Business Software

FAQMasterFlex Makes Web FAQs Easy

Virtually any e-commerce site can benefit from a FAQ section, which consists of frequently asked questions, plus answers. A comprehensive, well-written FAQ can allay common concerns of prospective customers and reduce the time required to respond to e-mailed questions. However, developing and maintaining a comprehensive FAQ can be time-consuming if you use straight HTML.

FAQMasterFlex, from Lethal Penguin, is a free, open-source Web app that simplifies the creation and maintenance of FAQs, storing them in a database.

If you have just a handful of FAQ items, the time required to download and install this app may not justify the effort. However, if you have several dozen or more FAQs, FAQMasterFlex really shows its worth.

How FAQMasterFlex Works

You add individual FAQ items to each category in FAQMasterFlex by completing a form.
You add individual FAQ items to each category in FAQMasterFlex by completing a form.
Creating a FAQ page with FAQMasterFlex is straightforward. You log in to a password-protected administration area, then organize your FAQ by adding categories (which are similar to folders). Finally, you add individual items to each FAQ category by completing a form with fields for both a question and answer.

When a visitor to your site clicks on a FAQ category, a new window pops up with a list of the questions contained within the category. Clicking on a question reveals the answer below it. The visitor can close the answer by clicking on a "close" link or clicking the question again. The visitor's browser must support JavaScript.

There's no hard limit to the number of categories and items you can add to the FAQ. Of course, if you add many long items, you may need to increase the storage capacity of your Web hosting plan or your hard drive if you self-host.

The administration menu lets you add, delete or edit categories and items within each category. You can also change user names and passwords for those authorized to modify the FAQ.

Installing FAQMasterFlex

You can download FAQMasterFlex free from Lethal Penguin. An online demo for both users and administrators is available on this site, so you can check it out before you download and install the app. FaqMasterFlexPlus Multi Lingual version adds support for the French language and some minor changes. It's a free download (registration required) from Netbizcity. FAQMasterFlex is designed for installation on your Web server, which must support the PHP scripting language and MySQL, since the app uses a MySQL database to store the questions and answers.

You'll need to upload FAQMasterFlex to the directory of your choice on your Web server. Then you must set up a MySQL database with a user name and password and modify a configuration file. If you're familiar with MySQL, installing FAQMasterFlex should 5 or 10 minutes.

I evaluated the multilingual version of FAQMasterFlex on an Apache server running Linux. Lethal Penguin says the app is platform-independent and has been tested to work on servers running Microsoft Windows XP and AIX.

It's not too difficult to customize some aspects of the FAQ produced. You can easily replace the default logo with your own graphic; and you can change text in the page header and footer files using a basic editor such as Notepad. Changing the fonts and colors is more complex. There's no menu to make such modifications, so you must know how to tweak a CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) file.

Is FAQMasterFlex for You?

FAQMasterFlex helps you create a professional-looking FAQ for your Web site. It makes it easy to organize a large FAQ into bite-sized category pages, which your visitors can download quicker than one massive FAQ page. One drawback: If you want to match the look of the rest of your site you, or someone you hire, will need to modify a CSS file. But that's a small price to pay for using this handy, free app.

Richard Morochove is an IT consultant and writer. Send him questions about using technology in your small to mid-sized business via e-mail. PC World may edit your query and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered. Sign up to have the Business Solutions newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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