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With excellent search engines, effective tagging and automatic product suggestions, FAQs ought to be a thing of the past. And yet, the ‘frequently asked questions’ page is still doing sterling work on many websites. Why is it so useful? The answer is that good web development means accepting users as they are, rather than trying to change them, and website users use FAQs.
Even the best in-site search engine won’t help if customers don’t use it. Users typically prefer to click a link than do a search, so a well-designed website FAQs can save a lot of irate emails. If even 1% of your visitors have a question you’re not answering, that’s adds up to a lot of lost sales over a year.
An effective FAQ or Q&A page doesn’t need to provide a detailed answer to every question – a link to the right page or product will do. It’s a catch-all place for any questions that are asked frequently, as the name suggests. So while you might want to include basic information, such as shipping costs and a link to your terms and conditions page, you should also answer any question you get asked repeatedly, whether it’s ‘can you send me a box of chilli’s?’ or ‘do I need a mobile site now we have responsive design?’
In web development terms, an FAQ is like a landing page. It’s a page your customers will come to because they’re looking for something else, like the transit hall in an airport. Your goal is to make their stay as short and sweet as possible.
As a result, it’s important to pay attention to the web design and layout of your FAQ page. Don’t make your customers hunt for a link to your Q&A page. Don’t force your readers to wade through a long page. Instead, list the questions at the top of the page and if there are more than about 7, divide them into sections. If you have a complex site or product, consider setting up multiple FAQ pages, perhaps one for each product or site area. All of these should follow the same best practice rules as for a single page, and be linked to each other and from a main FAQ page.
The question and answer format of an FAQ is gold dust for search engines. If you’ve studied keywords or the terms that people enter on Google to get to your site, they’ll often look like nonsense or half a question: “how to web design Portsmouth” or “SEO marketing for beginners”. From a web development perspective, a Q&A provides an opportunity to use the language of searchers – the language of the question, of the problem, not just of the answer.