Website help and support systems should avoid FAQ’s
FAQ’s are very much vested in intranet thinking, that assumes if users want help they work for us and know the terminology and have similar tasks / goals to other users on the internal net. Websites conversely support users from every experience of life, who while focused on a product or service are not professionals in that product or service.
FAQ’s rely on users knowing what the are looking for in the same way the dictionary works. So if I know your jargon, I can find the help I’m looking for. What happens to normal human beings who just want help? For the most part they are frustrated by poor technology and worse poor thinking which reduces their trust in companies and brands.
Building a modern support system is about users not information silos
Users tend to look for help in a specific context, i.e. to their problem, in the age of custom publishing and personalisation its really simple to provide in context help. Not only does contextual help aid users it provides key management information for companies to understand both their customers (user behaviour) and their products or services (performance) as they are used.
Other types of help
If FAQ’s are not usable, what is?
- How to (video, steppers)
- Diagnostics (decision trees, interactive triggers in video)
- Discovery (demo, calculators, scenarios, community of use)
If FAQ’s are the only content you have you may end up having to use them as the authors may now be senior staff, but someone should think about users first. When users think of the company or brand is it from the perspective of their experience or word of mouth experience.
What does your help and support system tell people about you?