Will an FAQ Help?

A pile of foam question mark shapes

Many websites make use of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web page or section of one. This can be a great method of communicating answers to common inquiries from the respected audiences of a business. Having an FAQ can direct users to a one-stop-shop for finding answers to their internal questions that they may have otherwise spent time in contacting someone for help. Let’s face it, our attention spans are short and time even shorter. Users generally visit a website to answer unconscious or consciously thought questions in order to gather data and make a buying decision. The faster their answers can be delivered, the happier they are.

From a distance, an FAQ section sounds like a quick and easy solution for users and a 5-star win for websites, but are there any downsides? When it comes to FAQ’s, there are a few things to consider:

What is your true call-to-action for your website?

I often hear clients say they want an FAQ section so that they won’t receive any phone calls. If your company is small and busy enough, this can be a viable reason. However, is that your goal? What if we flip this? Maybe your business has strong communication and sales skills, and they can win a customer over in a phone call or email every time. In this case, perhaps that person-to-person conversation is desired because it will convert customers better. There is risk in both cases – of encouraging or discouraging this type of communication.

For the user that wants quick info, an FAQ may be perfect. And if they don’t get their quick answer, they may not bother asking for help to start a conversation because it’s time-consuming. But for the user or audience that wants to talk, an FAQ may not be effective. In short, you want to really understand your audience when deciding methods of delivering information on your website.

Is the question really frequent?

People think in questions, so an FAQ makes sense. However, it’s easy to stretch any question as an FAQ. If one person calls or sends an email about a question, this does not mean it’s appropriate for an FAQ. There are no shortcuts. For a question to fit the criteria of an FAQ, it must indeed be a frequently asked question. If you have too many questions listed, it can come across as overwhelming to a user and therefore not valuable.

To reiterate what was mentioned earlier, our attention spans are short, and it’s rare that users want to read a lot of text content to find a question. If you organize the information carefully on your website, those internal questions should be easily found without the need for an FAQ.

Takeaway: Frequently asked questions can be useful content to use on a website, but there must be standards for making the list.

Action Steps: 

  • Start keeping track of the questions you receive from your audience and observe the true frequency.
  • Regularly audit your FAQ’s for relevancy and if they are indeed frequently asked.
  • Review your website’s information architecture and if content can be organized better for finding information quickly.
“Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design.”
–Charles Eames–
Founder of Creative Seed, Maria Gosur is a designer, developer, entrepreneur, and educator who loves to learn, grow, inspire, succeed, and help others do the same.

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