starts out as the quick’n’dirty type, but eventually want to know more. They may want help solving a particular problem, or they want to customize their character to their liking, or they simply want to be better at the game. They want explanations for everything, beyond the “do this”. Cookie cutter builds can actually harm this group because cookie cutter builds don’t offer nuance. A talent row that is actually competitive might come across as inflexible because the majority of cookie cutter builds suggest a single talent. Brewmaster healing talents and resource talents often hit this wall, because each row has a popular choice (Chi Wave and Ascension, currently), but there are good reasons to change that choice when need arises.

Today I want to talk about that quick’n’dirty audience, and how to better meet their needs. Right now my Brewmaster guide is sort of in the middle of catering to quick’n’dirty players and comprehensive players, which disrupts its ability to serve either group particularly well. To focus on the larger group, I want to find out what the majority of my guide readers look at, and use that information to craft a better experience.

The most popular guides on my site are the Quick and Dirty Raid guides. My Brewmaster guide pages get about 70% of the traffic my Q&D guides get (not counting my Brewmaster Weak Auras, which are organized in my guide but usually viewed separately from the rest).

(Not relevant to this conversation, but my Weak Auras guide gets about 50% of the hits my Q&D guides, which blows my mind because I haven’t really worked on those for a while, and I find my other guides much more useful. I guess a lot of people want UI stuff.)

The popularity of the Quick and Dirty guides makes sense — they are designed to be easy to digest and shareable. However, my brewmaster guide, while easy to read, is bogged down by a lot of details. I think if I wanted my Brewmaster guide to compare, it needs to better match my Q&D guides, or create an explicitly Q&D version of the brewmaster (and future vengeance) guide.

Of my brewmaster guide sections, they go in this order of popularity:

  1. Stats
  2. Active Mitigation / Rotation
  3. Talents
  4. Macros
  5. Trinkets
  6. Why Play a Brewmaster?
  7. Weapons
  8. Glyphs
  9. Enchants / Gems
  10. Tier
  11. Stagger
  12. Defensive Cooldowns
  13. Recent Changes
  14. Consumables

How can I use this data to further meet my audience’s needs in Legion? First, I need to focus on the sections that most people find valuable. Some of these sections will obviously be culled for the next expansion, like Glyphs and Weapons. And some I think can be combined, like Consumables are basically covered under Stats anyway.

Some sections have low popularity because they’re sort of “read once and done”, like Tier, and some have more hits because they’re useful to review more than once, like Macros. There’s still value in the low popularity pages, but they don’t need to be prioritized.

The top three sections are pretty obvious in hindsight: Stat Priority, Active Mitigation / Rotation, and talents. All three are of most interesting to a beginner, and Stat Priority is especially boosted because it’s viewed multiple times. If I wanted to make a Quick and Dirty Brewmaster guide, it should include these three, and follow these adapted Q&D guidelines that I use for my raid guides:

  • Stick to content most people do. According to Blizzard, that’s questing and dungeons, and I’m going to make the assumption that people start looking at guides when they enter dungeons.
  • Keep it condensed. Like the Q&D guides, try to keep it on a single screen-sized area, no scrolling.
  • Convention over configuration. A programming term, but I think it applies well here. The Q&D class guide should be easy to understand out of the box, and accomplish that by making suggestions without complicating them with “if”s and “maybe”s. Configuration (i.e. talents, stat and rotation variations) should be easy to find on deeper investigation, though.
  • Image-heavy, maybe even an infographic.
  • Sneak in a little explanation. Not too much, but people retain and understand information better when there’s a little bit of a “why”. “Don’t go into the woods” vs. “Don’t go into the woods because there’s poison ivy” vs. “Don’t go into the woods because there’s poison ivy and that will make your skin itchy but if you know what it looks like you can probably handle going into the woods.” I want the middle explanation for these guides.

So something like this:


To-do for future drafts:

  • Make it look nicer. More efficient use of white space.
  • HTML since I’m better at that when I have the time
  • Links to the details and all that
  • The Active Mitigation / Rotation layout could use some work, too. Maybe more pictures of the abilities in action.

This might sound like a backtracking from my article last December where I encouraged guide writers to avoid cookie cutter suggestions. And in a way it is, though I consider it an iteration, more like leaning in to what the game encourages and what players want. Experimentation is the way I want to play, and it’s the way many people want to play, but it’s not a majority, and I think I can still service both the in-depth and quick-and-dirty audiences by offering a clear distinction between the two.

The guide above is clearly marketed (if you will) as a fast solution, not an in-depth exploration. At least, no one has had trouble with me leaving out details in my Q&D boss guides, and I assume that’s because the name and layout imply intentional simplification. Even more could be done to indicate the intended simplification of a Q&D Brewmaster guide.

Anyway, these are just thoughts on stuff I’d like to do for guides in Legion. My hope is that by having a clear starting point in the Q&D Class Guides, people might a) learn to love the class quickly, without getting overwhelmed by details, and b) have a clear path to the details when they’re ready for them.

  • LamestOne

    While this all sounds like something to look forward to, I personally would always prefer to see comprehensive, in-depth guides from someone as knowledgeable as you. If I want a quick summary of what to do, I can always head on over to Icy-Veins or something, but I wouldn’t really know where to go for some in-depth theory crafting and more complex teachings. Either way, I look forward to your help through Legion!

    • Sunnier

      There was an early draft of this post that lamented about how this blog hasn’t provided comprehensive, in-depth guides since Cataclysm, so I should instead focus on what I’ve been doing well (such as Q&D guides) but I took that out because it was not very positive. :(

      Anyway, I tried to convey in this published version that just because this post talks about Q&D readers, that’s not my entire focus. It’s just what this post happens to be talking about.

  • Lariel

    I also think the Q&D guides might get more views because sometimes someone that may have forgotten how to play a Brewmaster (and/or hasn’t played one in a long time) might just need a quick reminder of a few things – and then they can take it from there, maybe even remembering things they might have seen in the more comprehensive guide. At least, it’s an experience I can relate to. :)

    • Sunnier

      Oh yeah! Returning players are another important subset of the Q&D audience. And one where visuals might be especially important (at least if I’m returning to a class I haven’t played in a while, I recognize the spell effects & their uses but always forget their names).

      • Lariel

        Yep! “What was the name of– oh, that icon!”

  • Jherek

    Personally I read class blogs to get a better understanding of my current class, or my kids, brothers, and family members current classes. As LamestOne said, when I just need a quick what to pick I would hit up Icy-Veins (usually to answer someones in-game question about a stat choice/talent recommendation). Also, for me I feel a stronger connection to my class because I know more about it. I know why I am making those choices, and why I am not choosing others.

    I am not a therorycrafter so blogs such as yours go a long way to keep this game pleasurable for people like myself.

    Thanks for all the work you do. Looking forward to your Legion updates.

    • Sunnier

      And like I said to LamestOne, just because I’m writing about the Q&D audience here doesn’t mean I’m forgetting about the comprehensive audience. Just by the act of reading and commenting on this post marks you as one of the vocal few comprehensive audiences, so what works better for you applies to whatever discussion I have on the comprehensive audience, not to this one.

      I’m a little confused why now two people have brought up Icy Veins as a comparison to my Q&D proposition, when Icy Veins and its type are the exact type of guide that exemplifies how guides fail both audiences (and I say that as a former Icy Veins contributor), and how Icy Veins actually provides more in-depth information than my guide does anyway? Like I get that it’s the top Google hit, so Q&D players are more likely to hit it anyway, but that’s an argument for the power of SEO, not their content. If we’re using the existence of Icy Veins as a reason why Q&D guides are a bad idea, that goes just as far to prove that all class guides are a bad idea, because the only content you can get here that you can’t get on Icy Veins is the blog posts, and those aren’t part of this discussion at all.

  • Ryan Blackburn

    I like the Q&D guides especially cause they offer a little of both basics and a little extra. I like the idea of Q&D Brewmaster and Vengeance guides with expanded bonus/in-depth sections. Similar to how Icy-Veins does it but I don’t like how they do it.

  • Rhyfel

    I like the quick and dirty guides for the raids, as they are a good tool to get the basics for when I want to tank something. I don’t tank much, but as Legion is getting closer I am getting a bug for it and considering changing to tank.

    But also there is a lot of value in the in-depth ones for those that are interested. We may be few and far between but it is a real help to those who are not as knowledgable as yourself to gain a new insight into a tanking spec.