Wednesday, 11 February 2015

FAQs - not great for UX, whatever Nielsen says

At the end of last year, Nielsen Norman Group published an article talking up the website FAQ. I usually only post on positives and what I think is good advice, so didn't blog about this as I didn't agree. However, a couple of responses to this contentious article are well worth a read.

First off, here's the article from Nielsen Norman Group which basically says FAQs can be good if done well.

FAQs Still Deliver Great Value - article by Susan Farrell for

The problem for me with this article is that if you knew as much about your audiences and their goals and behaviours as its recommended you do to do a good job of FAQs, why not just get the website right in the first place? Then you wouldn't need FAQs. Because face it, they're pretty much a last resort when navigation and search have failed you.

To me, the way to approach developing a website is as advocated by Jesse James Garrett in his diagram and book, The Elements of User Experience: be clear about your objectives and your audiences goals, then develop content and functionality to meet these goals and objectives, then structure based on what you've produced, and so on. With FAQs, you're basically starting with an approach to navigation and the working backwards. Doing it all the wrong way round.

Anyway, others put it better than me. Gerry McGovern wrote a good article this week, and referenced an excellent response to the Nielsen article by Sarah Richards (former Head of Comtent Design for the UK Government Digital Service (GDS)).

FAQs are the dinosaurs of web navigation - article by Gerry McGovern

FAQs: Why we don't have them - GDS blog post by Sarah Richards

Sarah Richards' blog post response to the NNG article

Previous related posts

FAQ usability guidelines (February 2012)

Elements of User Experience (November 2009)




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