A Simple WordPress FAQs/Help System

jQuery AutoComplete is already useful for Bootstrap, Foundation and Ink JavaScript frameworks. But I have found a Search Autocomplete  WordPress plugin when combined  with the Relevanssi Search WordPress plugin and Help pages which makes for a very good  FAQ system for your websites. So lets review an outline of how this FAQ system works.

First, install Search Autocomplete which will replace WP search with one that  shows the most relevant posts, pages, comments and other post types  with users getting to specify whether to use all the different content types.Search Autocomplete will then in Google-like fashion as the user types and  return a changing list of links to the top 5 [or user specified number] of contents that meet the search request. Second, install the Relevanssi plugin which brings a new  and better indexed algorithm to the search.of your CMS content. Relevanssi also allows users to specify in even more detail which pages, posts and custom posts to search. The last ingredient is one or more help files with answers to the key questions users may have. The best part of this approach is that the plugins are free and the help files are simply WordPress pages.

Three Step Setup Process

Step 1, find and  install Search AutoComplete plugin using the standard plugin install sequence. Insure that you have the right name for the Search field [should be name=”s” but some themes depart from the standard]. Use your browsers Inspect tool as shown to reveal the code being used by your theme:
searhnameIn this case the standard name is being used so now the Search AutoComplete form can be filled in:
autocomplete1Note to be sure that Relevanssi is set to True and Pages are clicked. Once the settings are done its time to move to the next step.

Step 2, install the Relevanssi plugin using the standard plugin install sequence. Then fill in the Settings | Relevanssi.page. There are quite a number and the rseponse time of the Relevanssi plugin is dependent on the size of the index created by the plugin. For example, the PixofToronto.com has 114 documents  and its index is 12500 items and average response time is 2-5 seconds. In contrast, this site [theOpensourcery.com] has 1361 and 242,000 items in its index and an average of 4-10secs  for search time. Both use the same ICDSoft hosting service but at 20 times the index size, theOpenSourcery.com is notably slower. So I have removed the QWIK from its widget title. But I am retaining the Relevanssi search because it turns up much better search links.

Here are the details for the Relevanssi settings for a fairly large website -theOpenSourcery.com with 1361 documents and nearly 242,000 index objects:
autocompleter
Note I am down to barebones feature settings to get the response time consistently under 10 seconds. However, in HELP/FAQ app where the search documents were limited to the websites Help and other pages, response time was under the 5 second maximum.

Step 3, creating the Help files for the FAQs. Many website owners now what are the most frequently asked questions. So setting up a FAQ page is relatively easy getting the questions in place. But the reponses are more subtle. If the response rquires a images and more than a two paragraph explanation, then setup a separate help page tp contain that information and link to this page from the FAQ page. Many of your existing pages and/or posts may also answer the question in detail. If the FAQ page length exceeds 30 items consider creating a second FAQ page. For example FAQ Contract and FAQ Support are two possible pages.

Experience

I have installed the Search AutoComplete and Relevannsi plugins [but not FAQ pages] on three of my personal websites and like the performance when I do searches for items while writing tips or stories. But there are trade-offs.First, on TheOpenSourcery where there are nearly 2000 posts and pages to search through, the response time is in the 3-8 seconds range, not great. The results are complete but there is a catch. Sites with long pages or posts may get properly linked to; but then the user has to search through the long page for the reference. This can be particularly vexing for product descriptions or log tutorials. A second problem occurs because the replaced WP Search with its list of Relevant Posts is is delayed. So there are performance hits for websites with several thousand posts and pages. For websites under 500 pages and posts the response time is reasonable

An added benefit of the Relevanssi plugin is the log reports provided which show what are the most frequently searched for terms:
autocompleteresults
These reports go beyond the JetPack search data because they show what was searched for locally. This info helps tell what items keep users on your website.

Last my tests to date on a client website with about 200 pages and posts, the new FAQ pages are found very quickly and are included in every search. Also some of the longer explanatory pages have become submenu items for the top level FAQ page. In short, it is working well.

Summary

The Search Autocomplete and Relavanssi plugins each on its own is a valuable search enhancement tool. But when combined together with a set of FAQ/Help pages, the trio makes for a simple, yet elegant user FAQ/Help service.