You are an expert of everything your business says and does but your potential customers are not. Therefore what you write on your website to help them understand what you do is extremely important. You cannot assume anything. And this is where frequently asked questions help support you to support them. I talk about how FAQs, when used correctly on websites, can add value and provide your customers with the help they are searching for.
INTRO: This is the Help! My Website Sucks podcast – your bitesize guide to web design. I’m Amy Gumbrell, a freelance WordPress web designer and when I’m not building udderly functional and beautiful websites, I love talking about them. In fact I’m on a mission to make websites next level easy and to make sure that your website doesn’t suck.
As part of this series, I wanted to talk about a page on your website that often divides opinion amongst marketing folk, content creators, web designers and anyone working with or on websites. The decision to include a frequently asked questions page on your business website is like all the pages, completely up to you and what you want to use your website for. However many believe they have no place in the modern day and serve little purpose. I’ve found a brilliant example of this on the gov.uk website where they talk about why they don’t use FAQs – more about that later. For that reason in this episode I’m going to offer my own opinion on why I think FAQs, when implemented correctly, can be useful for your audience and can offer value to your business. Let’s wade on in to this debate and get on with it!
Frequently Asked questions came about as a way of offering self service customer service. It helped organisations collate questions they were asked on a regular basis and offer immediate responses. As the format has been around for many years, originating in the 80s with the start of the Internet, it became a familiar sight on websites so businesses kept on creating FAQ pages. However, the internet has changed considerably since then and websites are now just one piece in the digital strategy of a business. By that I mean there are many ways to find out the answer to frequently asked questions without having to trawl through individual website – yep, I’m referring to Google, Bing and other search engines. In fact many believe this is the reason that the FAQ has had its day and should be allowed to retire gracefully. The argument is that if they are a truly a question that gets asked a lot, you should already be covering this in your business content creation through copy on your website, blogs, social media posts, case studies and so on. Whilst I don’t disagree with this statement – you should definitely be looking at ways to help your customers by busting myths or explaining technical things in a simpler way – I do still believe that the FAQ, does still have a home in some cases , on some websites if implemented correctly.
So what do I mean by this ‘implementing correctly’? It’s clear that a long list of questions and answers crammed in to a page on your website is going to be difficult to read and process. In fact this is bad practice and is something I strongly recommend NOT doing on your website BUT if you were to offer categories and chunk the FAQs into topics, this would be easier to access and much more visually appealing. In order to create a great FAQ, it’s important to stick to some key points so here are my top 5 tips:
- They have to be easy to find and navigate – link to them in your main menu or add a link in your footer. Make it easy for people to search them.
- Write the question using ‘I’ as this is how your customer would ask it. e.g. they want to know ‘how I can return an item?’ and not ‘how you can return an item?’ Oh and don’t even think about using jargon – your customer doesn’t speak like that so don’t write like that!
- Keep answers short – don’t link elsewhere – this is just annoying.
- For yes/no questions, your answer should get to the point by starting with a “yes” or a “no” – people want a straight answer not some wishy-washy umming and ahhing answer.
- Add in some personality – this helps to lighten the boringness of a FAQ section or page and is a nice way of reminding your potential customer that there is a human behind the website!
A final advantage of a great FAQ page on your website is related to SEO – search engine optimisation is an ongoing process and a well-written FAQ page can improve this. When we use a search engine, we often type in a question. Usually we’re writing about our problem rather than what the solution is – if we knew the answer, we wouldn’t be on there! If you can tap in to the way your audience asks questions, these targeted queries will better match your FAQ so people will get sent to the most relevant place. Always a win when you find the answer to your question quickly!
Before I wrap up this episode, I want to go back to something I said earlier on about a blog article I found on the Gov.uk website from 2013 that set out why they don’t have FAQs on their website. The article is all about why they don’t have a FAQ page and also why they don’t recommend them. Everyone is of course entitled to their opinion – they cite speed as an issue, duplication and even that it is tonally wrong for them as an organisation – all very reasonable reasons but it was the final one that made me giggle. They have used a post on Twitter (as it was back in 2013) to argue that ‘Twitter agrees with them’ I’m sorry what now?!? To be fair the post makes sense – it says ‘FAQs are a way to show that you’ve thought about what your users should know but haven’t thought about your users.’ However it’s the idea that a whole social media platform says it’s bad so that’s what we’re going to go with?!?
As I said at the start, there really are strong opinions against FAQs on websites out there. However, there still remains some good reasons to keep them. Have you already got a page dedicated to it on your website? Does it work for you? Did Twitter make you do it too? I would love to hear from you.
OUTRO: If you’re hearing this message, you’ve reached the end of another Help! My Website Sucks podcast episode. Thank you so much for listening – I really appreciate it. If you need help with your website, get in touch at twocowsweb.co.uk and until next time bye bye for now!