Before FAQs, ‘Information Retrieval Systems’ helped employees find data they needed. An internal user performed a search and received lists of indexed documents. The user then scoured those large documents to search for the right answer.
The process was cumbersome. For faster access, content owners started making shorter documents with the specific answers. Each “shortcut” document was indexed as a new, individual piece of content. Finally, users collected the short docs into a list of “frequently asked questions.”
Unfortunately, more documents meant more document management. It was easy for the new, shorter documents to get out of sync with the larger source content. Often, different users needed different snippets of information for their context. More documents were generated. Before long, the number of answers needed far exceeded a succinct list of questions.
As the digital era enabled greater levels of self-service, the case for FAQs grew. They became the standard we know today, but with unintended consequences which have led us full circle, back to the original assumption related to directly finding answers within documents.