The Smartest Way to Structure Your Knowledge Base

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

How to structure your knowledge base or help center

If happiness is infectious, then your business goals should include spreading the contagion. After all, based on the latest customer service statistics, 69% of consumers recommend a company after a positive customer experience. And we know that, just as with couples, one of the foundations of a happy business relationship is sharing information transparently and accurately. This is exactly what a knowledge base - also referred to as a help center - is meant for. It opens a lifeline of communication between you and your customers.

Setting up a knowledge base is a win-win situation. Clients want to help themselves and expect self-service options from companies. Searching for information in your help center saves them time. It gets them the information they need fast without having to stay on hold or wait for an email response. A good knowledge base also saves your support personnel time and reduces the number of tickets, enabling your staff to help customers who need more personal assistance. But if it isn't well thought out, it can become a labyrinth where your clients get stuck instead of finding the right answers.

Here are some tips on how to structure your knowledge base:

Organize your content based on your users’ needs

It could be tempting to classify your content the same way you do internally, but that wouldn’t necessarily make sense to your users. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think of the fastest way for them to zoom in on the info they need.

To do this, you should first determine which information to include in your knowledge base. What do your customers usually need help with? What information do they expect from you? What do you want them to know? Gather your content in a (virtual) pile before you sort it out.

Next, determine your categories. This sounds like a simple enough task, right? Classifying content should be quite obvious. But ask people how they organize their closet and you might be surprised at the different answers you get. Some people organize their clothes by type, others by color. Some arrange their clothes according to material, while others group them by occasion (daily outfits, business attire, formal wear, etc.). There are also those who arrange their clothes by brand!

The same could be said for the contents of your help center. You could choose to organize them according to purpose (tutorials, reference articles, known issues), type of customer (end users, developers, businesses), tasks (managing your account, renewing your subscription, etc.), or in any other way. There may not be a single correct way to do this. To gain some ideas, you could research how similar companies organize their information and offer support. But whichever method you decide on, the bottom line is: it should make sense to your customers and be consistent.

Lastly, name your categories well. Make them clear and distinct. Skip the jargon. Unless you expect your users to have a technical background, it’s best to keep the language in your knowledge base easy to understand.

Optimize user navigation

Because a knowledge database is a content generator, after reaching a certain number of categories and articles it might become difficult for your users to find their way to the answers they seek. Your responsibility, as a caring company, is not only to deliver the information, but to make sure that it’s easily accessible. Some design and UX (user experience) tips can help you:

Aim for a clean and efficient design. Minimize clutter so your users don’t waste time trying to find what they need. Direct their eye to the most important parts of your help center – the search bar, the category list, popular articles, FAQ, and how to contact you if they need more help.

Take formatting in consideration. Color coding your categories, using different font sizes and including bold text can help highlight important information. If you decide to incorporate these elements though, do remember to be consistent across articles.

The search bar should be prominent. One of the fastest ways to find information in any site is by using the search bar, so don’t make your users hunt for it! Make it noticeable (and even inviting). It helps to include a question in the search field, such as “What do you need help with?” or “What are you looking for?”. Remember, you want your customers to use the search bar. It helps them find information quickly and it helps you understand what they need help with.

Make the search bar prominent in your knowledge base or help center