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A Frequently Asked Questions page is necessary if you’re selling something, providing a service, or giving information about a complex subject. It takes the guesswork away from your visitors who may have questions, and makes the experience that much easier. When designing a FAQ page, usability should be at the top of the list of criteria to meet – after all you don’t want it to turn into a black hole of information. In this article I will present effective techniques and solutions to designing a FAQ page, with consideration given to how visitors will use the page.
Remember that a FAQ should supplement good content, with answers to those questions also found elsewhere on the site. It’s a section of questions that visitors genuinely ask and should be arranged with care. Above all, keep it simple! Your user is more interested in finding specific information than anything else. Read on to discover how to best present a FAQ page.
In putting together questions for inclusion on your site, it’s essential they be real. Give yourself a month and collect all the questions you receive from customers in that time frame via email or direct calls.
Another valuable research technique is to ask good friends or customers to give you feedback on your products or service. What questions popped into their minds when they visited your website. (You might offer a small gift or discount to your customers in exchange for feedback.)
After getting everyone’s comments, assemble the questions and group by category. For example, questions about how quickly you ship products would be under your “Shipping” category, etc.
Questions and answers are clearly displayed on the website for Pixelmator.
If you’re going to provide a FAQ page, finding it should be easy for your visitors. A distinct, well-positioned link will do the trick. There are a few good entry points which I’ve gathered:
A support link is displayed in the top navigation on VersionApps.
I’ve stressed at the beginning of this article how important the information in this section is, and how users are primarily concerned with scanning to find their appropriate topic for an answer. The best way to achieve customers satisfaction in this area is to provide typography with a good contrast between the background and the text itself and to address line and letter spacing.
Tinkering Monkey uses a different font and size to differentiate the questions from the answers.
Categories are the best way to organize a longer FAQ. Categorization aids readability, so it’s important to design a hierarchy that users can easily access. Give short, intuitive names to each category to further enhance readability and avoid confusion. You also don’t want to include more categories than are necessary, so choose them wisely based on the questions you’ve collected earlier.
Mint.com has a well-categorized FAQ page complete with succinct and descriptive categories. Their most frequently viewed questions help guide the users to pertinent topics.
If a user can’t find an answer to their question, it would be a great idea to allow them to contact you directly. A question or contact form that allows them to achieve this through your FAQ page is the best alternative.
If a FAQ has many categories and sub-categories, search becomes more important than ever. It’s essential for longer FAQ pages where a customer is likely to encounter lots of questions.
The label of the search feature on the FAQ page of SurveyMonkey works well.
SXSW clearly designates their search field through bold typography and a catchy illustration.
While not the most glamorous part of any given site to design, the FAQ is where a user goes when they have a question about the rest of the site. With this in mind, it’s pivotal that you address usability concerns in the design of the FAQ. Putting careful thought into how your users will use your FAQ’s is of the utmost concern, as you intend to have these visitors stick around for the duration.
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