Been updating some lately getting into a lot of discussions if that is necessary and useful.
One argument would be "if we get the user experience right we don't need them". We will provide the support to the user when he needs it where he needs it. No need to get him out of the flow and point him to FAQs. On the other hand side there will always be the kinda user who wants to read a "how to" in more detail. And in the end there is the customer support who wants a page to point the user to.
So I started to look around. What has happened to the former star? In the early days a site without a decent set of FAQs couldn't exist.
There were FAQs for almost everything. Made sense at the time where there were more first timers. Technology wasn't providing the options it does today. So in page help was harder to achieve.
They either explained to you how to use the site and what to do or they gave you an overview what the company whose site you were looking at could do for you. The what can we do for you part often has been replaced by the classical 1-2-3 we find on so many start up homepages today.
Like foursquare with: Check in – Find your friends – Unloock your city http://foursquare.com/ or http://www.mint.com/ with a bit more detail for the following areas: understand your money, all your accounts in one place, easy budgeting tool, find instant savings, safe and secure.
I dare to say here only a different way of presenting became more fashionable. Good old FAQs did a similar thing for the user.
But what about those FAQs explaining to you how a site works.
Today you can still find them. Most bigger portals still have them. Often deep down somewhere in the footer but they are still there.
Often supported by screencasst and video tutorials but still there.
So it seems despite all in page help, better user experience and a strong focus on usabilty there comes the moment where they are still necessary.
What do you thing?
Is it a bad sign if you need them?