Best practices for an awesome knowledge base

Catherine Heath | June 1, 2021

To optimize anything, it’s best to keep your eye on the prize. The primary purpose of your knowledge base is to provide value for your customers and to reduce workload for your support staff.

Your knowledge base lessens the need for human intervention in a customer support query, and, if designed well, will reap huge rewards for your company. Research shows that customers prefer to self-serve by answering questions for themselves, rather than picking up a phone or sending an email.

Some queries will always need that human touch, but the ability to send the majority of your customers to relevant pages on your knowledge base will reduce your total volume of enquiries.

1. Great user experience with prominent search bar, optimized for devices

The User Experience of your knowledge base is anything that contributes to the overall design. Using the right knowledge base software means you will have access to tried and tested templates that provide a great UX for your users. 

Don’t worry about putting off your customers with a larger than average search bar. If your search bar is tucked away in the corner of the screen, it’s easier to miss and will increase ‘cognitive load’ for the user to find it. Stick it in the middle of the homepage, and make sure you’ve indexed and tagged your articles properly to make them easy to find.

Many people forget that customers will be viewing your knowledge base on different devices, ranging from smartphone, to tablet, to full-size desktop screen. Take into consideration all screen types when designing your knowledge base.

Make use of white space in your knowledge base so users aren’t overwhelmed with information. It’s important to include other visual elements such as images and videos to make your content more engaging for your users. 

2. Write clear, concise articles that are regularly updated

Web best practice applies equally to your knowledge base content as it does to your website and blog. There are many ways to improve the learning process for your customers.

Self-service content should establish trust with your customers and ensure that they can learn from the instructions provided. Treat your knowledge base content with as much care as you would your marketing materials. 

When you’re writing your content, remember that customers are likely to be confused and frustrated when visiting your knowledge base. Get straight to the point and include a summary of the solution in the first paragraph of every article. 

Break up long walls of text with useful headers, and if you can, include a table of contents for the page to help the user scroll down long content. Include images and videos increase the visual appeal of your articles.

Keep it simple by only dealing with one question per article. Use roughly the same structure for each article so your users know what to expect every time they visit your knowledge base.

3. Structure your knowledge base into sections and surface most popular articles

It sounds simple but there are going to be questions that just keep coming up over and over again. Make it easy for users hitting the homepage of your knowledge base to instantly spot these ‘most popular questions’ pages to eliminate any time they would have spent searching.

Information architecture refers to the design of your knowledge base that helps users make sense of the information presented to them. IA makes your knowledge base much more than a simple FAQs page. 

Categorise your content so you don’t end up with a huge list of random articles. This means pre-defining some sensible topics that your knowledge base covers and grouping relevant articles in these categories. Don’t make customers hunt around too much for the content they need. 

Find your goldilocks zone for organization. Don’t have too many categories because this will confuse your user, while too few means the number of articles in each will be overwhelming. Find the number that’s just right.

Make sure users can get back to the category landing page or knowledge base homepage easily from wherever they are. Surfacing the menu bar is a great way to keep knowledge base users oriented and aware of where they are in your knowledge base. 

4. Identify a knowledge leader

Someone needs to be in charge of creating content for your knowledge base – your knowledge leader. Whether it’s their main job or they are responsible for many tasks, you need to have someone on your team who makes sure that content is created and keeps the knowledge base consistent. 

This person should be in the driving seat for monitoring the issues that come up from customers that would make good knowledge base articles. You will ensure that new documentation is created quickly and that existing documentation stays up-to-date. 

Without a knowledge base leader, your website is likely to languish into obscurity without new content available. Your leader will take point on keeping content consistent and act as a contact for the team with any queries about the knowledge base. 

5. Create a process to highlight knowledge base issues

Your customer support agents are in the best position to be able to highlight new issues from customers that would make great content for your knowledge base. You need to build a process in place so your agents can flag new content or update old content. 

You can use a specific tag in your help desk software to allow agents to flag tickets with issues for the knowledge base. Ensure that your agents are searching for existing documentation rather than duplicating content that already exists. If the existing content requires improvement then agents should flag it with a tag so your knowledge leader knows to update the content. 

You can even go further and teach your agents to update and create content as part of their workflow. The best time to update content is straight after working with a customer when the details are clear in their mind. Even if that’s not possible, at least the content update will have been recorded and be able to be picked up by another member of your team. 

6. Make it easy to contact your support team

With the best designed knowledge base in the world, there will still be times when customers are unable to resolve a problem themselves. You should include a link to contact your support team from every page in your knowledge base for those customers who really need it. 

Showing that you’re available to your customers creates a better experience and enhances the feeling of trust in your brand. It’s not good self-service to make your team hard to contact and just increases the chances of your customers churning because they didn’t get the help that they needed. 

Use the design of your knowledge to highlight all the different ways that customers can contact support. Include your email address, live chat, phone number, and social media links for customers to easily get in touch. 

Summary

You’ll only get out as much as you put in. If you invest time into creating a quality knowledge base using these tips as a springboard, you’ll find your customer support workflows improving, and everyone will be a lot happier.

If you don’t have a knowledge base yet or would like to switch services, KnowledgeOwl offers easy-to-use capabilities for all of these features, and much more!

Take our knowledge base software for a free spin right now. 

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