We don't publish information in an FAQ format on the Kirklees website or intranet.

This is because:

  • They are not a helpful way of structuring and providing information
  • They are considered bad practice from a usability perspective.

FAQs are an unpopular format

  • User testing has found that people don't navigate websites looking for FAQs.
  • They come to a site to look for a particular subject or to get something done.
  • They scan a page for words or links that work towards their aims.
  • For instance, people look for the term 'Planning applications' rather than 'Frequently asked questions about planning'.

They lead to a longwinded presentation of content

  • Putting all the subjects people may need to know most within one FAQs area buries the subjects and words amongst all the other questions and answers. People have to read through the whole lot to try and find the bit that they were after.
  • People's browsing habits and expectations of navigating online content have changed significantly. Over 65% of them now view websites on a small screen on a mobile device.
  • We have observed lengthy content pages including FAQs confusing and frustrating people in user testing sessions.
  • User testing elsewhere indicates that people faced with lengthy content will instead pick up the phone to find out what they need. This generates avoidable contact.

What is frequently asked is only known by the organisation

  • A website user doesn't know if the thing they are looking for is a frequently asked question or not. That leads to people not following FAQ links to find what they are looking for.
  • User testing on Microsoft's site in 2014 illustrated this. Advice for IT professionals sat under FAQ links and it was found that they weren't clicking on those links. This meant that many IT issues in organisations took much longer to resolve than they should. Visits to the advice increased dramatically after Microsoft rewrote the content in a more user-friendly format.

FAQs usually duplicate content already published online

  • If something is important for people to know, it is often already on the website.
  • FAQs almost always repeat the same thing as already published content. They just say it slightly differently, or say things that should instead be incorporated in already published content.
  • You end up then having to maintain two sources of the same information and often end up with conflicting advice on the different pages.

What to do instead

  • None of this means that we can't publish the information that you need to share.
  • It should be incorporated into the primary content on the site instead of publishing as FAQs.
  • Writing copy for the web gives some suggestions about how to write in a different way to FAQs.
  • The key is to provide each bit of information at the right point in a user's journey on the website. That iss where a site visitor needs, and therefore is interested in, reading the information.

Contact web.development@kirklees.gov.uk if you would like help. We can advise on short methods of writing for online publication and how to pitch your content to your audience to maximise its impact.

And finally...

Here is a video which goes through some of the issues with FAQs. It is by a consultant who has worked lots with private and public sector organisations on their website content.

Top Tasks with Gerry McGovern

This is what the Government Digital Service, responsible for the national gov.uk site, have to say: FAQs: why we don’t have them

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