Future Anticipated Questions

May 30, 2014

I was recently part of a project where, upon asking for content for the requried “Frequently Asked Questions” page, I was invited to a meeting with the objective of “brainstorming content for the F.A.Q. page”. It was painfully ironic. How can we possibly list frequently asked questions when we haven’t even launched yet and no one has asked any questions?

The meeting (video conference call) started, and I decided to stay silent for a little while to see how the call would play out. The project stakeholders begun by going over the F.A.Q. sections on a bunch of other websites, and compiling a short list of all the questions they would need to write answers for. The list included things like “How can I contact you”, and “How can I reset my password”questions that will likely never be asked unless your UI/UX is terrible.

All Filler, No Meat

Almost all of the questions on the list were things that anyone who has used a website in the past 10 years should have some idea how to do. People naturally look for “Contact” links in common navigation areas, and generally know they can find a password reset link on a login form. Simply by following common conventions, all of the “F.A.Q.”s gleaned from other websites become completely irrelevant.

Cart Before The Horse

Of course, all of the filler-quality content of the questions aside, the obvious problem here is that by trying to anticipate future questions ahead of time, we are going to get things wrong. And, perhaps even more importantly – we are creating unnecessary work for ourselves before launch, when our time is most valuable. Right before launch is exactly the time when you shouldn’t be spending time on non-critical items.

Do You Really Need This Now?

This is a good question to asking about everything in general, but especially when creating content pages for a website that you “need” before launch. During my client meeting, after going over the initial list of F.A.Qs compiled during the initial brainstorm, I interjected, and explained (nicely) everything that I wrote above as an objection to creating the F.A.Q. page before launch. The bottom line is that we were effectively changing the definition of “F.A.Q.” from Frequently Asked Questions to Future Anticipated Questions by trying to create content for it before we even had any real questions from visitors or customers.

Ultimately, we decided to put off the F.A.Q. section until after the website launch and after we got some real customer questions. It seems obvious that it should have been this way from the beginning, but it’s very easy for your clients to get overwhelmed with things they think they need. It’s your job as a professional to help them reason through everything and remove barriers to launch to give them the best chance for success.

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