This is a topic I am weirdly passionate about. FAQs (and factsheets for that matter) are dead people. It’s time to move on.
There seems to be an enduring perception that publishing a factsheet or a set of FAQs on your website or intranet is an effective way to communicate something. It is seen as the solution to all problems. Even the most experienced communications professionals are guilty of using this approach, despite that niggling little feeling that it probably won’t work.
I know I have done it before. You need to get some content up quickly, so you whip together some FAQs. A client sends you a factsheet, and you have a million other things to do so you let it slip through. I knew it was wrong but it was just easier.
Factsheets are such old school thinking! It was a succinct way to communicate information when most of our communication materials were printed. Now in the digital age of websites and social media, they are no longer relevant for a range of reasons:
- Extra clicks – We all know that one of the features of a good website is a low number of clicks for a user to find the information they need. Factsheets work against this idea as users have to click through to open a PDF to find the information they need. Often navigating them away from the page they were on.
- Not user-friendly – Factsheets are often not presented in a way that is not searchable or accessible. You need an experienced publishing team, and an effective platform to overcome this issue. Why create the extra work?
- Too long – How many times have you seen a 5,6 or 7 page factsheet? So often they are really long, and in an age where we are used to quick sound bites that are delivered directly to us, this makes them even less effective.
Let’s cut to the chase, FAQs are a lazy way to write content.
The Digital Transformation Agency suggests “Instead of writing FAQs, write answers to important questions in the places where the user will expect to find them.” So logical!
The UK Government Communications Service are also doing away with FAQs as they no longer meet user’s needs. They create a lot of work for users as questions take longer to scan and understand than simple headings. FAQs also often lead to duplication of content as you write web pages with the same or similar information.
If you need FAQs because you are getting a lot of questions (not often actually the reason why you create FAQs), then your web content is not meeting users needs – update it!
What to do differently?
So the moral of the story is this – unless users need to download and print the information just create a web page!
Creating great, clear content, in a structure that makes sense to the user is a more effective approach.
Need help reviewing your website or intranet content, contact Elm Communications. With experience in creating great content that distills information quickly into a format and style that meets the audience needs Elm Communications will be able to help bring your content into this decade!