9 tips for writing better FAQs

Frequently asked questions, or FAQs, are an important part of your product documentation. Writing well-targeted and thorough FAQs allow users to quickly find the answers they need so they can be more productive when using your product. Here are some tips for writing FAQs that will get your users on track quickly and help reduce Customer Support calls.

Phrase your questions like a user - Users must recognize that an FAQ answers their particular question. The title of your FAQ should phrase the question in the same language a user would. Ask your Support department for feedback; they talk to users on a regular basis and can assist you with the words users choose when asking questions about the product.

Refer to existing procedures - When answering user questions, leverage your existing documentation. Your answers should point to procedures that guide users through the tasks they need to complete. By leveraging existing documentation, you avoid writing duplicate content and dealing with consistency issues later on.

Implement a feedback system - Use feedback forms in your help so that users can help you fine tune your content. This allows users to tell you if your answer glosses over an important detail, or if there are related questions that aren't covered by your FAQs.

Talk to Customer Support - You can fill in the holes in your FAQs by talking to members of you Customer Support team. They are on the phones with users regularly, and can tell you the kinds of questions users ask on a regular basis. Chat with them often and evaluate whether your FAQs need to change based on changes in the product or user behavior.

Group related FAQs - Organize your FAQs by subject matter, and use a topic list with subheadings to group them. This allows users to find particular questions quickly, and spot related questions that they didn't think to ask.

Include cross-references to related FAQs - Conclude each answer with a list of related questions. Users may not think to ask about important details that are related to the FAQ they are currently reading. By listing related FAQs, you put those issues on their radar and save them later trips to the documentation.

Restate the question in the answer - Begin each answer by rephrasing the question. That way users can clearly see that your answer is indeed going to provide them with the information they are looking for.

Index FAQs by subject - Be sure to index your FAQs. While readers will often access your FAQs from an FAQ list, you can also help users find this information by indexing it under the appropriate subject.

Refer to user-generated documents - Leverage your user community by including a reference or link from each FAQ to the knowledge base or user forum for your product. Often these user-generated resources are updated faster than your manuals and help. Also, by encouraging use of the forum or knowledge base, you gather more user feedback that can be used to flesh out your existing documentation.

Follow these tips for writing great FAQs, and your users will thank you.

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