British American Tobacco : Dead-ending habit
Implementation of a well-developed FAQ feature raises questions.
British American Tobacco (BAT), the UK-based cigarette maker, has an advanced FAQ system that would be even better with some fine tuning.
BAT includes FAQs (Frequently asked questions) as an option in the universal utilities string at top right of pages. The link launches a discrete feature with its own sub-sections that reflect seven of the eight primary sections of the corporate site (for example, Tobacco and our products, Consumers and trade, Investors); the exception is Media. The landing page has a selection of the “most common questions we are asked”. FAQs is also a frequently used related link in the right-hand column of pages in the seven matched primary sections, with the featured links(s) tailored to individual page content. There is, however, no link within any of the primary sections to its corresponding index page in FAQs.
Clicking on a specific FAQ, whether from a related link or from an FAQs sub-section index, opens a page within FAQs dedicated to the question and its answer. The breadcrumb trail on the answer page shows only the question preceded by ‘Home’, which links to the site’s home page not that of FAQs. The FAQs sub-section is not highlighted in the feature’s left navigation menu, but the related tab in the site’s primary navigation is.
BAT integrates FAQs into site content with an unusual and commendable degree of precision that is reinforced in the alignment of the FAQs database categories with the primary sections. As a company long-versed in facing the music for being in a high-profile and controversial business BAT has plenty of ready-made answers to draw on, but this systematic deployment of FAQs shows an appreciation of how to work the website hard as a medium for managing the volume of direct contact with questioners.
Nevertheless, the implementation leaves room for improvements in the effectiveness of the system. Navigation is very much geared to a helpline function – a specific question leads to a specific answer; end of enquiry – whereas the FAQs are often used overtly as supplementary information (offered as related links). This means that looking up an answer leaves enquirers in something of a dead-end as there is no ready lead back to the content page from the breadcrumb trail, the FAQ section navigation or the primary tab. The nature of many enquirers’ concerns is also such that they are likely to want to browse the FAQs, which again is not expressly facilitated by the navigation. A combination of more extended breadcrumb trails, highlighting in navigation menus, expandable text (on index pages) and a judicious use of pop-up windows (for related links) would help address the issues.http://www.bat.com
First published on 05 August, 2010