Elements of a Great Knowledge Base Article + Examples

11 min read

A knowledge base (kb) article is like your customer’s third date with your company. They’ve gotten to know you and what you sell, they’re interested and even purchased something, but now, things are getting serious. Now, your customer has questions and wants to learn more about what you offer.

Kb articles are designed to guide customers through any process and educate them about all of your products, features, and services. This empowers people to learn and solve problems on their own, which creates more independent and successful customers (AKA a fourth date).  

Writing great kb articles is what determines whether or not your customers will reap all of the benefits from their purchase so they are likely to repurchase and recommend. If they are hard to find, hard to read, or hard to understand, readers will not engage with the content and give up. There are tons of key elements that should be included in your kb article and we will dive into each below!

Kb article is easy to find

The first element involved in creating a successful kb article is making it easy to find. If you’ve written an incredible article but your customers can’t find it, it will be useless.

So what improves kb article discoverability?

  • Well-designed help center: First and foremost, the best way to help customers find any of your content is by dedicating a portal, knowledge base, or help center to all of your articles. It should be interactive and guide customers to any content with ease. This might include step-by-step guided navigation, filter options, search (which is our next point), and much more.
  • Intelligent search: The most common way customers will seek an article is through search, but oftentimes, they may not know the right words to search for. That’s why it’s important to include a search tool on your site that does not only search for article titles but throughout the body content as well. Learn more about designing intelligent search tools.
  • Short & simple titles: As we stated last, customers like to easily search and find what they need. So keeping article titles short and to-the-point will help them understand which article answers their question. For example, rather then: How to pair my security camera with my new iPhone 6 using Bluetooth found in settings, instead try: Setting up security camera Bluetooth.
  • Tons of linkage: Another easy way to increase find-ability for your articles is by linking them to one another. This way, if a customer comes up with a new question while reading about one of your features, you can instantly link them to the article that explains it. Using strong internal linkage also improves SEO, which is our next point.
  • Keywords & SEO: Finally, making your article easy to find on Google can ensure that customers can find it, even if they’re not on your site. This means working to improve SEO and ensuring you are using the most appropriate keywords throughout your content.

Example: PayPal

A great example of a company with easy-to-find kb articles is PayPal. In the image below, you can see their help center includes guided navigation options, common questions, filtering, helpful links, and search. Basically, they are covering every route a customer may want to take in order to find content.

PayPal kb article help center example

Plus, at the bottom of each article, they include tons of options to find additional help. In the image below, you will see they include helpful article links, community posts, the community forum, resolution center, and contact options. This way, if the article didn’t answer a customer’s question, they can easily find the resource that will.

PayPal kb article discoverability example

Readability & Scan-ability

The next key element involved in creating a great kb article is how easy it is to read and scan. Customers are looking for quick, instant answers to their questions. This means, more often than not, they will not read the whole article but rather, scan it briefly until they find the sections they need.

What makes an article easy to read or scan?

  • Table of contents: The hugest thing for improving an article’s success is including a table of contents. This way, when a customer launches the article, they can instantly scan through what it will cover in order to determine whether or not it’s the right article for their needs. Essentially, you’re doing the scanning for your customer.
  • Small paragraphs: It’s important to break your text up into small, easy-to-digest chunks of text. A good rule of thumb is three sentences or less. Huge bodies of text are intimidating and often a customer will give up before reading.
  • Header organization: Following standard header practices (H1 title, H2 sections, H3 sub-sections, etc.) not only improves SEO but also helps customers easily find the section they need.

Using the example below, which one do you think is easier to scan and find answers?

Kb article of easy to scan paragraph structure
Image by designer Rafal Tomal

Example: Mailchimp

A great example of kb articles designed for easy scanning is Mailchimp. In the example below, you will notice that on the left side of all of their kb articles is their version of a table of contents, called “Things To Know.” This section easily lets customers see the exact items covered in the article as well as navigate to them by clicking. Plus, it remains on the side of the article the entire time they read in case they want to navigate back and forth between sections.

Mailchimp example of kb article easy to navigate through

Writing is easy to understand

Now your customers have easily found the right article and scanned through it to locate the section they need. The next important factor is ensuring that they can actually understand what it is they are reading. This can be hard to do, especially when discussing complex processes that are more technical and advanced.

Here are a few ways you can make your writing easier to understand:

  • Step-by-step guidance: Break instructions up into simple bulleted lists or numbered steps so customers can easily follow along as they read. Make sure to keep one topic or instruction per list item and highlight important actions in bold. For example: First, set up your account by clicking on the gear icon.
  • Consistency: Consistency is key when writing easy-to-understand content. This includes everything from the way your format instructions to the words you use to refer to different actions. For example, if you call the gear icon the settings button on a different step, the customer might become confused. Just as if you were to format one step as Click Home page > gear icon > account setup versus writing it out in a full sentence on the next step: First, set up your account by clicking on the gear icon from the home page and then selecting ‘Account setup.’
  • Organization: The way you organize your overall structure can also help customers understand how to navigate throughout. It can be organized in lots of different ways. You could start with the most important items and work your way down or begin with simple items and work toward more advanced topics. You could even sort it by the natural process a customer may often need to take. Regardless, it is important to plan this ahead of time.
  • No jargon. Jargon is a blanket term for large, technical words that your average customer will not understand. There is a time and place for flexing your extensive vocabulary, but kb articles are not the one. You want to use simple words and phrases that anyone can understand. This includes simplifying technical processes and leaving out extraneous words.
  • Grammatically sound: This is often overlooked, but having typos or misplaced commas in your article can lead to tons of unintended confusion. So make sure to double and triple-check everything!
  • Callouts: If you have any important information you want your customers to find quickly, be sure it highlight, bold, or underline it to make it easier to find. This could be a common question you’re frequently asked, a temporary warning, tip, or even an idea.

Example: Canva

In the example below, you will see that Canva uses consistent and easy-to-recognize icons in each of their steps throughout their kb articles so customers can easily follow along as they read. This is also visually engaging and helps users locate where they should click on the screen.

Canva visual kb article example

As a bonus, notice the yellow box at the bottom calling out important information. This helps customers easily find answers to their most common questions.

Helpful & engaging visuals

Another way to make your content easier to read is by showing, rather than telling. Especially when discussing more complex processes or advanced tutorials, visual demonstrations can be a huge help. Not to mention, using plenty of images can also break up your body of text to appear more appealing and easier to digest. Plus, you might even find that you can replace some of your text with visuals, which is always a plus.

What type of visuals should I include in a kb article?

  • Screenshots: Screenshots are especially helpful if you are describing an online process with on-screen directions for a user to follow. Showing exact screenshots of where they should click or how their screen should look can help build customer confidence and ease any confusion on their end.
  • Product & part images: Product images are great if your kb article is for a physical product. You can show parts that should be included in a purchase, assembly instructions, and much more. This can help customers connect what is in front of them with the instructions they are reading in your article.
  • GIFs: GIFs are great for showing a quick sequence of a few steps a customer needs to take in order to complete a process. This could be a screen recording or it could be live footage of product parts.
  • Tutorial videos: Tutorial videos are just like GIFs, but longer. Use them to walk customers through the kb article, end-to-end, with helpful visuals and voice-over instructional text. Utilize screen recordings and carefully guide customers through every step they must take. This is also a great way to offer customers a way to learn without having to spend time reading.
  • Demonstration videos: Demonstration videos are a bit different and can show customers what their end result using your product or service should be. This is a great way to keep them enticed and motivated to continue learning more.

Example: Asana

A great example of a help center that uses ample, educational visuals is Asana. In the image below, you will se that not only are they including a screenshot but it is labeled with numbered callouts that associate with the steps a user must take on-screen.

Asana kb article example with easy to follow images and instruction

Plus, notice the green tips at the bottom that’s inside of a box so readers can easily locate the information.

Strong brand & voice

The final key element to creating a great kb article is letting your brand’s voice shine. While having a perfect article that contains all of the elements we’ve discussed so far is great, it’s truly your brand that will set it apart. This is how you make your content memorable and convince customers to repurchase and recommend.

But how can I include my brand’s voice while focusing on such informative content without adding unnecessary “fluff?”

  • Start simple: Does your article use first person or only third? Are there moments you break the fourth wall and refer to the reader as “you?” Answering these questions first is a must.
  • Add some flair: Consider using brief anecdotes or simple comparison stories to better explain your topic. Do you ever use personal insights of experience? Maybe your writing is filled with cliches and puns to better convey complex ideas. All of these questions can help bring your writing in line with your unique brand.
  • Use visuals: Visuals can be a huge factor when conveying your brand. Now, of course, the necessary images like a screenshot can only be designed so well. But in video content, there are tons of opportunities to adjust your voiceover script and tone of voice to add more personality.
  • Consider Emoticons: Including smaller things, like Emojis, throughout your article can be a great display of personality. Consider adding them into header text, tips, or tricks. This also has the advantage of drawing attention to certain areas by breaking up any large bodies of text. But, be sure to include ones that are appropriate to your text. When in doubt, stick to the simple smiley faces and thumbs up.

Example: Slack

Slack’s help center is notorious for having a great personality. Not only does it make it stand out as being unique, but it also makes the entire experience more enjoyable. Customers' are happy to return and find any of their answers. Plus, it gets people in their industry talking and spreading the word, increasing their brand awareness. And they do this with just a few simple, easy tweaks. In the image below, you’ll notice their help center utilizes very memorable colors and images unique to their service. Even the navigation options have a unified style and are easy to recognize.  

Slack example of visual help center colors and icons

Below, you will notice that they use a unified set of iconography across their help center, throughout both the navigation and the articles. The hint of color and familiarity adds to their friendly brand. If you have a moment, read through their article snippet below to take a peek at the personable tone, usage of second-person narration, and helpful examples they include in their writing. Together, all of these small details help create a well-rounded brand experience across their kb articles.

Slack visual example of kb article lists
Slack example of visual kb article

Wrapping things up

In this blog, we covered a lot of elements that work together to create a great knowledge base article. From find-ability and readability to helpful visuals and brand voice, a lot is at play when crafting content that readers feel excited to learn from.  

It may sound like a lot to keep in mind, so if you’re unsure where to even start, learn about the 6 easy steps to writing a kb article next.

I love to write with one goal in mind - to help you build amazing customer experiences. Our content is tailored to help you understand your customers, design great products and deliver world-class customer self-service. I share my knowledge and experience through my articles, videos, podcasts, templates, and more - so you can take your customer experience to the next level.‍

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