The key features of a SaaS knowledge base

Catherine Heath | December 23, 2018

Knowledge base software is an important category of software all its own. Sometimes it can be listed under Knowledge Management software or Customer Service software, it’s software that enables you to create a sophisticated knowledge base for your company.

It usually comes with some standard features that help you to create and publish content according to a deep-level category system, maintained by multiple users. It’s like your standard CMS software – with much, much more.

Because there is sometimes a bit of confusion over the exact nature of knowledge base software, we thought we’d list the core features of the software here and explain what they’re for. And of course all of these features are available in our own knowledge base software, KnowledgeOwl.

Let’s get started.

Publishing & Editing process

Publishing & Editing process features are ones used in the writing, editing, and publishing of new content, or updating existing content. These are the most-used features on a daily basis. 

WYSIWYG Content Management System – The most central feature is the WYSIWYG CMS, which allows users to write and edit content in the browser. It’s incredibly intuitive to use, and no developer skills are required. If users are capable of using standard office software like Microsoft Word, they can usually learn to use a knowledge base CMS with relative ease.

Author and editor user login – These are accounts with usernames and passwords that allow multiple people to work on your content without requiring a lengthy approval process. Your knowledge base users tend to need different permissions depending on their role in the publishing process. You don’t want every user to have the power to publish content, for example, but you may need users who are only content “authors”.

Editing and approval process – Articles in production can be given a different status depending on whether they have been approved. Once the articles have been written or pasted into the CMS editor, they can be submitted for approval with the click of a button. Articles can be dated to show when they were created and last reviewed.

Bulk edit and bulk delete – Change the settings on multiple pages at once or delete multiple pages. Knowledge base users often have a lot of content, and they may need to flag many pages for review at once, or delete lots of pages at the same time. This saves time and makes the editing process more efficient.

Front-end features

Front-end features are very important features for use in specific stages of the development of your knowledge base look and feel. You don’t necessarily use them often, but when you do they are crucial to your site's professionalism. 

In-built style templates – You don’t have to design your knowledge base all by yourself. Your software comes bundled in with basic front-end knowledge base templates that have been user-tested for usability. Although the designs are basic, they are exactly what your users will expect from a knowledge base.

Custom branding – If you don’t want to use the in-built templates, it’s possible to easily customize the front end of your knowledge base with company colours, fonts and imagery. Some companies completely redesign their knowledge base front end, although not all software allows you to do this. KnowledgeOwl is incredibly flexible in terms of customization.

Usability features

Usability features of your knowledge base tend to blend into the background but your knowledge base wouldn’t be complete without them. Use them to add depth and quality to your knowledge base, making it easier to use. 

User feedback capabilities – Customers can submit comments, ratings or send a request through a form on your knowledge base. You actively solicit feedback on every page of your knowledge base to see how satisfied your customers are with the content.

Glossary – The ability to create a glossary of terms used in your knowledge base that is presented in a user-friendly way, and include definitions that appear within articles when users hover over a word.

Related articles widget – The ability to set a widget in the background of your Content Management System that automatically suggests related articles based on tags, to help with discoverability. Users do not browse your knowledge base in a linear way, but jump around depending on what they want to find.

Searchability and Information Architecture

When users arrive at your knowledge base, the most important thing is for them to find the information they need. Searchability enables users to actively search for content, while Information Architecture is the structural backbone of your content. Think of it like a library system that users can learn to familiarize themselves with your knowledge base. 

Search engine with auto suggest – When customers type in the search bar relevant articles are predicted for them which means they don’t have to type an exact query. The search is intelligent and accommodates for typos in the query.

Article tagging – Help your customers easily find articles in the search through adding your own custom tags. This helps with content discoverability.

Restricted content – Some content may be for particular types of users such as premium customers or internal staff. That content can be gated and require a login or IP address to access. You can restrict particular pages, or the whole knowledge base.

Redirects – you may want your knowledge base to link to certain pages on another website so this made possible with a redirect URL. This preserves your SEO and is the correct way to forward pages to a new URL as it ensures only one version of your website is indexed.

Information Architecture – Unlimited levels within a hierarchy to organize content according to its significance within your knowledge base. Sophisticated navigation and interlinking so users can easily find their way around your content.

Topic-based categories – the ability to structure your knowledge base with a hierarchy of content grouped into top-level categories and lower levels of subcategories. You can reorder your categories whenever you like without worrying about breaking the system using drag-and-drop.

Back-end features

Front-end users don’t see these features but they all add to the overall experience for you as the back-end software user. 

Unlimited file storage – There’s no limit to how much data you can store in your knowledge base so you can scale your documentation. Not all knowledge base solutions provide this and you may reach a limit, or have to pay for more storage. Our own knowledge base software KnowledgeOwl offers unlimited storage on our own servers.

Reporting and analytics – In-built anonymous user data collection and reporting available in your software so you can analyze how your content is doing. Most solutions also offer integration with Google Analytics.

Search Engine Optimization – Your knowledge base software is fully optimized for crawling and indexing by major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! It includes capabilities for HTML tagging and metadata, acting just like a regular website in this respect.

Domain forwarding – You can structure your knowledge base navigation to link to another external page, such as a page in your website. You preserve your Information Architecture while ensuring users arrive at the correct content.

Secure hosting and HTTPS – You never have to worry about security breaches as SaaS knowledge base software is compliant with current security standards.

Check out our full guide to knowledge base software. Our own knowledge base software offers all these features and more. Take it for a free spin. 

About the author
Catherine Heath
Catherine Heath

Community builder at KnowledgeOwl. Blogs. Copy. Documentation. Freelance content writer for creative and ethical companies. Contributing to open source and teaching technical tools.

Catherine blogs on her personal websites Away With Words and Awkward Writer. She runs the Write the Docs Northwest meetup group. 

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