What are the most frequently asked questions?

The primary method of navigating the Firefox Support website is through search. For all the documentation we have on the website, it isn’t worth much if users cannot find what they are looking for. Earlier this year, we switched to a new search engine primarily because it gave us greater control of which items appeared in search results for any given search term.

Terms like “bookmarks” and “cookies”, which are too vague for us to know what is being asked, are especially important because they are among our top search terms.  If we know the most frequently asked questions, we can make sure the top search results for generic terms are representative of the most frequently asked questions associated with those terms (e.g. if the most common question about bookmarks is “How do I back up my bookmarks”, we should make sure the ‘Backing up and restoring bookmarks‘ article is the first result when searching for “bookmarks”).

Sometimes users use bad terminology as well. A common issue since Firefox 3 was released is that users want to clear items in the Location bar. After clearing browser history, the Location bar still contains bookmarks, which causes users to think that clearing history does not work.

Figuring out the most frequently asked questions among Firefox users is harder than you would expect. Data from the support forum and live chat is gathered on a weekly basis, and documented in our weekly common issues page. However we funnel users through the knowledge base before they reach the forum/live chat. The issues people are having there are good for finding new issues not covered in the knowledge base, but if the most frequently asked questions are already covered in the knowledge base, the most frequently asked questions are theoretically not being posted in the forum/live chat.

A couple months ago, Cheng, Matthew, and I went through our metrics and page view data to try get a good grasp on the most frequently asked questions (keeping all of the above in mind). Most of it was based on the “Top articles searched for” metric and “Top articles by score”, then we used the top searches and data from article feedback comments to fill out the rest of the list and clarify inconsistencies. We came up with this list. We can’t be sure that it is 100% accurate, but we think it is reliable enough to use for manipulating search results.

  1. How do I use Private Browsing?
  2. How do I enable cookies?
  3. How do I set the homepage?
  4. How do I clear my private data?
  5. How do I clear the location bar?
  6. How do I make Firefox the default browser?
  7. Pop-ups are not being blocked.
  8. Username and password is not remembered.
  9. Firefox takes too long to start up.
  10. How do I export bookmarks to an HTML file?

Using that list, we can list common search terms for each question, and make sure the articles that directly address those questions are tagged with those terms and have the right keywords.

Anyone who wants to help can try testing search terms to see which article appear first in the search results. If you don’t think the search results are optimal for your search terms and you know which articles should be more prominent, try editing the article to add the appropriate tags.

One thought on “What are the most frequently asked questions?

  1. Justin Dolske

    It might be an interesting experiment to add (temporarily) a prominent “help us improve your search” button, that asks people to explain their problem in a textfield / email, and see how those correlate with their search terms.

    Or, if you wanted to be really fancy, hook this kind of thing up to Live Chat, so we can both ask what their problem is and help them solve it (better data, since people sometimes can’t explain what their real problem is, or are barking up the wrong tree).

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