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Six Tips for a Killer FAQ Page

FAQ Board

Photo by: xmacex

One of the best tips in your usability quiver is the FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions page. The book Producing Free and Open Source Software defines it best:

A FAQ (“Frequently Asked Questions” document) can be one of the best investments a project makes in terms of educational payoff. FAQs are highly tuned to the questions users and developers actually ask—as opposed to the questions you might have expected them to ask—and therefore, a well-maintained FAQ tends to give those who consult it exactly what they’re looking for. The FAQ is often the first place users look when they encounter a problem, often even in preference to the official manual, and it’s probably the document in your project most likely to be linked to from other sites.

Most sites have these and that’s great. Where most sites fall short though is they build their FAQ the wrong way and cut into its utility. Here are some tips on creating a good FAQ:

1. Keep it Short

Remember a document isn’t done when there is nothing left to add. It’s done when there is nothing left to take away. The shorter the FAQ is, the easier it is for your users to find what’s relevant to them.

When writing questions and answers the question should be a single sentence with no wordwrapping on a normal display and the answer should be a single paragraph.

2. Get Relevant Questions–By Asking

How do you make a relevant FAQ? You stock it full of questions people actually ask. To find these questions Feedback Army can help. I saw a customer visit Feedback Army and ask the following:

Please Help us Make a Useful FAQ Section:

1. Visit our site http://www.____________
2. Provide us with 2-4 questions you had and could not answer while browsing our site.

Normal FAQ development is an organic process. People ask questions, you notice a pattern, and you put them up. If you’ve got a new site Feedback Army can help you seed that process by sending the first impressions of many new eyes direct to you.

3. Make it Easy to Skim

FAQ pages consist of sections each with multiple questions. The Feedback Army FAQ has 3-5 questions per section. This makes it easier for a reader to skim the section headers before digging into the content.

Some FAQs let the user click on the questions to expand the answers. This is a helpful way to aid scanning while keeping the information nearby. The FAQ is a good example of this.

4. Label it Correctly

FAQ has existed in the internet lexicon for a long time. New users may not know what an FAQ is but many do. Because of this some sites have started labeling their FAQ as a Help link. Some users are drawn to it and others are confused by it. If you’re going to call the link Help, I recommend inserting a link labeled FAQ in the footer section of your website.

5. Put Your FAQ Where Users Expect It

In the last tip I mentioned putting a link to the FAQ in the footer of your site. The first place I look for an FAQ is the right or bottom of the navigation bar (just above or to the left of the Contact link). The second place is the footer. The third is the upper right corner of your site. If you’re putting it anywhere else you’re probably confusing users.

If there is a debate over this in your office, consider the use of Feedback Army. Ask the following.

Please visit our site and find our frequently asked questions page, then answer these questions:

1. Where is our FAQ page?
2. How long did it take you to find it?
3. What were you looking for when trying to find our FAQ page?
4. What would improve this process?

6. Use a Ratings System to Get Feedback on Questions and Answers

It’s helpful to attach a ratings system to each question and answer. I like how does this on their support page. They ask a question: “Was this helpful?” and provide a thumbs up or thumbs down link visitors can click. Clicking one of these is a frictionless way to express joy or pain from the question. Building a ratings system isn’t difficult. Over time you can use this information to pick which questions need to be revised. After all, confused users means lost sales.

Final Thoughts

That’s it. An FAQ isn’t too complicated. The trick is to make it easy to skim, keep it short, follow the right format, and stock it with questions people ask. If it’s findable on your site then you’ll have a great resource that is sure to keep your customers happy and coming back.

Posted in usability testing on February 23, 2010 | 4 Comments »

4 Comments on “Six Tips for a Killer FAQ Page”

Tony Stubblebine Says:

Link to your FAQ is wrong. Your FAQ page is questions.slp not faq.slp. Otherwise, great article!
.-= Tony Stubblebine´s last blog ..Experiences, not features =-.

Colin Says:

These are some great points. One thing I’d like to point out is to remember to answer your questions simply and succinctly. Avoid throwing in corporate speak.

Example for the question: “Do you offer international support?”

“At XYZ Corp we are dedicated to providing great support to as many people as possible. Unfortunately at this time we do not offer international support.”

is not as good as

“No. Expect it in the future.”

If you’re looking to add an FAQ page to your site with an Ask a Question form and searching, check out my tool BreezyFAQ

rsmudge Says:

@Tony, thanks for the tip. Fixed the FAQ link.

Harleqin Says:

The main point should be that the FAQ should consist of questions that actually have been asked frequently. I have seen too many instances where the “FAQ” page was just another place for advertisement blurb.

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