What are your thoughts on the "F.A.Q." label?

15 May 2013 - 9:35am
1 year ago
7 replies
3648 reads
Neil James
2013

Hey everybody, I have an interesting question for you.

I'm working with a local provider of autism therapy services to build them a new website. 

In their primary navigation, I've recommended that they have an "F.A.Q." heading which takes visitors to a page for Frequently Asked Questions. I'm not always a fan of this convention, but there are a lot of people who come to these types of sites who are scared and emotional (as I think anyone would be) at the prospect that their child is autistic. Often times, these people have very specific questions, so I felt it was important to have a prominent part of their site that clearly serves as a repository for common questions. 

The client has said he's not a fan of the label F.A.Q. - he doesn't believe it's intuitively obvious and that it should be named something different. 

On one hand, I feel as if F.A.Q. is not only the most clear label, it's the most accurate descriptor of the page content. I think that, as a label, it's more clear and accurate than any potential alternative (such as "Common Questions" for instance). I feel it's also a common enough convention that the potential for misunderstanding and communication is minimal. 

On the other hand, maybe he's write. I work in digital all day, so F.A.Q. is obvious to me, but maybe this isn't an obvious convention. Who knows, maybe it's garish and I should be avoiding it. Sometimes, the client is right. 

In a perfect world, I would love to user test something like this. Unfortunately, the client doesn't have the budget for that in addition to their other needs. 

So I'm just curious if anyone else out there has a gut feel on this. Is F.A.Q. a common enough convention that my client shouldn't worry about it? Is there perhaps a more clear label that I'm not thinking of? 

Thanks!

Comments

17 May 2013 - 6:49am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

A few thoughts on this.

One thing you could try with your client is to first ist the criteria that are important for this label.  You mention "intuitive", "clarity", and possibly "eye catching" (emotional people looking for questions quick!).   After making the criteria explicit, then created a list of ideas and see how well they meet the criteria (there is a method call QOC - questions, options, and criteria) that formalizes the idea of asking a question and then evaluating explicit options and criteria.  Simple, but the key is to make the criteria explicit and to get past "intuitive" (that word is thrown around a lot without really discussing what it means.  Does it mean one-shot learning or 3-shot learning or something that is easy for someone with many years in the field (some things are intuitive to me because I've spent many years on connected concepts).  One of the criteria might be that the term is one that "only techniques would know".   At a more basic level, I would never use F.A.Q. or FAQ without the full spelling since FAQ is probably meaningless to many who are not technically literate.  So, I would be skeptical about the assumption that FAQ is obvious to everyone.  I recently made an assumption about an acronym that I thought everyone would know and discovered that many did not know. 

A side note - are the questions really ones that are frequently asked?  I've seen some sites where FAQ "questions" are not really based on frequency - they are based on marketing or some other criteria.

Chauncey

 

17 May 2013 - 3:10pm
MPawson
2010

I agree with Chauncey regarding the acronym and the questions. Its a great title if its fully spelt out and if it delivers the correct content.

Despite being famiiar with the term I for some reason find myself doing a double take everytime I encounter it. I did the same on your thread -" what is a Fake" is how I first read it.

Then I would make sure the questions really are the ones parents of Autistic children want answers to. Imagine being emotionally upset and wanting clear answers only to find questions that mean nothing to you. It could make some parents feel that they have the child whose in that rare 5% case.

17 May 2013 - 6:38pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

I'd be tempted to think in terms of the scent of information here.

FAQ (and even "Frequently Asked Questions") are like other scentless labels, like "Products" and "Solutions." They don't say what you'll find. (And as Chauncey points out, they often aren't frequently asked, so the label lies.)

I'd try and make the label about the actual answers people are seeking. Give them a clue as to what they'll get answers to. If they have very specific questions, then say the answers in the label. "Medications" "Dealing with schools" "Alternative therapies" "Choosing a specialist". These are so much more informative than "FAQ."

That's my take. Hope it helps,

Jared

 

Jared M. Spool

User Interface Engineering

510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845

e: jspool@uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561

http://uie.com  Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks  Twitter: @jmspool

 

18 May 2013 - 10:39am
hassan.schroede...
2009

 

An FAQ on a web site is the junk drawer of IA -- an admission of basic design failure.

It says "Here's some information our customers want and need but which we didn't bother to include in our 'site design' because 'Information Architecture' is much too nebulous a concept compared to 'Reinforcing Our Brand'".

It also says "Yes, it's pretty but our shiny 'site design' is too brittle and our paleolithic web development processes too clumsy to properly address the problem by putting the information where it belonged in the first place". 

 

18 May 2013 - 12:15pm
RichExperiences
2010

Yeah, that's it Hassan... uggg.

19 May 2013 - 7:20pm
sdowney
2008

Two thoughts:

  • The problem with FAQs is that - by definition - it's organization-centric, not user-centric.  They're questions that are frequently asked of the organization. That's not a helpful label for visitors - they don't know (and probably don't care) whether their questions are frequent or not.
  • More to the specific issue - the OP almost describes the needed label:
  • people who come to these types of sites who are scared and emotional (as I think anyone would be) at the prospect that their child is autistic.

It seems that the need has already been identified in the above - the OP just needs to find a label for this description AND be sure that the content really does answer the need.

19 May 2013 - 7:20pm
sdowney
2008

Two thoughts:

  • The problem with FAQs is that - by definition - it's organization-centric, not user-centric.  They're questions that are frequently asked of the organization. That's not a helpful label for visitors - they don't know (and probably don't care) whether their questions are frequent or not.
  • More to the specific issue - the OP almost describes the needed label:
  • people who come to these types of sites who are scared and emotional (as I think anyone would be) at the prospect that their child is autistic.

It seems that the need has already been identified in the above - the OP just needs to find a label for this description AND be sure that the content really does answer the need.

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