What is a Company Knowledge Base?
A company knowledge base hosts the information organizations rely on to conduct business. That’s a broad definition as knowledge bases have broad connotations. Ask five people what a knowledge base is and you might get five different interpretations. Before going over the types of knowledge bases, here are the common traits.
Search – Any knowledge base conversation begins with a search bar. Google registers 100 billion searches each month. Search is everywhere. We rely on it as a society, it’s become a part of our daily routine. Every knowledge base solution must start there.
Content – With that said, search is limited if there’s a lack of content or a lack of structure and organization. Teams have to decide how to attach metadata, tags, the types of content, etc.
Storage – Every knowledge base is associated with a storage system. Hierarchical folders, categorical systems, visual catalogs, etc. An intuitive storage method serves as a backup for search.
Knowledge Base Types
First, here’s a look at internal vs. external knowledge bases.
The internal knowledge base is the information hub for employees. Employees should be able to search a centralized database or through multiple sources at once. A good internal knowledge base allows employees to be more productive. They find information quickly and are self-reliant when it comes to answering questions. It also helps with onboarding, knowledge sharing and company culture.
An external knowledge base is customer-facing. Commonly referred to as help centers, these are designed to help customers find answers relating to products they’ve purchased, especially for the SaaS industry. They work alongside support teams, customer service rep refer to the corporate knowledge base to answer questions. Company knowledge base software companies, such as Zendesk, Intercom and Helpjuice, allow organizations to build help centers then use automation to help answer customer questions.
20 Ideas & Features to Enhance the Company Knowledge Base
1. Research Knowledge Base Software
The company knowledge base market has grown alongside the growth of software as a service. As business needs change, new software vendors emerge. There’s overlap between each type, but here are the three main categories to consider.
Customer support software provides companies with the ability to manage customer support issues end-to-end. This ranges from help desk ticket management, live chat, knowledge base management system, analytics or all of the above.
Another type of software is purely focused on knowledge base content and management. This includes wiki tools, Slack or Teams add-ons, and other content management systems. These solutions aim to aggregate previous knowledge into one unified solution.
Lastly there’s an intranet solution such as LumApps. This offers many of the knowledge base enhancements mentioned below such as folksonomy, taxonomy, employee-generated content, integrations, and more. It’s also effective because the entire workforce has access. Companies should invest in knowledge base technology based on company size, needs and knowledge sharing goals.
Folksonomy was coined in 2004 to identify the online phenomenon of social tagging. This feature allows employees to self-categorize their content with tags such as #marketing, #casestudy or #question. This improves the readability of content and empowers search.
While folksonomy is addressed at the user level, taxonomy is managed at the admin level. Every company knowledge base tool allows users to set up content types and structure based on a taxonomy strategy. This means deciding high level categories and how users will navigate through the content. As businesses evolve and grow, it’s often useful to reevaluate the knowledge base taxonomy quarterly or semiannually.
4. Global Search
Search is a knowledge base pillar, but the value increases immensely when global search can be integrated. This feature is in increasingly high demand as work information is spread across different apps and locations. Global search allows employees to look through cloud storage apps, intranet content, Slack, email and more in one search.
5. Translation & Localization
Knowledge base content has to be delivered across regions and continents. The ability to localize on-demand helps the knowledge base become a source of truth and increases the amount of content being published. Make sure an effective strategy for translation and localization is in place.
6. Employee Content Guidelines
Employee-generated content is the core of any knowledge base. But to make it effective, organizations apply guidelines to help employees organize their thoughts. Find a balance between strict rules that limit creativity and a hands-off approach. LumApps allows teams to implement templates based on content types.
7. Native Integrations
Knowledge bases are more effective when they play nice with other systems. This means the ability to embed videos from YouTube and elsewhere. Integrations with other applications such as Jira, Zendesk, Google and Microsoft help the content become more convenient and all-purpose.
8. Get Inspiration
There are thousands of high quality company knowledge base examples to get inspiration from. Some are designed with knowledge base software or set up as customer support centers. Others are proprietary, custom-built platforms. Have stakeholders collect a list of knowledge bases that engage, inform or just capture their attention. Don’t just look at competitors, check out other industries. Canva, an online design software company and Dyson, a vacuum maker, take different approaches to their knowledge base. Both provide high quality solutions.
9. Apply a Multimedia Strategy
Knowledge base content is an information anthology, it’s bound to be overwhelming for some. Counteract this by not relying solely on text to tell the story. Embed video tutorials, use infographics, create charts and venn diagrams, etc. Visual information is generally processed faster and easier to retain. A diverse mix of information makes the knowledge base more appealing to new users and more accessible.
10. System for Updating & Archiving
If a knowledge base fails, outdated content is to blame. As soon as employees or customers experience outdated or inaccurate information, they’ll lose trust and use workarounds to find answers. Beyond the obvious practice of setting time to review and update content regularly, there are several best practices for maintaining accuracy.
- Use templates – Templates speed up the review process. Editors can look over a template quickly to determine what’s outdated and how long the revision process will take.
- User feedback – Knowledge base software includes built-in feedback tools so users can note when content is unhelpful or misleading. This funnels into the knowledge base analytics.
- Short and precise – Keeping information as short as possible is another way to keep the content manageable and up to date. There’s no reason to expand on a topic when the question can be answered with a few short sentences or screenshots.
11. Include FAQ
Designing content around Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) predates the knowledge base and the internet. Almost every website includes some sort of FAQ section, and every knowledge base should follow suit. Questions arise from customer conversations, search analytics, marketing goals or plain common sense. Each answer should be brief and distinct. Many users search for a FAQ page as a starting point on their information journey.
12. SEO Best Practices
For external (customer-facing) knowledge bases, applying search engine optimization (SEO) best practices is a must. People instinctively use Google to search for answers. Use keyword research to make sure knowledge base articles contain the most common search terms relating to the product or service. Additionally, make sure certain knowledge base articles are not cannibalizing traffic from another. For example, if there’s an article about a calendar widget, make sure an unrelated article about a scheduling feature is not taking the traffic.
13. Use a Product Mindset
While the knowledge base is essentially a library of information, don’t treat it as something you write and never pick up again. It should be treated like any other product launch. Conduct a marketing plan, make frequent tweaks, updates and new features. Enable this mindset by implementing one or several product owners who develop and manage knowledge base success factors.
14. Do UX Testing and Research
A major component of applying a product mindset is applying user experience (UX) testing, processes and research. These systems are designed to optimize each step of the knowledge base journey, from finding the information to requesting assistance when they don’t find what they’re looking for. Some exercises include:
- Card sorting uses sticky notes as visual tools to develop a hierarchy for content. This practice is how navigation menus are designed. The process can be digitized but can be more fulfilling when done by hand using post-it notes.
- Tree testing is a way to test hierarchy decisions by asking users to perform actions based on various setups. Designers and stakeholders might think people will act a certain way based on their design, but this test validates assumptions and adds data to decision making.
- User interviews, sometimes 1-on-1 or group discussions bring out information not found in the first two exercises. These interview sessions are where researchers can go deep on what users are thinking and why. It’s also an opportunity to gather feedback and ideas.
15. Satisfaction Surveys
While UX covers technical decision making and design, knowledge bases also need to be concerned with satisfaction. This data can highlight problem areas not found during the design or content creation process. Use software tools to embed feedback surveys or find opportunities to survey customers or employees periodically. As mentioned, each article should also have a built-in feedback element.
16. Refine Through Employee Onboarding
It’s not always easy to collect feedback. One knowledge base idea is to incorporate the content into the employee onboarding process. For new employees, a knowledge base is one of the best resources to learn about the company product or service. And to find answers to questions. Employees can then provide feedback after 30 days on what is missing, discrepancies and the overall effectiveness of the knowledge base content and structure.
17. Rely on Customer & Employee Personas
For knowledge base content creators, sometimes the hardest part is getting started. How should the article be framed? What should the tone, voice and personality be? These questions can be answered by using customer personas for external knowledge bases and employee personas for internal.
Personas are fictional characters based on data and contextual research. A customer-facing knowledge base might want to make sure it addresses different types of users such as IT professionals vs HR teams. Employee personas work the same way from an internal perspective. By using personas, knowledge base authors can determine if their content is useful and beneficial for the target audience.
18. Think Mobile
Most design projects now use a mobile-first approach and knowledge bases are no different. Employees should be able to access content from mobile devices without major issues or discrepancies.
For customer-facing knowledge bases, it’s vital to have a mobile-first solution. Mobile device traffic continues to increase year-over-year and customers expect to find answers quickly from their device.
19. Think Accessibility
All digital content should be inclusive and accessible to everyone. This is not only the right thing to do, but is a best practice for good writing. Create an accessibility checklist. Writers can review each post before going live. Some examples include using their/them pronouns instead of gender specific, using alt text on images, enabling speech-to-text and other tactics for catering to users with specific needs.
20. Track Analytics & Trends
It’s hard to make knowledge base improvements without tracking analytics and trends over time. All forms of knowledge base software have built-in analytics that track top searches, traffic, bounce rates, etc. These help with decisions about restructuring or revising content. Seasonal trends can also help teams with content relating to holidays and special events.
July 14, 2021