Slightly off-topic here, but what I'd like to know is how many people actually use the (Pavlina) forum FAQ page. (I guess I could just ask Steve for some traffic numbers instead of aimlessly wondering.) Do people see it as a useful resource, or just another crazy link that the vBulletin software offers that nobody ever looks at or really understands?
Personally I think FAQs are great, but I very much like static sources of info, so that's no surprise. (Why are static sources of info good? It's an efficiency/leverage thing. Eg. Steve doesn't reply to every individual question he gets because it's too inefficient. It's better for him to simply write about the answer in a blog post and have it there. That way it's always there, so instead of constantly repeating himself, people can just look on his blog. Saves time for all involved.)
There's a whole lot that I could add to the forum FAQ to flesh it out more (no offence to those who write the vB FAQs, but it's not very detailed, nor does it cover enough topics), but I've been hesitant to do so because I'm concerned as to how many people would actually read it vs how many people would actually ignore it and just make a thread or post asking about what they want to know instead.
In the past I would have resisted the notion of people making such threads/posts, but now I embrace it. While post clutter/overlap are something you want to try to minimise wherever possible, the collective forum member base as a whole will generally cover anything that comes up much more efficiently then an FAQ will. Think of the forum member base as a sort of living, real time FAQ that responds to what is needed on a moment to moment basis.
But that said, itís good to have options, so having a decent FAQ canít hurt. If it needs more exposure (ie. if nobody ever uses it and just asks questions in the forum instead) Iím sure we could figure out a way to do it (maybe link to it on the forum sidebar to make it more obvious, etc).
Hmmm... this may be worth considering, especially given how effective Steveís new website FAQ has been.
Originally Posted by Jonathan
<in reference to this FAQ: http://forums.techguy.org/faq.php?faq=vb_faq>
Shamou: Apart from being very comprehensive, I'm not sure I see what's so great about that one. Perhaps it even suffers from information overload; I know I would find it slightly off-putting if I were a newbie to that sight.
I personally don't think anything can have too much information, so long as it's structured properly. I'm all for being succinct, but only when it doesn't detract from detail. Ultimately you want whatever you are creating to serve its purpose without overextending itself.
But in terms of information overload, if people are finding something off-putting there's probably a good reason why. Eg. If newbies find a forum FAQ to be overwhelming, a more simplified FAQ isn't the answer. You need to address why they are feeling overwhelmed. While ďtoo much infoĒ can appear to be the problem, itís more likely to be a case of an unclear, unintuitive, confusing layout/navigation or a lack of the proper tools to perform necessary functions.
Most people will look at an FAQ for some specific information, and the amount of information will only become a problem when it makes the information they are looking for hard to find, at which point they might say, ďI canít find what Iím looking for, there is too much infoĒ. People often only describe the symptom of a problem and not the problem itself, so you need to trace the symptom back to the root and ask why itís coming up in the first place.
Basically you need to target your audience in a way that they are comfortable with. I think when youíre clear about (1) what you want to do (ie. the purpose), (2) what resources you have available, and (3) what particular audience you are trying to reach/cater to, the rest falls into place (maybe after a bit of refinement). Steveís website FAQ is a good example of this. I can't speak for Steve, but I think this would be pretty accurate: StevePavlina.com website FAQ
(1) Purpose: To store and answer frequently
asked questions about Steve and his website (not just "general", "not so frequently asked questions", such as those about Steve's religion, as they'd be outside the scope of the FAQ).
(2) Resources: HTML, hyperlinks, formatting, etc.
(3) Audience: Visitors/readers to/of StevePavlina.com, business clients/press, as well as those who wish to email Steve.