Monday, March 23, 2009

Just the FAQs

Quick show of hands: how many readers have visited a web site that sports a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page? 

How often have you found the information you needed in an FAQ page?

For various reasons of physics, time and distance, there is no tallying this poll.  So we’ll have to venture guesses on the results, which are:  

a) Most, if not all, have visited web sites that have FAQ pages.

b) Rarely, if ever, have you found the information you needed in an FAQ page.

FAQ pages sprang from well-intentioned efforts to create a unique identity for web sites, which began life as little more than online brochures.  Easily edited and updated, the FAQ page is a way to keep sites up-to-date and give them more currency.

In some cases, like government sites, technical applications and procedural information, FAQ pages can be very useful because the alternative means travelling through a maze of sources to find answers.   

However, for many SMEs, FAQs can do more harm than good. 

It’s not that FAQ pages can’t be a source of useful information, but they are a victim of circumstance.  If an FAQ page has too many questions, visitors do not want to spend time hunting for one that relates to theirs.  Too few questions and the information is too sparse or general to be of real value.  (While FAQ search functions sometimes help to find the right information, they are also the source of the dreaded “No Results Found for ‘widgets’ ” sort of message – remember, customers love to bail from your site if they get frustrated.)

The content of your web site should answer anything that prospective customers ask repeatedly.  Strategic calls to action will encourage those with exceptional questions to contact you for answers - and become qualified as customers.

By Stephen Da Cambra

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