The articles “Putting the A in the FAQs: How to Write Excellent FAQs that Answer User Questions” and “Making Self-Service Work: How To Write FAQs That Help Customers Help Themselves” by Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O’Flahavan at E-WRITE give tips on asking the right questions and answering them effectively.
With well-written, user-focused FAQs, Rudick and O’Flahavan say you can offer customers web self-service that is personalized, customer-enabling, transaction-completing and purchase-facilitating.
The authors identify the most common FAQ writing problems and provide solutions and other tips.
- Too many questions overwhelm the user. Limit the general FAQ to a few top questions with links to additional information and related topics included in the answers. Create specialized FAQs for specific products, services and types of users.
- Disorganized FAQs are difficult to use. Group questions into logical sections with consistent scopes and no overlaps.
- Vaguely worded questions are useless. Write concise and precise questions using the appropriate question word, whether who, what, when, why or how.
- Some FAQs fail to answer questions. Give clear and direct answers. For example, “why” questions should be answered with reasons; “when” questions should be answered with dates or times; and “how” questions should be answered with processes and procedures.
- Dead-end answers do not enable the user to do what needs to be done. Include or link to information needed by the user to take action.
- Marketing hype is just fluff. Provide instead a list of specific product features and benefits that the user can base decisions on.
- Place the FAQ section near other types of help. Provide users with other ways to get answers, such as via e-mail, mail, phone, fax or live chat.
- Do not limit questions and answers to the FAQ section. Integrate these in relevant areas throughout the site.
Finally, the authors advice that FAQs be updated frequently.
Now that answers a lot of our questions.