I'm developing a company FAQ page from scratch and am interested in opinions on what makes the most effective FAQ page.
I'm interested more in considering the information architecture and layout than the content. I've tried researching on the web but end up running more into actual FAQ pages, or FAQs about page design, web design or page layout than about the design of a FAQ itself.
I've encountered a small number of generic FAQ layouts:
- a list of questions; clicking the question causes the content to be revealed immediately below the question and before the next
- a list of questions; the answer immediately follows each question with no further user action required
- a list of questions; each is an in-page link to somewhere further down the page where the question and answer are to be found
- a list of questions; each is a link to page with one answer per page
I have only my experience and personal preference to go on and am unable to unearth any data supporting one design over another.
I'm hoping you all will have some intelligent opinions on this and that we'll all benefit from sharing this, covering such matters as:
- What makes one FAQ page better than another?
- What impressive FAQ pages have you seen?
- Does any one FAQ page design prove more effective?
I'd greatly appreciate any thoughts on the matter!
To me, an effective FAQ page(s) needs to fulfill the followings:
- Users can browse and locate the question easily
- Users can view the answers with minimal ease
- Navigation (if any) between questions
should be minimal
Having said that, I do not think there's any single ideal FAQ page layout/concept. Really depends on:
- Number of questions
- Type of questions or grouping/categories
- Nature of anwers (single short sentences vs long paragraphs with images etc)
- Target users (controlled group like intranet or public internet users)
One more last point, the ability for the information to be printable (if required).
If your FAQ list grows to be very large, structure it with a few easy-to-follow categories marked by headings, e.g. Getting Started, Common Errors, etc. A large list would also be a good candidate for having separate pages per category.
However, I (personally) can't imagine a scenario where having one page per question would be useful, unless a frequently asked question cannot be answered in a paragraph or so.
Number your question/answer pairs. The lack of this is actually something that's irked me about FAQ lists quite often, for example, when a friend asks me a question that I remember seeing on a FAQ page and I'd like to refer him to it.
The goal is to make questions easy to find and easily answered. If there are a few questions that you know are sought after significantly more often than the rest, make them subtly stronger or more prominent in the layout.
After proof reading my post, I came up with a potential benefit to hosting one question per page: You can keep track of page views and learn which questions are the most popular!
I agree with most of what Justin Workman wrote.
Given your list of options, I prefer the third (which is really the same as the second, plus a menu of questions at the top of the page), but also add a search box.
This takes care of the three most common ways I use FAQ pages: search for a specific term, look through the available questions to see if my question is in there, or browse through all the questions to learn more general information.
To me it depends on the type of information, the lengths of the answers, and the overall consideration of usability. I think the ideal FAQs page just finds the best balance between the three.
Take for example FAQs about Google's products. Obviously a list of questions that are in-page links would not be the ideal way to explain how to use Google's webmaster tools. Likewise, you won't need the search-with-full-page-answers solution if you have 10 questions with 1 paragraph answers.
I always choose your third option (list of questions with in-page links) because it seems like a good combination approach. But even that is really just a less snazzy version of the first option (the magically appearing answers).
I'd go for the simple route. If you don't make your FAQ too long, you'll be able to put everything on one page with a simple TOC at the top.
Not snazzy, but usable.