The main aim of a knowledge base article is to show your customer how something can be done, either on your website or with your product.
Every such article starts with a question. You want to give your customers the means to handle a problem on their own through self-service. Over the course of an article, customers learn how to deal with a problem. If they have any follow-up questions, you should have articles ready for them too.
If you want to create a knowledge base, you need to fill it with articles. Read on to learn how to do that.
Picking a topic
To start off, you need to choose a topic for your knowledge base article. There are a couple of ways of identifying potential problems your customers might have.
Firstly, your customers will be the biggest source of topic ideas for your knowledge base. When you notice that you get a lot of enquiries about a particular topic, you should consider writing about it in a knowledge base article. For example, if a lot of your customers have a problem with making a return, describe the whole process in an article. This should help you deal with the enquiries you get without having to explain the same topic time and time again.
If you have any way of marking similar cases, e.g. tagging chats or tickets or labeling emails, you should start doing it right away. It will show you the big picture – the most common problems your customers encounter. The sooner you start, the faster you will be able to use it for topic ideas.
Secondly, you can check what kind of keywords your customers are entering on your website. If you have a ‘search’ option on your website, you can check what customers are looking for. If you already have a knowledge base set up, the search option can not only allow your customers to find the desired knowledge base article faster but also show you what kind of questions they have.
Alternatively, you can check in your Google Analytics for keyword ideas. To do that, you need to fire up your Analytics, go to Acquisition, select the Search Engine Optimization option and pick Queries. This is the list of all the queries made by customers who came to your site via Google.
They can give you an idea what kind of problems they were trying to resolve. For example, “sizing chart” can indicate that someone was looking for sizing explanations on your website.
Finally, you should also use your own intuition for knowledge base article ideas. When making some kind of change in your product or offering, you should anticipate questions about it. No matter if you release a new product or you introduce a new feature in your online store, you should have an article ready that covers the change.
Organizing the knowledge base article
After choosing a topic, you need to think about the way you want to present it. Since you want to make it as easy as possible, start with the basics and work your way up to the more advanced instructions.
Start off by identifying the most simple path to resolving a problem. Focus on getting the customer from point A to point B without any distractions. Only when you have the basics explained, you can move to more advanced or optional stuff.
Organizing the information like this will give a solution to everyone and leave a door open for customers who want to use a more advanced approach.
We tend to start with a short introduction that summarizes what the knowledge base article covers and a screenshot that shows the end result. Showing the end result is especially important as this will allow your customers to quickly notice that they are reading the right article as well as motivate them to follow the instructions. For example, if you are describing how to complete a return form, show the completed form on a screenshot.
Here’s an example from a LiveChat knowledge base article where we show the end result right after the introduction:
Presenting the instructions
Once you have the introduction covered, you can move to the instructions or, in other words, what needs to be done to make something happen. You should separate them with a heading to make the text easily scannable.
When writing down the instructions, place them within a list. Lists are concise, to-the-point and they are easy to go back to when a customer completes one of the described steps.
Try to limit one step of a process to one point on the list. This way, all the visitor has to remember is the number of the last step they saw. You can have smaller steps like opening a drop-down menu on a website or ticking a box can be grouped together to avoid watering down the instructions. We tend to introduce new steps usually when the customer has to complete a bigger action like saving stored changes or moving to another page.
To make the instructions easier to grasp, you can introduce screenshots to your knowledge base article. Ideally, you’d want a screenshot for every step of the described process. However, if you already introduced a particular page, you probably don’t have to show it again if nothing significant changes.
To make the screenshots look good, you need three things: a border, the right dimensions and an arrow to point things out. The screenshot should be as wide as the text component in your article. If it’s not necessary, don’t make the screenshot to long as it will stretch your guide.
Adding the border will help you separate the screenshot from the rest of the page. This comes handy when the screenshot could ‘spill’ into the background of your website when they share the same color.
You can add such border by adding a simple CSS parameter to your image files:
style="border:1px solid #ddd"
Add it right after the
part of graphic file and before the
src= part. It will look something like this:
The arrow graphic is useful when you need to point to a specific part of a screenshot. You can simply create a single arrow graphic and use it for all of your screenshots.
When pointing to something on the screenshot, make sure to bold it in the text too. For example, when you want to tell the customer to click a particular button, name the button and bold it. Keeping the same phrasing will help too.
The screenshots, arrows and bolding will help you to clearly outline the next step the customer should take. If you make the description too vague, the customer will get lost and won’t be able to finish the tutorial. There’s always some space for giving some exposition and explaining what is happening, but the next step should always be clear.
Expanding on the details
Once you have the bare bones covered, you can move to additional information and more advanced instructions of your knowledge base article. There are two ways of doing that: introducing additional information as side-notes over the course of the guide or separating them from the basic instructions by moving them under another heading.
Side notes are great if you want to cover some optional instructions or additional information that is not crucial to showing how to do something. If you need something explained but you don’t want to make the instructions too difficult, you can use a side note. Just make sure it is clear that the side note is not an integral part of the guide.
For example, you can style it differently:
Pushing the more advanced steps to a separate part of the article allows you to keep the basics simple for everyone and provide more details for those who need it.
When covering advanced options, you can move straight to the point as the basics are already provided. You can also provide a separate link to the advanced portion of the article to offer it to customers who already know the basics. You can do that by adding an ID to the header:
Moving the eye-catcher
You can link straight to that header by adding a hash sign (#) and the ID at the end of your link. Here's an example of a link with an ID:
Keeping things simple
No matter if you decide to provide additional information or not, make sure your knowledge base article is still easily understandable. You should always assume that the article will be your customer’s first contact with your product or service, which means that everything should be explained.
Using simple language will help. Short, to-the-point sentences will do the trick. You want to provide simple instructions, not humor your readers with colorful language.
You should also make the instructions convenient for the reader. For example, instead of telling them to go to your website to click on a link leading to your store, you could link your store right away. It may seem like not much, but it will greatly speed up the solution.
Even though you need to make the instructions understandable for everyone, you can’t be expected to explain certain parts of your product or service in each and every article. You can deal with recurring information by linking to previous articles you wrote. Just make sure you always have at least one place where a process is explained from start to finish. The more articles you have in your knowledge base, the easier it will be to make such connections.
Finding a place for the article
Once your knowledge base article is ready, you need to place it on your website. As your knowledge base grows, you will need to find a way to categorize your articles. Assigning our articles to several categories and offering a FAQ section are some of the knowledge management ways we use to keep things organized.
Naming your articles is always a challenge. The title determines whether a customer will consider reading the article when faced with a particular problem. Once again, you want to keep them as simple as possible. Think of the questions your customers might have and try to address those questions in the titles.
After publishing an article, make sure your team knows about it. You should also add the article to pre-made answers, or email/ticket templates so that your agents can use it in a pinch.
Finally, giving a finished article to someone unfamiliar with the topic is a good way of checking if it is easy enough to follow. What may seem easy to you may not be that clear to someone with less knowledge.
Knowledge base article checklist
With a bit of practice, you will be churning out article after article. Until then, you can refer to the following checklist to tie all loose ends.
You need to remember to:
- Provide a short introduction informing the reader about the purpose of the article.
- Show the end result on a screenshot to encourage the reader.
- Provide the instructions as a list of steps to make them easier to follow.
- Start with basic instructions before moving to more advanced uses.
- Show key points on screenshots to make identification easier.
- Separate additional/optional information from the core of the article.
- Add links to explain processes mentioned in your knowledge base article.
- Choose a simple name that readers are likely to look for.
- Place the article on your website in the correct category.
- Add it to your list of pre-made responses for quick access.
Having these fundamentals covered is not the end. Your articles can always be improved and optimized for easier access. You also need to check periodically if the article is still up to date and doesn’t need any changes.
Keep your knowledge base articles informative and fresh and your users will be able to take care of their problems on their own.
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