So, you've decided that you need to move your training docs to an online knowledge base or wiki. You've heard of both Confluence and ScreenSteps but aren't sure what the real differences are and which one you should choose. In this article, I will try to highlight the differences between the two platforms and how effective they will be as a training and performance support platform in your business.
Why should you listen to me on this subject? I have been working in the knowledge management industry since 2003 and have talked with many people who are thrilled with or frustrated with both Confluence and ScreenSteps, so I can point out what people love and hate about each platform. Now, please be aware that I work for ScreenSteps, but I am going to do my best to give you an honest comparison of the two platforms for the specific purpose of training and supporting your employees. If your use case is different, then this article may not be that useful to you. My ultimate goal is to help you make the right decision on a knowledge management and training platform for your business.
Two products with slightly different goals
Confluence is an enterprise grade wiki. Wiki's can be used for many, many things. The whole promise behind a wiki is that anyone can share knowledge with others on their team. In addition, you can edit each other’s content to clarify or improve it. Confluence primarily focuses on this use case - collaborative knowledge management.
ScreenSteps is a knowledge base and training platform that is primarily designed to help you standardize and communicate your procedures so that everyone in your organization knows exactly what to do in a given scenario.
So, while both will allow you to capture and share knowledge, Confluence focuses on collaboration while ScreenSteps focuses on standardization and clarity. You can certainly collaborate in ScreenSteps and you can create clear and standardized content in Confluence, but those aren't the primary drivers in each product.
What does each product cost?
Confluence has three versions:
- Free (for up to 10 users)
They have a great pricing tool here that will let you figure out exactly how much Confluence will cost. But basically, it comes down to $5/user/month for the Standard plan or $10/user/month for the Premium plan. They offer monthly and yearly plans and discount the average per user cost as you choose a higher number of users.
ScreenSteps has 3 plans:
ScreenSteps also bills based on the number of monthly active users. You will need to get a quote based on plan and number of users you need, but plans start at $1,800/year for up to 30 users with per user costs between $5 and $10/user/month for the Standard and Advanced plans. ScreenSteps also offers monthly plans and volume discounts.
Cost-wise, the two platforms are pretty comparable.
What are the pros and cons of each platform?
Like I said at the beginning, I am mainly going to be focusing on the employee training and performance support use case with both platforms. For other use cases, there may be a different list of pros and cons. I'm going to look at the whole lifecycle of content on the platform:
- Authoring content
- Formatting content for rapid application
- What it is like for your employees to find and view content
- Dealing with complex procedures
- Organizing content
- Reporting and audits
Authoring and formatting training and procedural content
Confluence includes a web editor that allows you to add a variety of resources to a page or article. This page on their site details the options. They include:
- Videos (that you embed from a third party service)
They also support advanced dynamic content through the use of Macros. Confluence says that these Macros are similar to Excel macros or Google widgets. Macros can help you do many things, including adding dynamic content to a page.
It will also allow you to use templates for different types of pages (How-to, Project planning, etc.).
The authoring experience will be very similar online with a few exceptions:
- The Table of contents macro will automatically add links to all headings in the document.
- The Info macro will allow you to visually format a text area to call it out.
- The Expand macro allows you to collapse sections of your page, making long documents easier to consume.
ScreenSteps allows you to create Articles instead of pages. All articles are part of chapters. All chapters belong in a manual. Your table of contents is automatically generated for you as you create content.
In ScreenSteps, The authoring experience is very different from a standard web editor. In a ScreenSteps article, everything is a "block" that will show up in an outline in the editor sidebar. Block types include:
- HTML Embed (for videos, forms, etc.)
- File attachments
- Checklist items
Block editing helps you create clearly organized documents when you are writing out procedural documents. The outline format also makes it very fast to update or reorganize a procedure.
ScreenSteps also includes a desktop authoring tool for Windows and Mac which includes an integrated screen capture and annotation tool. This means you don't have to use a separate graphics utility in order to add images to your procedures. The ScreenSteps desktop tool makes authoring and updating how-to guides with screenshots extremely fast.
Similar to Confluence you can add a table of contents to an article, though the process is a bit more manual (see details here).
ScreenSteps supports a feature called Foldable sections which is similar to Confluence's Expand macro.
ScreenSteps also supports various text block styles such as alerts, info, warnings, speaker prompts, etc. to help you call out important information.
One of the big differences between ScreenSteps and Confluence are interactive checklists and workflow articles. Interactive checklists allow you to create a list of checklist items. Each checklist item can be expanded to show more detailed instructions. This allows you to create simple checklists for experienced users, while allowing novice users to expand each item for more detailed instructions.
Workflow articles allow you to ask users questions and then guide them based on their answers. These workflow articles are ideal for troubleshooting guides as well as Interactive Conversation Flows that can be used to guide contact center agents through any call.
Both platforms support versioning but Confluence will do a better job of showing you the difference between each document version.
Confluence will allow you to export your content to Word, PDF, HTML, or XML.
ScreenSteps will allow you to export to PDF. You can use the ScreenSteps API if you need to export content as HTML. ScreenSteps does not export Word files.
How does implementation work with each platform?
Rolling out a training and knowledge base platform can be a big deal. Both platforms allow for self-service options. If you need assistance in implementing Confluence, there are many consulting companies that offer Confluence implementation services.
ScreenSteps offers customized onboarding services as well. During that process we help you:
- Migrate your content
- Establish a style guide for documenting your procedures, call flows, etc. as clearly as possible
- Establish a training program to ensure that your knowledge base is properly incorporated into how your employees work
How should I evaluate both platforms?
Now that you understand the similarities and differences between each platform, here is how we would suggest you evaluate each platform:
- Decide what type of content you primarily need. If you are mostly focused on procedures, call guides, and troubleshooting guides then you will probably find ScreenSteps fits your needs better. If you need project planning tools, collaboration, etc. then Confluence will definitely be a better fit.
- Create a trial account:
- Choose one of your stickiest procedures to add to the platform. It is best to find the thing you least like to train people on or the procedure that creates the most mistakes or questions from your employees.
- For this procedure there are two things you want to evaluate:
First, how effective is it at solving the problem?
Second, how long will it take you to create and update that procedure?
To help you in this evaluation process, we can upload one of your procedures for you into ScreenSteps. This can allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of the guides before you evaluate the authoring experience because, the fact is, it doesn't matter how good the authoring experience is unless the content is effective.
- Compare what the experience is between each platform.