A reminder of the downsides of FAQs
Gerry McGovern outlines some of the key problems with FAQ sections on websites, including the following:
- If information is frequently asked for, you really ought to focus on it more in your navigation.
- FAQ sections are not user-centred because a user has no way of knowing if their question is “frequently asked”.
- They are easy for writers to create, but inconvenient for readers to use.
- They are often used not as a way of answering users’ questions but as another dumping ground for PR propaganda.
- Questions are less scannable by readers.
When I wanted to update my address for my TV license, out of desperation I ended up on the FAQ page. The first question was: “Why is it important to pay your TV license?” Right. A definite FAQ…
Sarah Richards, who did excellent work for GOV.UK in creating useful content, has written a number of great pieces debunking the FAQ. “FAQs are convenient for writers,” Sarah has written. “They put everything in a long list; it’s all neatly organised and the ‘Q’ does a lot of work for you. But they’re more work for readers – questions take longer to scan and understand than simple headings and you can’t take any meaning from them in a quick glance.”