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10 strategies for designing a thriving knowledge base

When creating your knowledge base, it’s important to keep simplicity top of mind. The best knowledge bases are simple, intuitive, and agile.

By Hannah Wren, Content marketing associate

Published May 12, 2020
Last modified June 10, 2020

Increasingly, customers are expressing their strong, independent selves by helping themselves and solving problems on their own. In fact, high performing customer experience teams are 76% more likely to offer self-service for just this reason, according to Zendesk’s Customer Experience Trends Report, 2020.

However, simply offering a standard knowledge base portal isn’t enough—the design of your help center affects your customers’ experience with your brand. If your knowledge base design is lackluster, it could make for a poor impression. When designing your knowledge base, it’s important to keep discoverability and simplicity top of mind. The best knowledge bases are simple, intuitive, and agile.

Read on for strategies for creating and designing a thriving knowledge base:

  • Make complex knowledge simple to consume
  • The first step to a well-designed knowledge base is simplicity. A simple knowledge base design makes for easy navigation and quick answer finding—just what self-sufficient customers want. If you have a sea of knowledge base content, clear, concise, and consistent categories and topics can help temper a swell of articles. Think of your knowledge base like a mullet: delivering simplicity in the front supported by a sophisticated platform in the back.

  • Keep titles short and sweet
  • Nobody likes to read (well, some of us do). Short titles that contain main keywords can help customers find the right knowledge base article with the answers they need more quickly. When crafting article titles, try to keep article titles short and sweet and try to think about what a customer might search for.

  • Design a highly tailored experience
  • Designing a highly tailored experience is about ensuring that a customer can easily find the right content based on their specific needs, when they need it. Jam-packing your help center with information about every product and feature can overwhelm customers, making it difficult for them to find content that's relevant to them—and more likely that they'll give up and reach out to an agent instead. Designing product-specific help centers and adding advanced search capabilities empower customers to get the answers they need with speed. Taking it a step further, an AI-powered chatbot like Anwser Bot can deliver relevant knowledge base content from anywhere a customer already is, whether that's reading about your company on the homepage of your website or adding items to their chart in your mobile app.

  • Build and improve knowledge over time
  • Designing your knowledge base shouldn’t be a one-time thing—a great knowledge base requires continuous improvement over time. This requires your team to vet articles on a regular basis to ensure their relevance as your product and business evolves. In fact, Zendesk findings show that customer service teams that take an agile approach to knowledge management and commit to steadily maintaining and growing their content perform best across key self-service metrics. The secret sauce to how to create a knowledge base? Start by creating a few articles for the most common issues or launching the most-searched-for content, and then continuously expand and iterate on that content. This allows you to deflect tickets with minimal up-front investment.

  • Empower your team to work cross-functionally with analytics and AI
  • Soliciting your customer support team’s feedback on both existing and potential articles is imperative to designing a knowledge base that can grow and scale with your business. Luckily, technology makes knowledge sharing easier by helping your team work better cross-functionally. The self-service analytics provided by your knowledge base software empowers your support team to take a data-driven approach to content upkeep and design by giving them insights into the popularity, effectiveness, and pain points of content. And, artificial intelligence enables your team to spot self-service trends that an individual support agent might miss. Those insights can help you understand the content gaps between your help center articles and customers’ needs to determine what to write next and where to improve existing knowledge.

  • Flaunt what you got: your search bar
  • The most direct way for customers to find answers to their questions is the search bar. The more prominent your search bar, the easier it is for customers to get their answers and get out—and that’s what we call a low-effort experience. When designing your knowledge base, put your search bar front and center.

  • Stop clicking around
  • FAQs are called FAQs for a reason. If everyone’s asking, it makes sense to place your FAQ page in an easy to reach place. Customers don’t want to have to find a ladder to reach your FAQs page on the top shelf. When it comes to frequently asked questions, eye-level placement and easy one-click access are key to a sterling self-service experience and improving customer satisfaction when it comes to your help center.

  • Implement a responsive design
  • Increasingly, customers expect to be able to self-serve wherever and whenever they want, whether they’re at home by their computer or on the go using their smartphone. Responsive design​ is vital to an online knowledge base because it ensures a great user experience no matter if your customers are accessing your help center on their laptop with a cup of coffee or their mobile phone while waiting in line to order that cup of dark roast. This isn’t just because search engines give priority to websites with a responsive design, but also because your customers expect it. In fact, in a study by Microsoft, 65% of the total respondents and 79% of millennials reported having a more favorable view of brands that offer a mobile-responsive self-service portal.

  • Don’t play hard to get
  • While we’re all about empowering customers to help themselves, you don’t want to shy away from them either. Building in a “Contact us” section that allows customers to access customer support if they need to shows you’re there to support your customers. A self-service portal makes requests coming from your knowledge base easy to track and allows customers to check the status of their requests.

  • Incorporate community

  • Sometimes customers have questions that are best posed to other customers. Building in peer-to-peer support into your help center fosters more trustworthy customer relationships through community. But this is only possible if your community is easily discoverable. For instance, Khan Academy prominently places its community as a category inside its help center.

    A great knowledge base design should create an effortless experience for your customers to find answers to their questions. A killer help center is a way for your company to anticipate a problem before it occurs, as well as a way for your customers to get familiar with your product on their own time. Your self-service portal is often an important first point of contact customers have with your brand and a well-designed external knowledge base can help grow your community and build deeper connections with your customers.

Your customer base is expanding—is your self-service scaling with it?

Follow these tips to improve your knowledge management.