Find the best knowledge base software
by Erica Beyea

Find the best knowledge base software: a guide, template rubric, and full list of tools

Finding and evaluating knowledge base software solutions can be a daunting task. I was deeply overwhelmed when I started this post and tried to put myself in the shoes of someone trying to find the right tool. Searching for "knowledge base software" will return countless repetitive lists and extremely different types of tools. It’s far too easy to get confused by what’s out there compared to your actual needs.

At KnowledgeOwl we love to help, so we thought we’d try to put together this guide on how to help you find what you’re looking for.

Here you’ll find guidance on how to conduct your search, a comprehensive list of knowledge base and knowledge management software, and a rubric that you can use to compare tools' fit to your needs. 

Narrowing down prospective solutions

Review sites like Capterra and G2 give you hundreds of wildly different platforms, and Google returns seemingly countless repetitive “Top knowledge base software” lists. Where do you start?

When we talk to prospective customers during demos, we’ve found there are some questions we can ask to help create a shortlist of potential solutions:

  1. Who will be your authors? 

  2. Who is your audience?

  3. What features are most important?

Who will be your authors?

While this seems like a simple question, how you answer it can prompt you to look at very different tools.

We like to envision all knowledge base solutions on a continuum. On one end there are the collaborative, wiki-style solutions where everyone can read, create, and update the content. On the other end of the spectrum is the more single source of truth solutions, where you have a small group of users managing the content for a large group of readers.

Those collaborative, wiki-style solutions are generally focused on individuals sharing knowledge with each other. These are highly collaborative environments where everyone is (or can be) both a knowledge author and a knowledge consumer. Pricing for these tools is generally based on the number of total users. 

Here are a few examples of this wiki-style solution. You can find more in our rubric/kb template:

  • Guru

  • Confluence

  • Notion

The single source of truth solutions are focused on creating a knowledge base website with a small group of authors (often a single person) creating and managing the content for a larger group of people. Pricing for these tools is generally based on the number of users/authors creating content (but this can vary).

Here are a few examples of this single source of truth solution. You can find more in our rubric/kb template:

  • KnowledgeOwl (that’s us!)

  • Helpjuice

  • Document360

Tip: KnowledgeOwl works best when you have a small number of users who create and manage the content of the knowledge base for a large number of readers. We also only charge for users/authors, not readers, so it can be a more affordable solution for this end of the spectrum!

Who is your audience?

The type of solution you want is often tied to who the audience of your knowledge base will be. Some companies are looking for an internal knowledge base solution for employees and staff, some are looking to create an external knowledge base for their customers, and some even want both. 

While there are some solutions that cater to both audience types (like KnowledgeOwl!), there are solutions out there dedicated to one purpose or the other. There are also tools out there specifically designed for niche groups, such as ReadMe for developer documentation. 

If you are looking to create an internal knowledge base, odds are you want that knowledge base to be restricted, so you can narrow down your evaluation to tools that allow you to create a knowledge base that is behind a login. 

What features are most important?

Identifying what features are most important for you can also greatly help you narrow down the list of potential solutions. There are a ton of different knowledge base solutions with varying feature sets, and you'll want to check off all the boxes on your list.

  1. What are your dealbreaker features, the features you absolutely have to have? Tools that don't meet these requirements can be quickly eliminated. For example, if having a restricted knowledge base is a requirement for you, being able to integrate with your existing Single Sign-On (SSO) provider might also be a required feature.
  2. What are your nice to have features? These could be optional things you can live without, but they can help you decide between multiple tools that meet all of your required features.

Sometimes, you may not know what your required or nice to have features are as you start looking. Start with the aspects you know for certain, and as you look at tools, you can refine your list once you see the kinds of features that are out there.

We have a couple resources on our Support knowledge base that may also help get your creative juices flowing, too:

  • Define your purpose and audience: While purpose isn't required to select a tool, it can help you to answer the questions about authors and audience. Here, we offer six questions with some additional explanation that can help you better define what you're looking for.
  • Write up a Knowledge Base Brief: If you need to present or make the case for implementing a knowledge base, this document template can help you lay out the details of the tool you've selected and why you think it will work. This is definitely more of a down-the-road resource, but since it builds on the purpose and audience questions, we figured it might not hurt to include it!
  • Look at a few tools' features to get a feel for what's out there. (Here's one of our feature lists, for example!)

Comparing Solutions

After you’ve answered these questions, you can start researching solutions that match your criteria and compare them. 

To help with that step, we have created this rubric you can copy and use in your search: Knowledge base software comparison rubric

Use the rubric

The first tab (Tool comparison) is where you’ll be doing most of your work within the evaluation process.

It has been filled out with some of the most common requirements we have seen for knowledge base software. You can edit those requirements to suit your organization’s needs--these are just some examples!  

For each tool, we've included a column where you can leave detailed notes of how well each product matches the requirements and another column where you can score how well the requirement is met from 1 - 5.

We haven’t weighted the scores in the sheets, but you could consider doing that if some requirements are more important to you.

The second tab (Comprehensive list of KB Software tools 2023) provides a comprehensive list of knowledge base tools. We’ve done our best to group them in the type of solutions they offer and the audience they would serve, to make it easier for you to choose tools to evaluate. Of course, you're also welcome to hit review sites or do general searches--we just wanted to try to save you a little time!

Take a test drive

Once you have your tools narrowed down to your top xx (we recommend no more than 5), we strongly recommend leveraging demo sites or trial accounts as you work through your evaluation, rather than just reading information on people's websites. 

While three tools might all technically have the same feature, each one might handle that feature a little differently. Getting hands-on experience with each tool can help you in your scoring or decisions.

For example, KnowledgeOwl offers a 30-day free trial, no credit card required. This can let your primary authors compare different tools and the exact experience they'd have creating and updating content. That experience will often be the deciding factor between similarly-scored tools.

You can even include something like "author experience" or "ease of use" as a requirement in your rubric, and add a numeric score for that.

Final thoughts

Really, what we've provided you is a long unranked list of solutions and a simple tool to help you evaluate them against your needs. We hope these prove to be a helpful starting place as you wade through the knowledge base software options.

Please let us know if this did help, or if you have any questions about what we’re offering compared to other folks in the field.

We want to make sure you end up in the right place for your needs, be it here in our nest or with someone else!

Erica Beyea

Erica is a Lead Customer Success Owl here at KnowledgeOwl. She also paints paintings! You can see her work on her Instagram or say hello on LinkedIn.

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