Difference between a knowledge base and FAQs

Catherine Heath | April 20, 2021

Many companies start out with a simple Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page to deal with their customers’ most commonly asked queries. FAQs are a list of questions that customers typically ask regarding the company’s products and services, and typically take up one page of the company website. 

However, at some point companies may want to graduate to a knowledge base to enable customers to self-serve their own queries. A knowledge base is much more detailed than FAQs and contains pages and pages of content for customers to browse or search. 

It’s useful to explore the elements that you would normally include in a full-blown knowledge base versus your garden variety FAQs. But first, what is a knowledge base? 

What is a knowledge base? 

A knowledge base is a centralized repository of articles containing solutions to problems your customers may run into when using your products and services. It’s a website that typically has a homepage and search bar, with articles arranged in categories for customers to browse. 

A knowledge base is essential for helping customers to answer their own questions, reducing the number of customers who need to turn to your support team for help. 

Here's an example of KnowledgeOwl's knowledge base: 

 

A knowledge base is very similar to an FAQs page but typically much more detailed and complex. An FAQs page doesn’t require a search bar, for example – customers simply scroll through the list of questions to find an answer. 

Why do businesses have an FAQs page? 

Businesses typically set up an FAQs page because they are receiving a lot of customer enquiries that could be answered with a simple bit of text, removing the need to contact the company’s support team

Businesses may not feel ready for a full-blown knowledge base system because they don’t think it will provide a return on investment. An FAQs page is sufficient to fulfil their customers’ needs. 

Here's an example of Nintendo's FAQs: 

Image source

But, at some point, most companies will want to graduate to a knowledge base. We’ll look at some of the differences between knowledge bases and FAQs now. 

Dedicated software

FAQs are typically a page on your company’s main website that have been designated for the purpose of helping customers with common queries. There’s nothing special about this page – it’s just like every other page on your website but with FAQs instead of other company information. 

A knowledge base, on the other hand, is made with dedicated software that has been specifically designed for the purpose. Your knowledge base might be an add-on to your help center software – like Zendesk’s Guide – or you might opt for a standalone knowledge base solution, like our very own KnowledgeOwl

When you use knowledge base software, you typically purchase a number of user accounts to allow your staff members to write, edit and publish content. The knowledge base is hosted on its own domain which you can customize to be part of your main website (www.mycompany.com/help, for example). 

Information architecture

So now we know about the different software you use for a knowledge base, it’s time to think about how the knowledge is structured. 

The primary difference between a knowledge base and FAQs is the presence of information architecture. Ideally, when you write an FAQs page for your website, it won’t contain too many questions and it will fit neatly into a single page. When the content on your FAQs page starts growing longer so you end up categorizing it, you’re straying into knowledge base territory. 

With a knowledge base, there is a menu that displays all your content so customers can browse. The knowledge you need to share is sufficiently complex that it requires categorization according to different levels of breadth and depth so users can navigate your content. 

You need to choose a limited number of broad, top-level categories for your content and then use subcategories if you need them. 

User Experience

Your knowledge base will have its own complete user experience (compared to your website containing the FAQs) because your customers will have a different aim in using it. When you purchase your knowledge base software, it comes with pre-built designs for your knowledge base that have been tested and proven to work for users. 

A knowledge base is a form of customer self-service that relieves your support team of repeatedly dealing with the same queries, and removes the need for your customers to ring the support line or email your agents. It often has recommended articles on the homepage as well as links to the main categories, with the goal of helping customers quickly find the most relevant content for them. 

In contrast, your website will have a multitude of aims, ranging from selling your products to data collection – it’s likely to be controlled by your marketing team whose goal is to acquire more customers. Your knowledge base, on the other hand, is purely to enable your customers to self-serve their queries. There should be no attempt to sell products on the knowledge base. 

Analytics and metrics

Unlike an FAQs section, which is generally just a single page, a knowledge base will utilize analytics in the back end so you can understand how users are interacting with your content and improve customer support performance. Your knowledge base may come with built-in analytics or you can integrate with a solution such as Google Analytics

There are ways to identify the effectiveness of your content. For example, if a page is getting a lot of views but has a high bounce rate, this means users are actively searching for a page but not finding it useful. You can then see that you need to improve your content with a rewrite or perhaps publish an entirely new page. 

You may be able to look at how many customers are searching for particular terms that return no results. This will tell you that you have missing content which you should think about providing your customers – otherwise, failed knowledge base searches lead to a bigger burden on your support team.  

Searchability

Many customers using your knowledge base don’t want to dig through your categories in order to find the right article. They may already know the solution they are looking for and this is where great search capabilities come in. 

HelpJuice has written a great article on how a working search bar is the difference between a knowledge base and an FAQs page

You need to have a prominent search bar on your knowledge base, and tag all of your articles with relevant keywords to enable users to find your content. Your article titles should also be optimized for search. 

Good search capabilities should be a key feature of the knowledge base software that you choose

Conclusion

Ultimately, a knowledge base will require specialist software that provides analytics and searchability to make it a success. An FAQ is just a page or set of pages on your company website. 

Rather than just being an extension of your company website, though, your knowledge base should have its own information architecture so users can easily navigate your content. Along with frequently asked questions, it will also contain general user documentation, and is generally aimed at long-term customers. It should also have its own search functionality for quick finds. 

If you’re ready to graduate from your FAQs page to a brand new knowledge base, KnowledgeOwl can provide the software you need at an affordable price. Contact us now to find out more.


About the author
Catherine Heath
Catherine Heath

Catherine is the Community Builder for KnowledgeOwl. She is also a freelance writer based in Manchester. She writes blogs, social media, copy, and designs owl-based images. 

You can find out more about Catherine on her personal websites Away With Words and Catherine Heath Studios.


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