The Bad UX of FAQs

Posted By Debbie on February 6, 2015

Categories: UX/UI

Tags: content strategy, FAQs

Even in 2015, I am still seeing website clients and projects asking for room for their FAQs (frequently asked questions).

I’m against FAQs. There, I said it. They’re content without strategy, as I like to say. I believe they are a bad user experience. Why?

They tell people who don’t like to read to read more.

People hate reading. If they are missing some really important things about your products or services, consider that your design is failing you. It’s easy to assume customers are lazy. We’re all lazy. You are too. We’re amazed you’re still reading this.

The last thing someone who doesn’t like reading needs is more to read. This means kill your FAQs.

Where should this content actually have been placed?

Instead of having FAQs, look at placing that content where it’s relevant to your visitor or customer. Answers about how and when you ship need to go somewhere dominant where people will find that info. The most important shipping info might need to go on the product page near the “Add To Cart” button. Perhaps it should go on the shopping cart page. I can’t say without knowing the particular project and audience, but consider that important content goes near relevant actions or content.

It wouldn’t make sense for us to have an Axure Training page that has content broken up into tabs and then have a FAQ tab. Why not take what would appear under that FAQ and reorganize the information so that each content block is where it belongs in each tab’s content?

Get rid of unimportant copy.

Can you edit your content down? Sometimes we see FAQs that are very conversational and much longer than they need to be.

One great example is an eCommerce return policy. People just want to know they can return something. When they are focused on shopping and buying, they don’t need an entire page on the 10 steps you need them to take to return something. Remember that especially if you require a return authorization, then every customer is contacting you before returning an item.

That means that your website can sum up your return policy in 2 sentences. Then have a full page (not made dominant or made a priority link) to the WHOLE return how-to process. When people contact you wanting to know the steps to take, you send them there. But you don’t need to send them there when they are shopping. Focus on selling right now, not on making people read a page about returning.

If it’s not FA, get rid of it.

If it’s not “frequently asked,” get rid of it. The most you can cut copy down, the more likely it is that people will eyeball or read it. People might read small bites of something. The average user will flee when faced with a FAQ page with 35 questions and answers, especially when they are not organized in categories.

If you have put good shipping and return info where users are likely to see it, remove, “Do you accept returns?” and “When will this be shipped?” That shouldn’t be hidden in a FAQ. Take it out and put that where it affects the user’s decisions and behavior.

When is the last time you went and read a FAQ?

You’re not doing it. You’re avoiding FAQs. If you don’t like them, why would your visitor like them? Would you read all of that? No? Then why unleash a user experience you don’t want on your current or potential customers.