What is a Knowledge Base and How to Create One

What is a Knowledge Base and How to Create One
Matej Kukucka

Written by:
Matej Kukucka

Jun 03, 2021
An illustration of a person holding an information icon in front of a help center.

Most consumers nowadays can’t stand waiting for help, especially when seeking assistance from online support staff. When they want answers, they want them immediately.

To help customers solve their problems and learn how to use your products or services without your help, you need a knowledge base.

So, what’s a knowledge base?

Today, we’ll explain everything you need to know about a knowledge base and how to build one. Here’s a brief overview of what we’ll cover.

 

What is a Knowledge Base?

A knowledge base software is a centralized repository of informational content about a product or service. It's a self-service online library that stores knowledge about your offerings, which your customers and team members can use to get instant help.

It's usually a part of your help center, which hosts the forum for the user’s community.

A screenshot of Visme's knowledge base.

Cool tip: A community forum is a space dedicated to conversations between you and your customers.

A knowledge base comes with many advantages, such as:

  • Availability to customers around the clock. Customers access information anytime they need it instead of waiting on support staff.
  • It saves your team considerable time and effort. A knowledge base stands in for your staff when they're busy with work or away for the night.
  • Self-service reduces your support load. As such, your support team can spend more time on tickets that need attention.
  • Self-service gives your customers the satisfaction of solving their problems without your help. The next time they find themselves in a hitch, they're likely to search your knowledge base first to see if they can find a solution.

A knowledge base is a handy tool – not only for your customers, but also for your support agents. You can add any valuable content, from Human Resource regulations to legal frameworks.

The most basic content format on a knowledge base is a worded article. Though you can – and should – visually enhance your knowledge base by including videos and screenshots.

You can also structure your content by adding FAQs, product manuals or troubleshooting guides. We'll discuss these formats and when to use them in a short while.

When all is said and done, the only aspect that can make or break your knowledge base is structure. A disorganized structure will confuse your customers rather than lead them to a solution.

 

How to Structure a Knowledge Base

Building a knowledge base is easy. Following are the five steps you need to develop an effective knowledge base.

 

Step 1: Understand who you’re writing for.

The first step in creating a knowledge base system is to understand your target audience. Communicate with your marketing team to get a sense of your audience.

Customers will visit your knowledge base because of the following reasons:

  • They’re looking for customer care services following a purchase.
  • They’re interested in the products or services you’re offering.

If they visit your site following a purchase, chances are they’re frustrated or distressed, or they’re trying to find a solution to a problem.

On the other hand, new customers will visit your knowledge base to learn more about your products or services through your community discussions. In this regard, ensure your responses to customers are prompt and valuable so that a lack of communication can't cost you a sale.

When writing and structuring your knowledge base, be frank and direct to the point. Write precisely and with a defined purpose.

Get valuable statistics on your target audiences like gender, age and occupation. These demographics will help you choose appropriate content formats that work best.

Assume your average customer is a middle-aged gent who enjoys reading and doing DIY projects at home. A “how-to” article or a product manual may work well for him. Yet, if your customer base is young and tech-savvy, adding videos, GIFs or memes might work well for them.

Equally, it’s essential to know the location of your customers and the languages they speak. This will help you reach out to your customers in a language they prefer.

Insights like these will go a long way to help you create a knowledge base that will help you and your customers in times of need.

Use a template like the one below to outline your customer persona and understand who your knowledge base’s target audience is.

A customer persona template available in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Step 2: Determine the purpose of the knowledge base and topics to cover.

When creating any educational content, it’s essential to think about the purpose behind it.

A clear sense of purpose will ensure your content is on point. Start by thinking about your reason behind building a knowledge base.

Imagine you own an eCommerce business, and your customers ask you frequent questions about shipments and deliveries. Adding a list of FAQs cleverly positioned on your help center page will solve their problems spontaneously.

Let’s take one more illustration. Suppose you run a SaaS company, and your customers find the onboarding company policies incredibly confusing. To help the customers out, create a series of “how-to” content or a guide that demonstrates the user onboarding process. You can also give them checklists to help them keep track of their progress.

Another type of support inquiry involves troubleshooting advice questions. If you find a frequent theme of problems across several support tickets, take one step back and analyze the situation. Maybe there’s a solvable bug – or a supply chain system fault that needs some fixing.

In any case, create good content to help customers in need while at the same time working on correcting the problem at hand.

Ultimately, if customers are turning to you for advice — to get the most out of your product — compose a list of best practices for them. The better they understand your products, the happier they’ll be. Keep this in mind when creating any kind of content.

 

Step 3: Design and structure your knowledge base.

Don’t start building your knowledge base immediately. Wait a bit. Take a piece of paper and pencil and analyze how you want to set up your knowledge base.

It’s possible to fall prey to breaking down your documentation into a structure that only makes sense to you. Use a flowchart to create a basic structure everyone can understand, adding broad categories, followed by sub-categories and possible knowledge base articles.

You can do this by analyzing your past support tickets to see what your customers have been asking about frequently. Take a reasonable amount of time to get this right, because once you do, things get a lot easier.

Take advantage of a site map flowchart template like the one below to help you lay out your knowledge base.

A site map flowchart template available in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Differentiate your content for each product or service offering. If you have multiple products or services and you list your knowledge base content together, none of your customers will be able to navigate your help center to find the right content at the right time.

Having a centralized knowledge base that leads to multiple product-specific knowledge bases is a good alternative. It takes readers down a structured path that makes finding answers to questions easy and less overwhelming.

Let’s take a look at some of the effective ways to structure your knowledge base system.

Include a search bar.

A screenshot of the search bar in Visme's knowledge base.

Sometimes your customers can be in a hurry to get answers and don’t have the time to follow the path they normally use. Having a search bar on your knowledge base’s homepage gives your customers the tools they need to find answers right away.

Add a table of contents.

A screenshot of Visme's knowledge base table of contents.

Adding a table of contents will help your customers navigate easily from one topic to another. Customers can quickly scroll through the contents to find articles, topics, and answers right away.

Add ways your customers can easily contact you.

A screenshot of the contact area of Visme's knowledge base.

Though knowledge base systems are touted as a way to reduce dependency on your customer support team, there could be times when a customer has an emergency or can’t find answers to the question on your knowledge base.

At this point, they’ll want to speak to someone on your customer service team. If it’s not an urgent issue, they’d be okay to drop a ticket and have your support staff follow up with them the same day or next. But if they’re in a fix, then having a live chat option can save the day.

Add an FAQ section.

A screenshot of FAQs.

Analyze your frequently asked questions (FAQs) and provide informed answers regardless of the nature of the questions. Customers will find this section helpful, especially when looking for fast information.

 

Step 4: Write and edit your knowledge base content.

This is the stage where most people run into trouble: creating articles that provide actual value to customers.

Customers visit your self-service portal to get comprehensive information. If your content structure is not detailed, your customers will shy away from your help desk software.

A screenshot of an article in Visme's knowledge base.

Here’s how to write compelling articles for your knowledge base software:

  • Start with the most shared articles: Find popular content across different support tickets and add them at the beginning of your knowledge base. When customers find solutions to their problems at the top, they’ll always refer to your knowledge base for answers.
  • Cross-link similar articles: Interlinking related articles smoothly directs readers from one article to the other. Proper cross-linking ensures customers take less time to reach the appropriate information.
  • Your content should be complete and straightforward: Be clear and concise about the subject matter. Use simple language when writing technical guides and add videos or screenshots when explaining a series of actions.
  • Address the reader: Address your reader using active voice. Talk to them like you’d talk on the phone. Address the problem in-depth and provide viable solutions.
  • Employ SEO strategy: Excellent self-service articles should be indexable on search engines. The articles should be available to any user browsing the internet for information that your product may resolve. Optimize your articles to rank on search engines for more conversions.
  • Proofread and edit your articles: Now, this is important. Poorly written self-service content full of grammatical mistakes and typos will drive your customers away from your knowledge base system. Read your articles aloud, word by word, and correct all errors. It helps to seek editorial services from experts before going live.

When you finish writing all your articles, publish them on your knowledge base.

 

Step 5: Gather feedback and redefine your knowledge base periodically.

Trends change faster than ever before, and today’s customers have different preferences regarding content and how they consume it. Not to mention what was exciting and engaging last year may not have the same impact today. 

Keeping an eye on the performance of your content ensures you catch any outdated content in your knowledge base. 

This old content can be updated or repurposed into different formats. It allows you to find what resonates most with your audience. For example, a listicle can be repurposed into an infographic or video. 

Gathering feedback via online surveys is another way to keep your content current and improve on it. Encourage visitors to leave comments on your articles or fill out your surveys. Even a simple yes or no poll on the usefulness of your content can go a long way. 

Lastly, update your base with information on new products and services and regularly improve your external and internal knowledge. 

 

Create Your Knowledge Base With Visme Design Elements

Whether a professional designer or a non-designer, Visme will help you create a beautiful knowledge base system with exceptional quality design templates.

Our team comprises expert designers and competent content creators who’ll help you design an excellent platform for your customers.

We also offer free visual presentation educational content for non-designers to empower them with graphic communication skills to become amazing visual communicators. Ready to join us? Sign up for free or check out our pricing, and let’s build your knowledge base.

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    About the Author

    Matej is currently managing marketing efforts here at LiveAgent. He loves SaaS products, and according to his colleagues, he uses too many browser extensions. Outside of work, he plays chess and drinks too much coffee.

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