Why Your Search Form & FAQs Page are Lame Substitutes for Real Usability

July 18, 2011Leave a reply

Every user-friendly website should have a search form and a Frequently Asked Questions page, right?

Wrong.

If your content and navigation structure answers visitors’ questions naturally, intuitively, and strategically, why would they ever have to use them?

They may be appropriate for some sites.

But for most websites, they’re a crutch. A poor excuse for legitimate usability.

Think about it: If those questions truly are frequently asked, then why in the world aren’t you answering them within your page content?

Why force your users to work to get their questions answered?

Why not just give them what they want, when they want it? Why not answer their questions as they ask them?

Make Your Search Form & FAQs Page Obsolete

It starts with crafting real website personas.

Getting inside their hearts and minds. Understanding their motivations, desires, fears, goals, turn-ons and turn-offs. Knowing what questions they’ll ask when they get to your website.

When you know whom you’re speaking to, it’s actually quite simple to architect your page structure and write your content to cater to their needs.

For example, suppose you own a roofing company and you want to make your website more persuasive and user-friendly.

So you analyze past customers. You connect some dots. You recognize some patterns. You flesh out at some personas.

Let’s consider two, and think through how they would navigate your site differently:

Persona #1: Hanna Homemaker

Hanna is the mother of two young children and the wife of a successful real estate agent. Meticulous and detailed, Hanna got straight A’s in high school and college. She received an accounting degree, and worked at an accounting firm for a couple years before deciding to homeschool her children. Hanna has never missed a regular oil change. She has her windows washed monthly. She subscribes to blogs that share tips and techniques for being a more efficient homemaker. She can’t stand irresponsibility, and she fears being taken advantage of.

Persona #2: Andy Attorney

In high school, Andy was the star basketball player, and was voted most likely to succeed. He exceeded academically, and was always involved in extracurricular activities. A true “A-type” personality, Andy had his whole life figured out. He got his college degree, then went straight to law school, where he graduated at the top of his class. He got offers from multiple firms and chose the one where he’d be most likely to advance quickly. He’s now months away from making partner. He drives a new model BMW and wears expensive suits. Ever the driver, he’s always looking for an edge in life.

Both Hanna and Andy need their roofs replaced.

Do you think you could figure out what questions each of them would ask when they came to your roofing company website?

Here are a few questions Hanna would be asking:

  • What’s your process?
  • Do you have to remove my current roof tiles? If so, will you damage the roof?
  • Will you start and finish the job on time, or will I have to prod you?
  • Are your workers clean and professional?
  • Do you guarantee your work?
  • What happens if something turns out wrong with the job?
  • Do you use top-quality materials, or do you cut corners?
  • Are you thorough and detailed?

Andy, on the other hand, would ask questions like these:

  • What are your credentials? Do you have any industry certifications?
  • What makes you a superior company? Why should I choose you over your competitors?
  • How will I know you’ll do a professional job?
  • Can I depend on you to get it right without a lot of hand-holding, or will you waste a lot of my time?
  • Are you fast?

See how much easier it becomes to create pages and write content to answer visitors’ questions — once you know what questions are being asked by which personas?

The persuasive architecture process takes time and attention to detail.

But it’s the heart and soul of a user-friendly, persuasive website that answers questions naturally without forcing your visitors to work hard.

Isn’t it time for you to kick the crutches of a website search form and FAQs page and get a truly functional website?

Hire The Website Architects to architect your site to cater to website personas.

Get your free website quote now.

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