10 Best Practices for Creating Knowledge Base Articles

10 Best Practices for Creating Knowledge Base Articles

What is the first reaction of customers when help content doesn’t make sense? 

“What a waste of time! I should have contacted the company directly.”

There is a reason two-thirds of customers prefer self-service before approaching a company’s support staff. Customers think of self-service as the fastest medium to get the help they need. When these hopes are crushed, their belief and inclination towards self-service diminishes. 

And you are back to square one – managing an ever-increasing mountain of tickets. 

It doesn’t feel nice, right? How to ensure that this situation doesn’t arise in the first place? 

Creating a knowledge base that fails to help customers is worse than having no knowledge base at all. So, if you have a knowledge base, better turn it into the best information resource that sweeps customers off their feet. 

Writing knowledge base articles of top-notch quality can set you in the right direction. Explore the top 10 best practices that can take the quality of your knowledge base to the next level. 

But before that, let’s learn where businesses go wrong while writing knowledge base articles. 

Common Mistakes Businesses Make While Creating Knowledge Base Articles

A knowledge base comprises help content, giving content creators a feeling that it is easy to create. In reality, building a knowledge base is as challenging as developing a whole new website. Quality content is a must, but other elements such as design and presentation are equally important.  

In order to create a flawless knowledge base that invites customers to self-resolve issues, here are some common mistakes you must avoid: 

1. Ineffective Search System

A poor search system that doesn’t return accurate results when customers look for answers is a sure-shot way to make them hate your customer service knowledge base

2. Large Blocks of Text

Another common mistake is creating lengthy articles that educate less and confuse more. Even high-quality content fails to make sense if not presented in the right format. 

3. Not Focusing on The Design

Design is an important element of a successful knowledge base. Most businesses ignore the design part, thinking that it is a waste of time and effort. The truth is poor design is a turn-off for customers. No matter how information-rich your knowledge base is, it fails to leave a lasting impact if it is not well-designed. 

4. Writing Complicated, Hard-to-Follow Articles

This is a major reason customers, most of the time, do not rely on self-help articles. Since they are difficult to read and understand, such articles do more harm than good. When the content is not easy to follow, customers have no choice but to contact the company through other means. 

These are some basic areas where companies go wrong with their knowledge base content, which ultimately impacts their customer support. 

Let’s now explore some actionable best practices that will help you write knowledge base articles of top quality. 

10 Best Practices to Create Impressive Knowledge Base Articles

The real difference between an average knowledge base and an awesome knowledge base lies in the quality of its articles. 

How customers feel the moment they step into your knowledge base, what value they receive as they navigate through the content, and how quickly their problems are resolved – all this is determined by the quality of your knowledge base content, structure, and other elements. 

Follow these knowledge base article best practices to build solid help content for your external audience – customers and the internal audience – employees. 

Here we go. 

1. Identify the Pain Points of Your Audience

Behind every unhappy customer is a pain point that goes unaddressed.

Identifying these pain points is crucial to crafting content that customers really need. If you create content without knowing what your customers really need, sooner or later, your knowledge base will turn futile. 

Finding the pain points of customers sets you on the right path from the get-go. Start by tracking your support tickets, emails, and calls. Consult with your support agents to find the common questions customers frequently ask. Look at previous customer-agent interactions and visit the community forum to check the questions customers are asking. 

Putting effort and time into research, in the beginning, pays off later. You will have in-depth knowledge about what customers really need, which will help you write the most relevant articles. 

2. Do Not Assume

Making assumptions while writing knowledge base articles is a big NO. 

Since businesses know their product in and out, they tend to assume the same for their customers, providing only the information they feel is necessary. This can backfire. 

Understand that customers, no matter how familiar they are with your products, need complete information. So, consider them as beginners and create knowledge base content that guides them at every step from start to finish. 

Avoid technical jargon. You know them, but most of your customers may not be familiar with the terms. The best way out here is to explain all technical terms and concepts right where they are used to avoid confusion. 

No matter how simple a term, instruction, or concept might be, ensure that you explain them to the core. While experienced customers might ignore such content, beginners will get stuck if you miss out on crucial information. 

3. Create the Right Blend of Text, Images, & Videos

Showing how something works is always better than simply writing the process. A document full of text is the root cause of customer disengagement. It is easier to get lost in a sea of words and make no sense of what is written. But, when the same text is combined with the right visuals, the customer experience automatically gets better. 

Visuals help you explain products to the core, demonstrate how products work, and show troubleshooting tips in action. When customers read and see what a product is and how it functions, they can grasp the information faster. Also, with visuals, you need fewer words to explain processes. This means fewer words and more impact. 

Every time you explain a feature, talk about a step, add short videos or screenshots so customers can see everything in action. 

HighQ follows a similar approach. Go through its help center, and you will find an image after almost every step.

4. Let the Content Flow Logically

A knowledge base is not a platform to just dump all the information, expecting customers to find help on their own. An out-of-place knowledge base aggravates customer frustration instead of reducing it. That’s because searching for information becomes a pain when articles are not organized logically. 

While writing knowledge base articles, focus on where you are placing them, under which category, and in what order. When information flows smoothly from top to bottom, reaching the right page gets easier for customers. 

Start your knowledge base with a homepage that offers a glimpse of the inside content. Then move on to building broad categories along with their subcategories for each topic. Put the right articles in the right sections to help customers find what they need quickly. 

It’s always better to adopt a chronological approach wherein you start with the easiest concepts and move on to the more complex elements of a product. You can also provide a list of ‘related articles’ at the end of each article to make information search seamless. 

Step into the customers’ shoes and figure out how they would want the information to be presented and accordingly work on the knowledge base structure. 

Here is a perfect example of how an ideal knowledge base format looks like.

5. Make Your Articles Easy to Search & Skim

People prefer online self-help because it delivers answers faster than any other mode of support. For a self-service knowledge base to stay true to this perception, it should help readers get what they need in not more than a few seconds. 

That is possible when the knowledge base articles are easy to search and skim.

For uninterrupted search, a Google-like search system is desirable. A robust search mechanism crawls through the document’s content, keywords, table of contents, and more to display the most accurate results, matching the search query. 

As far as content navigation is concerned, a well-structured document with relevant internal linking is key. Give readers a smooth experience by: 

  • Creating headings and subheadings for each topic. This helps readers identify the articles that they are interested in instead of reading all the articles in detail. 
  • Add bullets wherever necessary. Bullets are easy to digest. It’s always a better idea to break large blocks of text into bullets that are easy to read and grasp.  
  • Use formatting to make important sections stand out. Sometimes, what is crucial for readers might get lost in a sea of information. You can prevent this by highlighting important information in bold and italics and using different font colors. 
  • Add internal linking. Related articles can be interlinked to help readers switch from one article to the other seamlessly. 

These are some simple hacks to make your knowledge base articles easy to discover. 

Below is HighQ’s easy to skim help center setting the right example for how exactly you should write articles for your knowledge base.

6. Create Content in Collaboration With Different Teams

Writing and managing articles single-handedly is not a good practice. It affects not only the quality of the knowledge base but also the speed with which it is developed. 

But when different teams come together to collaborate and share knowledge, the results are bound to be brilliant. While writing knowledge base articles, ensure that the best minds work under one roof and contribute meaningfully to the content creation process. 

For example, while some team members can bring their technical skills to the table and focus on writing product-related articles that are more detail-oriented, the more experienced individuals can take charge of editing and checking the articles for errors. Others can simply manage all activities happening in the knowledge base and keep track of who is working on what. 

This is a streamlined way of writing and managing knowledge base articles without putting the entire load on a single person. 

With ProProfs Knowledge Base, you can assign the roles of – administrator, contributor and editor to users and groups, depending on their knowledge and experience level.

This video sheds light on how to collaborate as a team to build a knowledge base.

7. Check Article Tone & Voice

Customers visit your knowledge base to get rid of their frustration and confusion, not to increase it. Going wrong with the tone and voice destroys all the effort that you put into writing knowledge base articles. That’s precisely why you need to be extra careful of how your articles read and what they convey.

The tone and voice of a knowledge base reflect your brand. While a positive tone, instructional voice, and simple language reflect positivity, a negative tone and voice can immediately put your brand in a bad light.

While working on the tone and voice, the first thing you should know is – what the knowledge base articles are about? Are they about satiating customers’ curiosity regarding how your product works, or are they about fixing product-related problems?

Identify the objective of the knowledge base articles and accordingly tweak the tone.

Don’t be too formal but don’t be too casual as well. Maintain a respectful, friendly, and instructive tone throughout articles. You can use humor when articles are about introducing your product and its features. But this tone doesn’t work so well when explaining the steps to solve a serious issue.

Writing well is important but dressing the content with an appropriate tone and voice is even more important.

8. Create Simple & Straightforward Titles

Article titles are not the places to show your creativity. A knowledge base is a help document where people come to get quick information about a subject. That’s why simple and straightforward titles work well for knowledge base articles.

More than creativity, your knowledge base content strategy should focus on achieving clarity in titles and even in the content.

While writing titles, remember that people use basic keywords or phrases during a search. Build titles around these keywords so customers instantly know what the article is about. Use active voice and action words while writing articles. For example –

  • How to integrate knowledge base with live chat
  • Install help desk in 5 easy steps
  • Getting started with your knowledge base
  • How to install live chat on your website

All these are action-oriented titles with the basic keywords conveying what’s covered in the article.

Look at LEAP’s knowledge base below. The article titles are not exciting but extremely clear and straightforward – just how they are supposed to be.

9. Collect & Act on Feedback

Gathering feedback is an important step you cannot miss while creating knowledge base articles. The purpose here is to understand what customers like and what they don’t, so you can refine the articles accordingly.

Article feedback is a crucial tool to get a glimpse of the ‘what and why’ of your customers’ dislikes.

There are two ways you can collect feedback. One via feedback forms and the other via surveys.

Feedback forms have a single question at the end of every article asking readers about whether they found the article helpful or not, with yes and no as answer options. Customers also have the option to give detailed feedback if they are unhappy with the article. This feedback then reaches you via email, so respective teams can take appropriate action on time.

As far as surveys are concerned, you can add ticket forms and sidebar forms to allow customers to submit a ticket for issues that the knowledge base cannot address. Once your support team gets the tickets, they can provide customers a resolution and, on the side, update the knowledge base articles so that such problems don’t arise in the future.

10. Improve & Update Your Knowledge Base Articles

A knowledge base is a rich information resource that needs to be constantly improved and updated so that it stays relevant for customers. If you write knowledge base articles once and think that your job is over, think again. Over time as your products develop and customer expectations change, these articles will go obsolete, providing no more value to your customers.

You don’t want that, right? 

The secret to always keeping your knowledge base fresh and relevant is to be committed to continuously improving its content.

The best knowledge base tools come equipped with built-in analytics, providing AI-powered insights into how your knowledge base articles are performing. Such insights are shown in the form of graphical reports that can be generated daily, weekly, or monthly. The insights give a thorough analysis of:

  • Which articles are the most read?
  • Which articles are rated poorly?
  • Which keywords failed to return relevant results?
  • Which are the popular keywords customers are searching for?

This and many more insights help you evaluate the knowledge base articles that are ticking all customer expectations and the content that has room for further improvement. Built-in analytics allow you to not only improve your knowledge base content but also eliminate recurring customer problems and build better products.

Follow these knowledge base article best practices to create content customers will thank you for.

Let’s now look at some knowledge base article types and templates to help you start on the right foot.

Knowledge Base Article Types & Templates to Get You Started

Using a standard template is a great way to write top-quality knowledge base articles while saving time and effort on the side. Templates give a consistent look and feel to a knowledge base and ensure that writers do not have to create everything from scratch.

Depending on the kind of knowledge base articles you are creating – FAQs, troubleshooting articles, How-to articles, etc., you will need appropriate templates. Here are a few knowledge base article examples that might help you.

1. Troubleshooting Articles to Solve Issues

Troubleshooting is about fixing a problem. These articles are mostly focused on offering solutions in a step-by-step way to help customers self-resolve issues. Such articles are to the point and dive straight into the solution without wasting time building a background in the introduction. They simply describe the issue, provide solutions and explain each solution.

2. FAQs to Answer Common Questions

The FAQ page, as we all know, has the common questions that customers frequently ask. These questions can be general or specific, simple or complex, depending on the kind of issues customers have while using your products. FAQs are to-the-point and organized topic-wise, with answers showing as soon as the question is clicked.

Read More: Top 10 FAQ software for Creating Online FAQs

UNLEASHED has done a brilliant job of creating a separate FAQ section in its knowledge base. The FAQs are divided into 5 or 6 categories – Top 10 FAQs, purchase FAQs, inventory FAQs, etc., making it easier for customers to go to a section they are interested in.

3. Guides to Provide Step-by-Step Instructions

Some companies focus on creating how-to articles or guides with the chief objective of teaching customers:

  • How to use a product
  • How to complete specific tasks
  • How to use product features, and more.

Here is an example of how such articles are written.

First, the topic is briefly explained, followed by instructions on how to perform a task such as using a product. Here the topic is about duplicating files, which is explained in the beginning along with step-by-step instructions.

All Set to Write Knowledge Base Articles? 

Just like how Rome wasn’t built in a day, so are your knowledge base articles.

Perfecting the art of writing amazing knowledge base articles takes time, but once you do, there is no looking back. Creating something perfect in a single day is not possible. So do not have such high expectations. Start small and easy by writing knowledge base articles on simple topics. Gradually, proceed towards complicated topics that require more research and better writing skills.

Follow the knowledge base article best practices given above, and the chances of your efforts bearing fruits will be even higher. Understand your audience’s pain points, do not assume anything, use images and videos in the content, create simple titles, and do not forget to collect feedback on the articles you write.

Trust us, you will get better with every article and soon start getting the results you want.

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About the author

Brayn is a knowledge management expert. He has been published in CustomerThink, PointVisible and Apruve. As a customer support specialist at ProProfs, Brayn has been instrumental in building a robust knowledge base and documents that help support executives keep every customer delighted. You can catch up with Brayn on Twitter and LinkedIn.