Thursday, 14 October 2010

McGovern on FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions are the product of organisation-centric approaches to web publishing, says Gerry McGovern and I'm inclined to agree with him. For my money, FAQs high up in the site structure are like a big warning sign flashing on your website saying, "The structure of this website is not user-focused and the really important stuff is hard to find!"

If you have things that are frequently asked for - things people visit your website for time and again - promote them in your structure and navigation. Don't bury them behind a generic and unhelpful label. Frequently asked questions are a last resort for a user who has run out of options to try. How often do you visit a website for the first time in search of something and immediately click on the link labelled FAQ?

By all means, at the deeper points in your site where you're dealing with the detail of a specific topic, format your content in a question and answer format if you think this works best. What is being advocated against here is lumping lots of popular but not-particularly-related content under one, unhelpful label.

At least I know what FAQ means. However, I have found that many ordinary people have no idea. It's a real IT term and is completely foreign to millions of people... The reason why FAQs are so unsuccessful is because they reflect organization-centric language and thinking. The organization knows if a question is frequently asked or not, but how can a customer know?

The problems with FAQs - article by Gerry McGovern

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