Web 101: Answering Visitor Questions

header helpVisitor behavior at our websites can offer great insight into their needs and concerns. Looking at data and form inputs is great, but don’t lose sight of the need to have a more immediate way to answer questions.

Enter the frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.

I’ll admit I have never been a great fan of the FAQ page, fearing that they become nothing more than a dumping ground for content that doesn’t fit elsewhere in the navigation or, worse, that they allow site owners to ignore the need for navigation altogether.

A recent post from Nielsen Norman Group has me rethinking my stance. They argue that a FAQ page serves an important function and is a worthy component of an effective website.

They offer the following benefits of FAQ:

  • Improve SEO and increase site visits: People don’t search for your solution, they search for their problem
  • Reduce the burden on customer service staff: publish the answers to the most common questions and your visitor does not have to call
  • Route visitors to other key content An opportunity to expose visitors to something he or she may not have considered
  • Insight into emerging and urgent problems and site improvement needs

The last point is key and I suspect that not many businesses make use of this aspect of FAQ. Your site FAQ should be part of your metrics tracking and carefully analyzed. What questions are people asking most often? Is the information accurate and sufficient?

The main goal of capturing and answering questions should be to help improve the next cycle of products, services, and information, as well as the overall user experience. Is there an avenue for visitors to give you feedback on your FAQ and/or ask questions that are not addressed?

Rather than a benefit, a static FAQ that is wrong, incomplete, or just another way you are talking at your visitors rather than serving them, helps no one.