Frequently Asked Questions is a good section to have in your website. They give users a chance to figure out things by themselves instead of wasting resources (both yours and theirs) with a 1-to-1 conversation (chat, Skype, messenger and so on).
But FAQ’s are a different type of content. Just like search and sitemap, it has its own particularities and things that you can do to improve user experience. You have to keep in mind, for instance, that users don’t go to FAQ pages, you have to lead them there.
Here we’ll see a couple of thoughts about it, good practices, inspiration and tools.
So, let’s rock!
7 check points
Ok, first thing you need to keep in mind: Users don’t read on the web. They scan the page trying to find main keywords about something that may be important to them (just like 90% of you are doing right now). So use good headlines and questions keywords, avoid clichés and keep them short.
If you can, outline main keywords, like searched terms, or main topics.
2. FAQ or WAQ?
For a long time FAQs have been misused, instead of real and relevant content, companies put questions they “wished” users would ask (WAQ, Wished to be Asked Questions).
It’s very important to put users needs first, just cover topics that are really important to them. Otherwise it’ll be just another page trying to hide the solution from them. Which, by the way, won’t solve the problem at all, leading to future problems, like unnecessary support requests, or lost sales.
3. People don’t go to FAQ pages
People don’t go looking for FAQs. It’s not a common workflow thinking “Hey, I need to know about their refund policy.. Let’s go to FAQ”. Sounds strange, huh?
So you have to interlink it wisely in places where users may need help. Like using them along with search pages. Or using them as a “wall” before chat with real attendants: Ask the user what kind of problem they have, then suggest a few FAQ searched items based on the users keywords.
4. Sometimes you don’t need to lead them to FAQ, just use tooltips instead
FAQ are great to provide complete answers, but if you just want to tell users how features work, or which type of data they should put in a registration form just go with tooltips or something like that.
Oh, and don’t forget to make it easy and mobile friendly, or in other words, don’t use just a simple hovering element or title attribute. You may use a plugin or add it as a plain text right above your field or button.
5. Do you really need an FAQ?
I know I’m saying that it’s important, but it has its place in websites. It’s a good idea for sales websites, services, apps… But if you have a simple blog or simple company website, just create an “about” page and you’ll be fine.
Have you ever thought about it? If you have a single page with good keyword density about your product and link it in several places inside your website, it can be a really good landing page.
So, think carefully about it, it may lead a lot of users to your website.
Again, Keep It Simple,
Stupid my friend .You don’t need to clarify every single question that may pop up about your product. You may categorize questions (if you have a huge amount of them), show content just when users need it.
Just keep in mind that landing page idea, you have to talk about the most main topics and solve users problems fast, if not they will just leave website.
Like I said above, you may hide content by default and just show it when a user wants/requires it. You can use, for instance, jQuey Collapsible panels plugin and create dynamically collapsible panels. You can also use jQuery accordion plugins.
Another good thing to do, is add a “Table of contents” with smooth scrolling, so users can reach what they want easily and with a pretty cool effect.
Scrolling like a boss
How about reading a tutorial on it?
Well, Matthew Corner wrote a tutorial with smooth scrolling, table of contents and good looking, and you can just download and edit it to better fit your needs.
Doing the right markup
Although many people use simple headings (h2,h3) for questions and paragraphs for answers, I think that it’s much more semantically correct using definition lists for them. So you may use definition title(s) and definition description(s) to wrap them up accordingly.
Another option, really good one actually, is to use the <details> HTML5 element, which gives you those good looking collapsible panels by default (with browsers that support it, of course).
Nice examples out there
Search + FAQ
Paypal uses a really good system where users can see their FAQ or search by keywords, as well.
FAQ preventing unnecessary support
It pretty common to have users asking you really dumb questions. Don’t get me wrong, but sometimes they could easily find the answer themselves, if we gave them a chance.
Doing the easy way
Did you know that we have a tool for FAQ development? Pretty cool, huh? It’s called FAQme, and worth trying!
FAQ, the Social Way
If you’re more of a social company, why not use a tool that integrates questions and people? Well, I’ve seen a couple of (young) companies using FormSpring as a simple way to answer real questions and let them be easily accessed by other clients
I'm a web designer and entrepreneur from Itajubá (MG), Brasil. I love writing about obscure topics and doing some cool stuff. And also I do some FREE stuff, check it out: http://www.roch.com.br/