“FAQ” is an acronym for Frequently Asked Questions. An FAQ or “FAQs” are pages or entire sections of sites and forums devoted to topics that lots of people have problems with. The idea was a decent work-around in the burgeoning days of information architecture and search [1, 2], but the FAQ is now a total anachronism. It’s time to retire it altogether.
Yet the promise of the easy fix still seems to hold sway among the decision makers of institutions, regardless of the limitations of the FAQ. User Experience Architects and Information Architects do not generally advocate for the FAQ because, well, we know better ways of getting things done. It’s the managers and clients who make the final call, and although the influence of our expertise is often nullified by this power disparity, we bear perhaps a large part of the blame by not fully making the case against these things. We defer rather too hastily to the “well, if you’re going to do it” survival technique [3,4,5,6] that ultimately makes us die a little inside.
In this blog post and the one to follow, I discuss what I think are the fundamental weaknesses of the FAQ and how we as UXA/IA/EAs can reframe the argument.