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Buyer’s Guide

by | Nov 20, 2019

Searching for knowledge base software can be confusing and tiring. Your organization’s particular use cases, budget, and roadmap are just a few of the factors to consider when searching for the right application to make sense of the data overload.

Where do you start?

At this point, it should be clear that knowledge base repositories are the best way to manage knowledge in structured formats. But what do you look for in a knowledge management platform and how quickly can you implement? The answer isn’t always straightforward, as every company will have varying needs, budgets, and timelines.

Deploying a new knowledge management system is not a decision for the faint of heart. There are critical boxes to tick and requirements to fulfill. What we can tell you is this checklist will certainly help you determine what will work best for your organization.

Is it cloud-based or on-premise?

When evaluating knowledge management software, this is likely the first question you’ll need to answer. On-premise software might be appropriate for the following scenarios:

  • Your company has a large IT team with the necessary bandwidth to maintain the associated server.
  • Your business uses other tools that do not require access to the Internet.
  • Your company must follow strict compliance guidelines that disallow an Internet connection.

On the other hand, if any of the following scenarios apply, your company might prefer a cloud-based knowledge management system:

  • Your company doesn’t want the hassle of buying and maintaining additional hardware to host the software.
  • You either have a small or non-existent IT team.
  • You want users to access your knowledge base from any device with an Internet connection.
  • You want reliable data backups and 24/7 support.

Is the user interface simple?

The user interface serves as the initial point of contact. You don’t want this to be confusing for either your employees or your customers—if the user interface is too complex or poorly designed, it will severely hinder adoption rates.

Is it easy to search?

Any knowledge management solution is only as good as its knowledge is searchable. If users have too difficult a time in locating the knowledge they need, they simply will not use it. Search for a platform that is designed to meet the tech expectations of the average consumer.

Does it integrate with other apps?

You want your knowledge base software to integrate with other apps, as we all prefer one seamless UI over separate systems. For instance, if you are using a customer relationship management (CRM) system, linking it with a knowledge base will let you search your repository from within your CRM application, send customers quick answers, and even convert support tickets into new topics in your knowledge portal.

Does it provide a feedback loop?

To ensure both relevance and accuracy, it is critical for your knowledge base to stay up-to-date. One way to do this is with a system that can capture and leverage user feedback.

Illustration of a hand with a thumbs up and a hand with a thumbs down

How easy is it to deploy?

A difficult deployment will disillusion leadership and hamper adoption rates. Whichever knowledge management route you choose, make sure that the deployment roadmap is clearly defined.

What about pricing?

Begin with your organization’s baseline. This is where it might be helpful to perform an in-depth cost-benefit analysis before your company makes a final decision. Look at subscription costs vs. purchasing individual licenses. Also, figure out your company’s break-even point.

Knowledge is power, but it’s also about how you use that power. Use the previous questions to choose the system that makes the most sense for your business.

Real world examples.

By providing a user-friendly knowledge base, your support teams can start to focus on higher-level issues and job responsibilities. Here are examples of companies who have mastered the art of the knowledge base:

Lyft “The Hub”
On “The Hub,” Lyft provides a “Tips” sections to help their drivers ensure great customer experiences. This is just one of Lyft’s knowledge base portals—they also have separate bases for customers and driver assistance. What makes Lyft stand out is they have formatted their knowledge base to emulate a scannable online magazine. Each tip has an accompanying image that users can click on to find what they need. For instance, one tip is titled: “Five 5-Star Tips to Driving in the Snow.” This way, drivers don’t have to spend a lot of time searching.

Canva helps its customers create stunning images and layouts, so it’s no surprise that their knowledge base is just as visually attractive. It offers a left-side column with distinct options for type of knowledge is on offer, such as “Account Basics,” “Canva for Work,” or “Billing and Plans.” There are also images and a “Featured Articles” section to help guide the visitor.

This is the base for the Dropbox customer who hasn’t gone beyond syncing folders and wants to learn about other features. Dropbox uses humorous images to reinforce the friendliness of their knowledge base. Further, the featured articles offer tips on how to use Dropbox more efficiently.

Dyson is well-known for creating some of the most highly-rated vacuums and appliances in the world. Despite having such a wide range of quality products, Dyson figured out how to customize their knowledge base to be responsive to the visitor’s country of origin. They also have product photos to make it easy for customers to locate the information they nee, and you can even search for products using their serial number.

Yoast is bursting with features, and their knowledge base does an excellent job of organizing functionalities into logical categories. Depending on the category, you can find multiple articles supporting the subject matter. As a result, Yoast has taken a lot of the guesswork out of blind search, empowering customers to quickly find exactly what they need.

Asana has a very thoughtfully-designed knowledge base. It was created to help newbies and power users alike. It also emotes a very friendly atmosphere, making visitors feel welcomed and comfortable. Plus, Asana’s knowledge base offers tips for getting started, onboarding, and provides expert guidance as well.