Tips for Building a Professional Knowledge Base: Your Customers Will Thank You
“Information is not knowledge.”
A knowledge base is much more than a reservoir of information. A good knowledge base empowers users to solve issues on their own, without the help of an agent. When your users feel they can navigate your product without having to contact customer support, but rather by following step-by-step guides, they’re more likely to continue using the product. In addition, being able to master a process that looked complex at first can boost their confidence and make them appreciate your product even more.
Of course, a winning knowledge base starts with an even better knowledge base software, but this article from our knowledge base experts provides some inside tips and tricks on how to create a good knowledge base.
01. Treat your knowledge base as a product
Documentation—which is the information about products that appears in a knowledge base—should always be forward thinking. This means it not only meets current gaps, but also predicts future needs that users might have. In this way, it’s like a product and should be treated as such.
02. Define your target audience
There are many types of knowledge bases out there. Some are external, providing information and support to customers, and some are internal, providing information to employees. Before you begin, define your audience: Who will use the knowledge base? Why would they come to the knowledge base? What are they expecting to find? When would they come to the knowledge base, e.g. before they perform an action, or when they’re stuck and need troubleshooting advice? Lastly, how can your knowledge base serve your organization?
Like any other product, a knowledge base should have clearly-defined KPIs. These help set the article’s tone and structure, and they allow you and others in your organization to measure how effective it is. One KPI for a knowledge base, for example, can be reducing the number of support tickets. Another can be increasing the use of a product or feature by making it more accessible and transparent.
Be sure to clearly define what “success” means for your knowledge base. Set up tools that will allow you to measure clicks and number of views. If possible, add a feedback button to help you assess whether or not users find the KB articles helpful.
03. Be proactive, not reactive
A knowledge base is a DIY solution for your users. Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes: think of the core tasks they want to accomplish, where they may encounter difficulty and what their main pain points could be.
Be proactive. Don't base your articles solely on tickets you have received; instead, imagine that you are a user who wants to perform a certain task. Click through all of the necessary steps, from beginning to end, and try to identify moments in the process where a user could get confused.
04. Don't stay in the realm of one operation, function or feature
Your users want a one-stop-shop solution to getting something done. They want to know what to do, how to do it and what effect it will have—all in one place. At Wix, when we explain how to add a video to a site, we not only explain how to add it to a website, but also include information about managing the video's settings and design, with links to more in-depth articles. We do this because we assume that once a user adds a video, they’ll then want to customize it. We try to answer their next question, before it’s been asked.
05. Style matters
Once you have clearly determined your target audience and the knowledge base's KPIs, it's time to take a top-to-bottom approach to writing. Start by creating a map of the main categories, subcategories, different article types and the connections among the articles.
Next, define a unified and consistent language - both verbal and visual. Formatting and structure are just as informative as text. They’re another form of language and once your users inherently understand a pattern, they can navigate the content more easily. In our knowledge base, for instance, we use a numbered list to indicate sequential steps and bullets to indicate a list of possible actions, tips, or important information.
Keep your articles as short as possible without taking away from the content. Use paragraphs and subheadings to divide up long text. Users may turn away if they see a huge chunk of text, so try to make sure your articles don’t seem intimidating.
06. A picture is worth a thousand words, a video is golden and a CTA takes the cake
Each of us learns and perceives information in different ways. Some people need verbal lists. Others need to see the action being performed. Some want to perform the actions themselves, while others are happy to click a button and have the task performed for them.
When you create your knowledge base articles, be sure to take into account various types of learners. Make sure to add visuals such as screenshots and videos, but don't forget to write the instructions as well, for those who prefer reading.
At Wix, we like to add a Call to Action (CTA) button that performs the task for the user, or at least provides a shortcut to the relevant location in the product.
07. Conclusion: Turn your information into knowledge
A knowledge base is an integral part of your product. Sometimes, users judge an entire product based on the quality and breadth of its knowledge base.
Your knowledge base is an important tool that can make or break your entire product. Include reviews, QA and constant updates. Define its audience and KPIs, and make sure it’s easy to navigate. Use visuals and CTAs to complement the text, and try to provide as complete a solution as possible, one that will take the user from the beginning to the very end of the task.
To sum things up, information is the key but without a method to the madness, it is useless. Knowing how to write knowledge base articles and maintaining a good KB can be a deal breaker or maker—the easier it seems to use a product, the more likely users are to choose it.
This means your knowledge base can be a very powerful marketing tool.
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The Wix Writers' Guild