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Why You Need to Rethink Your F.A.Q. Page

By Shaun Tinney
3 minute read | Last Updated: March 2, 2016

Think of “Frequently Asked Questions” as “Questions your site frequently fails to answer” then adjust your site content to help your customers find what they’re looking for.

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”

—Henry David Thoreau

Getting user feedback is hard.

It’s so hard that companies pay war chests of hard-earned revenue to consulting agencies who wheedle it from their audience. They drag Average Joes into two-way mirror testing chambers, invade their most private social networks and inject popup surveys between them and their content at every permissible opportunity, all in the name of finding out what is meaningful to them.

So, you’d think if there were an abundance of voluntarily-provided feedback, they’d treat it like some kind of godsend and react to it with equal parts compassion and excitement. Instead, we get the modern FAQ page.

I’m just going to come right out and say it – 99% of FAQ pages are built on two kinds of bullshit: lies or laziness.

Let’s set aside the mind-bogglingly inane practice of inventing your own “frequently-asked” questions (the “lies” part) and assume your clientele truly is persistently barraging you with the same set of inquiries, day in and day out.

If people are constantly asking you the same questions, it means two things:
  1. These questions are important to your audience, and…
  2. Your website is doing a crap job in answering them

Your website’s users don’t want to contact you to get the information they need — that’s why they’re on your website to begin with. For them, reaching out is a last resort. And for each that does, many others won’t even bother.

It’s what you do with your post-launch findings that matters, and putting them to applicable use is a golden opportunity for improvement.

Of course, we can’t predict every single aspect of an interaction ahead of time and users are bound to surprise us with things we hadn’t planned for. It’s what you do with your post-launch findings that matters, and putting them to applicable use is a golden opportunity for improvement. Shelving them away in a dark corner of your website is not a particularly great way to seize the opportunity, to say the least.

Like your customers’ resistance to reach out, it should also be a last resort for you to create an FAQ page. In most cases it’s a cop-out, a white flag of surrender. Most FAQ pages are basically saying “We give up. There’s no way to design this site to accommodate user needs X, Y and Z — let’s just toss ’em in a catch-all bin.”

So what can you do instead? Treat user feedback as what it is: a valuable list of potential improvements you need to investigate and, usually, adapt your site around.

Treat user feedback as what it is: a valuable list of potential improvements you need to investigate and, usually, adapt your site around.

Sick of people asking you how much your product costs? Find a way for the website to better answer that question ahead of time. Getting pestered with tedious requests for info already available on the site? Could be time to find ways to surface it using a more resonant language or content structure. Annoyed with all of the questions about how to recover lost passwords? Sounds like the current sign-in component isn’t doing its job.

Your website exists to serve the overlapping needs of the business and its customers. It exists in a continually changing social environment, and that change needs to be met with equally continuous internal calibration. Let’s take every opportunity we can to genuinely attend to the feedback we value, stop guessing at what people might want to know, and start paying attention instead.