How to Create a Knowledge Base Article (4 Steps)
1. Know who your end-users are
Start with your audience. Who will be using your knowledge base? And how much do they already know?
There are two main audiences for a knowledge base: customers and employees. Creating a customer-facing knowledge base is really tricky because your readers come from all sorts of different backgrounds.
This blog post is going to focus on creating a knowledge base article for employees. However, many of the same principles apply to customer-facing knowledge base articles. The main difference is in making your assumption about how much they already know.
How much do your end-users already know?
Creating an employee-facing knowledge base does come with its own challenges, but you can make some assumptions.
If your end-users are call center reps, then you can assume they will have passed a training class and know some basic information.
If your end-users are sales reps, then you can make some assumptions about what they know and what they may not know.
Making some assumptions about what they already know will help you write content that is simpler and more straightforward.
Note: You might get this wrong — you may give too much information or you might provide too little. A way to help with this is to include hyperlinks to additional information (something I talk about more below).
2. Figure out when someone will use your knowledge base articles
Once you know who is using your articles, you need to figure out the situation they will be using the knowledge base article in. When will someone use it?
Answer: When they are in the middle of doing something and need an answer.
The majority of people who look at your knowledge base are not going to browse your knowledge base and explore all of the content you create. Let’s just say, your knowledge base won’t be considered casual reading.
They are going to visit your knowledge base when they have questions/need answers or guidance.
Identify the moments when people will use it. Some examples from a few business models include:
3. Highlight keywords for search
When you’re in the mood to make pizza for dinner, what do you search for in Google?
- Pizza recipe
- How to make pizza at home
- Homemade pizza
When your knowledge base readers need help, what are they searching for in your knowledge base?
- Error code 25654
- Refill ATM
- Delete account
What will readers search for when they need help? Use those keywords in your knowledge base article title. That way, when your end-users search, they’ll be able to tell that your article is going to answer their question.
As you write your articles — especially the title — you want to use words that employees naturally use for a process or procedure. You don’t want to put it in corporate jargon.
Be aware of how your knowledge base search function works. Does it scrape the entire article in search? Or does it only scrape the title? Every knowledge base is different.
Hot tip: Your knowledge base articles should answer one question or explain one process. It takes a lot more effort to find the answer when it is buried in one of several 300-page company manuals.
4. Design your articles for the end-user experience
Looking beyond words, you need to consider the design of your knowledge base article as part of the creation process.
What’s the best experience for your reader?
If your reader pulls up a knowledge base article and they need to scroll way down the page to get the information they need, that’s a problem. Get right to the point.
In a nutshell, think of the best experience your reader can have, not what compliance standards your procedure needs to include or what you, the author, think would be most convenient.
Provide the critical information employees need to find answers to their questions and complete assignments.
Design elements to include in your knowledge base article
If you’re explaining an on-screen process, include screenshots. The experience is so much better when screenshots walk them through the process.
Include hyperlinks to other resources and make those hyperlinks open up new web tabs (or pop-up links if your knowledge base supports that).
Include decision trees if the procedure changes based on certain factors. You can use workflows to help with that.
Make a checklist if that’s the most straightforward explanation of what to do.
Include a video if you need to explain some high-level concepts to provide context to the procedure.
How to choose which knowledge base articles to write first
Knowing how to write and organize your knowledge base articles is challenging. When you follow this four-step process, it helps solidify the purpose of each article. It keeps your articles focused and eliminates distracting information.
With our ScreenSteps knowledge base software, it is fast and easy to create knowledge base articles. Our robust collection of content creation tools are simple to use. One customer was able to create 4X the articles in ¼ of the time by using ScreenSteps to author guides.
Of course, the first challenge is knowing which knowledge base articles you need to write.
Don’t know which knowledge base article to write first? Download this worksheet to get you started. It will help you brainstorm article ideas and know which articles to prioritize.