[thelist] Site check please....

Jay Blanchard jblanchard at pocket.com
Fri Apr 14 07:57:28 CDT 2006

Have you tried to read your FAQ?  Like, you know, actually *read* it, 
from the beginning to the end? As if you were interested in he answers 
to all the questions?  I did.  And I can assure you that it's an 
exercise in frustration.

I actually found myself interested in the service (imagine that)!  I was

curious about the actual content of the site, the product.  Who woudn't 
be?   An unmetered cell phone service?  That's huge!  I'd give up my 
downloadable ring-tones, wireless so-called-web, full-motion 
video-capture device, James Bond spy camera, portable IM client AND even

the wallpaper AND the integrated high-fidelity stereo MP3 player for a 
cell phone that I wasn't afraid to use to, you know: call people and 
talk them on, because it didn't nickel and dime me all month long and 
then terrorize me at the end of it with that 14 page itemized call 
detail report that attempts to justify the astronomical amount due at 
the end by painstakingly tallying up all the nickels and dimes my entire

family wasted using their damned wireless webs and texting one another, 
emailing videos and phone-cam snapshots and... something else-- what was

it?  Oh yeah: talking to people all the time.  Even, heaven forbid, 
during the day on weekdays, and to all those unwashed masses of people 
who use other "networks" who for some reason it costs more to talk to.

So yes, my ears perked up and I started trying to "read up" on this 
revolutionary service whose time has come.  I'm reaching for my wallet 
as I scroll eagerly over those juicy FAQ questions.

"What is unlimited wireless calling?"  Inquiring minds do indeed want to


"Will you always have unlimited calling plans?" You damned well better!

"Can I talk all I want all over town?" All you can eat?  Am I in heaven?

I found myself "reading up" on it all right, and down!  And up and down 
again@  And up some more -- wait back down again... and so on in such an

agonizingly painful user experience that I forgot how interested I was 
in a cell phone with an unlimited calling plan!  All I wanted to get out

of that FAQ, off this site and go anywhere else.  It was that bad. 
Okay, I may be an extreme case, but it sucked.  I was a lost sale.

It took me a minute to realize what exactly was wrong.  It looked like a

FAQ.  If it walks like a FAQ and talks like a FAQ... what's so FAQ'ed 
up about it?  Then it hit me: the questions aren't repeated anywhere 
below the index, you know, in between the answers.  So if you want to 
just read through it sequentially, gradually scrolling down the page as 
you go, calmly, quietly with one hand as the other retrieves your wallet

from your pocket to retrieve your credit card... well, that is 
imfortunately unpossible.

And the answers make no sense without the questions now, do they?  So I 
am forced, after reading an answer that makes me cry out for more (YES! 
call as much as you want, any time of day, anywhere, and any day of the 
week!) to go up to the top of the page, (find, and) click the next 
question, just to be auto-scrolled down to the next answer that was 
right there (NO! cumbersome billing statement, call details or large 
numbers of small charges).  I'm penalized for actually caring enough 
about the content to want to read it all.

I guess it's a common mistake among FAQ-generators to assume that 
readers would *never* actually want to read all the content, or at least

not in the order it was written.  I guess that's what leads them to 
setup FAQ's like this one, that appears to be designed to cater to the 
attention-span-challenged, or those who'd must either scan through all 
the questions quickly, and/or navigate them in some random-access order 
that they must control.

But do you think that most potential customers of this service will 
really just want to zero in on the one answer they need like a 
laser-guided cruise missile, efficiently by-passing any other 
information that stands in their way?  Were all these "answers" written 
so that the questioners could cherry-pick just the one or two questions 
they actually have.  Were they written to be dashed around the page 
madly while the user clicks links (and alternately, their back buttons, 
given that there are not even "back up to the top" links ...not that 
those are any better....) to alternate between reading certain questions

at the top of the page and their distant disconnected answers at the 
bottom?  If so then the FAQ page is perfect!  Don't touch a thing.

But I suspect that, like most FAQ's on commercial sites, this one isn't 
*really* a compilation of questions that have been asked frequently, and

their answers.  It's product marketing information that is hand-crafted 
and thinly disguised as the questions that they, the sales folks want 
you to ask so that they can give the answers they want you to hear.

Which is fine, marketing being a necessary evil.  But as such, I think 
your client might prefer that a potential customer be able to you know, 
just all the questions and all the answers too, without all the mad 
clicking, in-page anchor links, whizzy page scrolling and what not.

Sorry for the diatribe -- this page irritated two of my (festering 
wounds) pet peeves: the gratuitous use of largely useless in-page anchor

links, and FAQ pages consisting of carefully chosen "answers" to 
questions that they only *wished* they were more frequently asked.

BRAVO! *insert standing ovation here*

I argued against an FAQ from the start. It sucks in a major way. It
contains no real useful information or glosses over it. Information that
could be better used somewhere else. Can I use your diatribe to back-up
my point? This is the most well written arguments for not using an FAQ
that I have ever seen.

What really sucks? I had the questions and answers together ...they
thought it was unusable like that. ???

More information about the thelist mailing list