By Ultan O'Broin-Oracle on Aug 14, 2010
We're all familiar with the concept of the Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) type of user assistance. But I have a question of my own, infrequently asked: "If it's a frequently asked question, then why?"
Frequently Asked Questions, to me, may indicate that it wasn't possible to execute a completely intuitive user experience, this time, for some categories of users. However, if a question is "frequently asked" then it also makes sense to treat it as a requirement gathering exercise; an opportunity to improve the usability of the interface as quickly as possible using the information in the FAQ itself.
FAQs are about performing tasks directly, of course, but they go beyond the straight "how-to" procedure. Some may explain the meaning of something, the consequences of a decision in advance, or the downstream consequences of a task that a user may need to know before acting, and so on.
Oracle Applications Help System (EBS) Procurement FAQs
There's a need for these sorts of orientation and affirmation/confirmation topics during task usage, but any notion that "What's this for?" "Or how do I do that?"-type FAQ topic should persist for very long in the age of agile development, or in any great numbers, makes no real sense to a user experience professional.
Let's be clear here. I am not saying that FAQs never need to be written and published. They do reflect the reality that you can't design and build everything you want all the time. Some operations may have to remain complex, some things may note be so easily learned or remembered, or there may be other reasons to write about.
But ask yourself: How often are FAQs refreshed? And what process is in place in your organization to review and eliminate existing ones? Every task-based FAQ should immediately trigger an associated enhancement request or product backlog item added to remove the need for the FAQ topic through superior design, testing, or development. Indeed, FAQ topic value should be measured through reviewing webserver logs, feedback, ratings, and user conversation, too
Plus, If you find that your customers are writing FAQs and distributing them across in the community, without reporting issues to you, then you need to do some real thinking about your user experience methodology and how you obtain feedback on user assistance or approach the notion of information quality.
Otherwise, frequently asked questions are just perpetually published answers.