13 tips to write knowledge base articles that help your customers
Updated: Jan 13, 2022
If we told you there’s one thing you could do to significantly increase your customer satisfaction and reduce your support requests, would you listen? Even better: What if you already had all the tools to make it happen?
While free and relatively easy to implement, writing support articles is actually one of the most effective ways to help your customers. These articles offer knowledge and clarification on your product or service - a product encyclopedia if you will. They’re easily searchable on the web and can be accessed by your customers at any time for reference. All you need to do is have access to a computer, an efficient and intuitive knowledge base software, and the willingness to write about your product or service. Here are a few tips you should keep in mind when beginning to write knowledge base articles that genuinely help your customers:
Get to know your users
Before diving into writing support articles, you first need to know who you’re talking to. Take a look at your business and the people who are buying your products and services. What are they like? Are they experts or novices? Do they often reach out for support and guidance or do they seem to know everything there is to know about the product?
A great way to analyze your customers is via your support channels. Review emails, phone calls, social media, and any other mediums customers use to express themselves. In other words: Meet your customers to meet their needs. From here, gather the major pain points experienced by your customers when using your products. This is a great starting point for the articles and should be the first topics you write about after the basics. Remember that customers who’ve reached your knowledge base articles are probably confused by some aspect of the product. That article you’ve written could end up being the life preserver that keeps them using it.
Know your products in and out
Become the number one resource when it comes to your product (or service). Write content that is not only helpful but insightful. You can do this by navigating through your product as if it were the first time you were using it, taking note of anything that may seem confusing to first-time users as they appear. You should know the product so well that writing about it becomes second nature to you. Plus, the more you know, the easier it will be for you to give correct and simple instructions. So take the time to play around with your product and really get to the nitty-gritty ins and outs, which will steer how you go about writing directions.
Keep a friendly tone
Reading knowledge base articles should feel like reading an instruction manual from a friend. A friend will do their best to keep the conversation as light and as conversational as possible, knowing that it will persuade you to keep reading the whole way through. They will also avoid using overly technical words or jargon they know will confuse you. But steer clear from using slang, you want to be friendly but not unprofessional.
Do not assume customer knowledge
This may be the trickiest tip we give you. Why? Because assuming that your customer knows at least the basics of the product is much easier than having to explain all the details from the top. But you need to, and most importantly, you should. Even if it takes a little bit longer, save yourself the customer service trouble of devising a knowledge base article that only creates more doubts and questions in your users’ mind. Be mindful of the novice users that will likely be reading, and explain even the smallest of details.
Keep it structured
What does every piece of content that is highly appealing and easy to read have in common? They’re all well structured, which means that they don’t overwhelm the reader with an abundance of useless or unrelated information. Someone reading your support article should know exactly what they’re getting into based on what they can read from the introduction, headings, subheadings, bullets, numbers and bold fonts. Categorize the information into chunks so that it is more easily digestible to your consumers. Finally, make sure to add line breaks and spacing between ideas when needed to let your text “breathe”.
Write specific titles
The title of your article should be specific and to the point. You don't want to add fluff to your titles - here, less is more. Include words that describe what will transpire throughout the course of the article. If they will be learning how to get started with a new feature, write that, along the lines of “Getting started with…”. If they are looking for step-by-step instructions on how to perform a certain task, say exactly that: “How to…”. Keep in mind that your users will be searching online for these articles and you want to make sure your titles reflect the phrases they will organically be typing into that search box. Use a layperson’s terms and avoid using words your customers are not likely to know.
Write engaging (but short) intros
The main goal of the introduction is to grab and keep the reader's attention. Your first line should leave your customer wanting more. Get them excited to read the article by giving them a glimpse of what they will be learning and how it will benefit them. This should be about one to two sentences only. Here’s a great example taken from our from our very own support center, at Wix:
“You’ve come to the right place to create your own professional website. No matter what kind of site you need - you can do it yourself.”
This introduction gets you feeling excited to embark on the journey of website building and does so in only two sentences. Now, the reader will need to continue in order to gain the benefits of the article. Well done!
Make the article easy to follow
You can see from the points mentioned above that simplicity is key when creating knowledge base articles. It’s crucial to keep in mind what the customer's mindset will be when they reach the article they're looking for. Most of the time, they will either be looking for clarification, information, or instructions which means they have no time to waste and want to get straight to the point. It can be frustrating to your users if you confuse them with too many words and ideas. If the body of the article goes into too much detail and is hard to follow, you may want to consider splitting the information into two articles.
Include visual aids
Adding visual aids such as screenshots, GIFs, and videos is an excellent way to clarify steps that might have otherwise needed a more extended written explanation. These are especially helpful if the article is a “How to” tutorial, as you can clearly show the reader the steps that need to be taken. Remember that users reading your articles are usually there to get the information they need in order to continue working with your product - and they want to do it as soon as possible! Adding visual aids helps them skim through the article without taking up too much of their time.
Link text to other helpful articles to give users more information on a topic you're mentioning briefly. As much as we’d love to give all there is to know about a certain topic, realistically, adding too much information may overwhelm your customer. If you need to mention a topic briefly, link this topic to its own knowledge base article where you can take the time to explain it in more detail.
Give your article a test run
Now that your article is ready and all of the content created, it’s time to test it out. Pretend for a second that you have no idea what this article is going to teach you and read the article with fresh eyes. Navigate through its instructions as your customer would and take each step as outlined in the article. If you notice yourself assuming the next move from your own personal knowledge of the product yet it’s written nowhere on the page, jot that missing stage down so that you can add it later. If a step in the article is ambiguous, do your best to rewrite it so that even a beginner can follow along. The content should flow smoothly from top to bottom and the directions or information should be clear-cut with no room left for interpretation.
Add tips and extra resources at the end
After giving your article a test run, you’ll likely notice missing information you wish you knew or helpful tips that could have been beneficial to your customer. Anticipate follow-up questions customers may ask after reading the article and add these as tips or extra resources at the bottom of the page.
Update your content regularly
As your product matures and improves, you’ll likely make changes to the processes or products, which means that you’ll need to come back to your knowledge base articles and update the content accordingly. We encourage you to also take the time to routinely review the support articles and update information that is no longer relevant or helpful. Another major tip off that your articles are outdated is if you continue to receive support requests for a particular topic that is included in your knowledge base. That probably means that article is well due for revision. Keep track of and gather feedback from these cases, as it will help you build better knowledge base articles in the future.
Create knowledge base that your customers love and your support team will thank you for it. Try out the best help desk software to get started today!