What is a knowledge base?
Definition: A knowledge base (KB) is a centralized collection of information about a product, service, topic, or entity created by the company.
A knowledge base can serve multiple purposes, such as sharing internal knowledge or providing self-service help. It usually contains a collection of articles, FAQs, and how-to guides in an organized and structured way.
A knowledge base is typically intended for customer support, technical support, or customers.
Types of knowledge base
- Internal — It is used by companies and organizations for internal purposes such as company policies and employee training, and it isn’t meant to be shared with non-employees.
- External — It is aimed at external audiences such as partners and customers and contains public information about the company’s products or services.
- Hosted — It is hosted by a third party that deals with the maintenance, security, and structure of the KB.
- Self-hosted — It is hosted and managed by the organization itself, without the interference of third parties.
- Customer — It is designed for customers who need help finding product or company information quickly without contacting the customer support.
- Open-source — It is built using open-source software, available to anyone on the internet. Companies use it to share knowledge and collaborate with others.
Elements of a good knowledge base
1. Knowledge base content
Content is the essential element of a knowledge base because it’s the information users need to solve a problem, reach a decision, or perform a specific task. The length and content of the knowledge base will depend on the type of KB and the pre-defined goals, but the usual elements are:
- FAQs — Answers to frequently asked questions are important elements of a KB because they reduce the number of basic inquiries and clearly resolve initial doubts.
- How-to guides — Step-by-step instructions explain in detail specific tasks or the process of resolving an issue, making it easy for users to resolve more complex issues on their own.
- Community section — A platform for users to share their experiences, thoughts, and ideas, which is great for social proof and connecting with other users.
2. Information structure
The structure of the information is crucial to a good user experience because users need to find the information they need quickly and easily. Companies usually include:
- Categorization — With categories, users easily navigate through the KB.
- Search function — With this function, users can find the information by using specific keywords or phrases.
- Visuals — Images, videos, and icons help make the information more digestible and visually appealing.
- Tools — Chatbots direct users to relevant information based on the input.
- Links — They help users connect information better and find more in-depth explanations if needed.
- Company information — Information regarding the company helps users comprehend the context of the KB.
How to create a knowledge base
Defining the purpose of the knowledge base ensures that the development of the KB is in the direction of the overall company goals. Companies need to understand the purpose of the KB and the intended audience to create and align KB. The type of KB later dictates the core elements, the tone, and the language of the KB.
Based on the purpose and type of knowledge base, the company decides on the core elements it should include, such as FAQs section, guides, product manuals, or company policies. Defying the core elements is important for ensuring the company’s goals and the audience’s expectations are met.
Preparation and writing
Preparation includes reviewing old documentation, finding FAQs and the most common issues, and interviewing experts. Once the needed information is collected, it’s time to write it clearly and precisely.
The last step is organizing content in a way that’s easy for the reader to skim and find the information they need.
Companies usually divide the text into headings, subheadings and add images/graphs to illustrate some key concepts.
A KB can be presented in a web-based portal such as WordPress, intranet (Microsoft SharePoint), or help desk software.
After publishing, it is essential to get feedback from the audience and see if they find the KB useful and easy to use. Altering and modifying are key parts of keeping the KB updated with the latest information.
Knowledge base examples
Airtable is a collaboration platform with an external knowledge base with detailed documentation on how to use Airtable’s platform with examples and use cases. Airtable’s KB is for their customers who need help getting started with the platform.
GitLab is a web-based repository manager providing a DevOps platform with a range of features and tools for developers. It’s one of the rare companies with an internal knowledge base publicly available. Their GitLab handbook includes a guide to the company’s internal practices, policies, and values.