I was recently tasked with cobbling together a list of frequently asked questions. I was supposed to answer them and to put both question and answer up for the world to see. As a team, we spent some time brainstorming and collecting all of the questions we knew to be important and frequent. The “how do I do this” questions were the easiest to generate. The ones that we did not end up asking, nor answering, where “why” questions. We did not get into the purpose, only the process.
The ones that we immediately jumped on were ones that needed the least effort. They were the easiest answers, the most concrete answers. We could literally point at the solutions on the screen. And perhaps they are the most frequent. But, they are not the most important.
Any FAQ should not be a mere list of features or facts. It should not be only about the process of clicking through steps. It should not simply outline what exists. It should reveal the questions that are most frequently under the surface. It should be about the questions that you didn’t know you have. The ones that will lead to more sophisticated and fulfilled uses.
How does this fit into my workflow?
How do I convince my boss to let me try something new?
Where can I go to connect with others who are trying to figure this out?
How can I trust that you and your product will be around for the long haul?
Am I ready to take the next step?
These are the types of questions that are truly frequent, even if they aren’t the most commonly emailed to support. They do not generate trouble tickets nor do they awaken great user uprisings. But, if these questions go unanswered for too long, they will become barriers to entry for many and we will lose out on their capacity to connect and collaborate.
These questions cannot be answered with a few words or with a series of screenshots. These answers will take time, they will take differentiation. The answers will not be the same for everyone, and we shouldn’t force them to be. We want each person who comes with these questions to receive something that they couldn’t have gotten elsewhere: a human connection to someone who is actively trying to help them figure it out. They need a partner, a brainstormer that is willing to understand their situation and think through all of the possibilities. In the end, the FAQ should not just be a list of questions and answers. It should be a first step in creating a relationship of trust. It should be an olive branch reaching out to anyone who would like to take hold. It should say, “You are safe, you are important. And all of the things you are thinking about, we are thinking about them too.”
Fortunately, I am not done with my little project. My list and my olive branches aren’t fully constructed yet.