how to write knowledge base articles

How To Create Amazing Knowledge Base Articles

Learn the basics of a knowledge base and how to create articles that resonate with your customers.

The best customer experience is one that doesn’t involve a customer service agent.

No offense, of course—I’ve worked in customer support for many years. But we both know that once someone reaches out to an agent, the customer experience has already been degraded in some way. 

Ideally, customers intuitively understand your website or product enough without needing to reach out for help. At the very least, we hope they know where to find their own answers before needing to contact a support representative. 

This is why creating a knowledge base is so important for growing e-commerce businesses. It has the power to prevent a poor customer experience and turn a confused customer into a buyer. 

Let’s explore the basics of a knowledge base and how you can create articles that resonate with your customers. 

What is a knowledge base?

A knowledge base is a self-service help center that enables your customers to search for answers to common questions, learn more about your merchandise, or understand how to perform certain tasks related to your website or product. 

It lives on your website 24/7, allowing customers to access it without needing to interact with or wait for a response from a customer service rep. Knowledge base software can either be a standalone item or included within your help desk.

Some examples of knowledge base content include: 

  • FAQs
  • Return policy
  • Shipping and tracking information
  • Assembly manuals 
  • Onboarding guides

Typically, customer service oversees creation and maintenance of a knowledge base. It’s helpful to have those on the front lines contributing content they know resonates with customers and answers their specific questions. 

Atlassian sums up the benefits of a knowledge base in three key areas:

  • Consistent service
  • Higher resolution rates
  • Lower costs 

Knowledge bases empower growing e-commerce teams to provide stellar customer service without spending a ton of money. 

Types of knowledge base articles

In general, knowledge base articles can be broken down into three main types. It’s helpful when planning content to understand each different type and how your readers will digest the information. 

You can think of them chronically, as well, in terms of how they relate to the customer journey. Your customers will likely start with an FAQ page, then move on to onboarding, and potentially (in an ideal world, hopefully not) land on a troubleshooting page. 

We’ll explain each one and provide some examples to help you get a grasp on the type of content that would be most valuable to your customers. 

1. FAQ page

Frequently asked questions are the obvious child of knowledge base articles. Of course, you’ll want to add your most common inquiries to your base to help the majority of customers while also saving yourself (or your customer support agents) a ton of time. 

Use your customer service emails as a reference and turn repeat questions into FAQs. You’ll reduce ticket volume immediately and be able to get proactive about resolving known customer issues. 

 building knowledge base FAQ example
Example FAQ page. Source: https://www.groovehq.com/blog/building-knowledge-base

2. How-to guide

How-to articles provide a step-by-step guide for completing a certain task. They typically include images or videos to guide customers through a process. 

Keep how-to articles concise and chronological. If the post gets too long, or has too many sidebars, consider creating a new article to help with readability.

3. Troubleshooting article

Troubleshooting articles are the go-to source for resolving issues. If something goes wrong, this type of article will (hopefully) fix it. 

For technical issues and website glitches, troubleshooting steps may involve refreshes or restarts. For physical products, these articles may explain how to track a lost package or return a defective item. 

How to write an effective knowledge base article

Let’s get down to business. Writing great knowledge base articles is part art and part science. We’ll show you exactly how to combine the two in a way that makes your articles clear, insightful, and effective. 

1. Get content ideas from your inbox

Plan your articles before you start writing to make sure you’re prioritizing the most urgent content first. I like to break down the process into two steps prior to creating content: (1) the research phase and (2) the outline phase. 

First, start by researching the article topic. Begin by looking at your customer service emails to determine which questions you want to create knowledge base articles for. Use inbox reports if you have them on hand to objectively determine the most needed content.  

Note how your customers ask their questions. What stage are they at in their customer journey? What language do they use? 

Start crafting an outline that includes real customer questions and answers that your support team provided in the past. By using replies that have solved the problem previously, you cut down the amount of work needed by your team, while also ensuring a more effective response. 

2. Use an obvious title

The title of a support article must be extremely clear. Use a question as the title if most of your customers write in with that exact question in their email. 

No need to get fancy or cute. Optimize your titles for clarity. 

If you’ve ever spent time in the inbox, you know that customers want answers more than they want your cheeky branding. (Not to say there isn’t a time and place for all that, but keep it simple in your help center.)

3. Start writing (or copying and pasting)

Frankly your first several articles should be more of a copy-and-paste job than a writing assignment. Take the answers that work from your support inbox and paste them into a knowledge base article. 

Continue to use your inbox as a testing ground whenever possible. Re-format your tried and trusted canned replies into article form (more on this below). 

Even as new questions arise, you can continue to use this method. Start by talking to customers directly. See what resonates with them. Then, turn the best response into an article. 

4. Format the post for readability

Emailing with customers will teach you this lesson early on—bulky blocks of text don’t read well. People glaze over them and have trouble picking out the most important bits of information.

Try to limit paragraphs to no more than 2-3 sentences in length. Use bullet points or numbered lists as much as possible. 

Break down different sections of the article with titles and subheadings. This will help readers jump to certain parts of the post if needed. It also helps the brains wrap itself around the content more easily. 

5. Link to related articles

Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Where are they coming from? Where are they going? Anticipate their needs by offering the right article at the right time. 

This serves to guide them along the customer journey with as little friction as possible. Customers will seamlessly jump from one post to the next without feeling like they’re asking for help. 

It also should help you come up with content ideas and article sets. Don’t hesitate to start a new article and break down different steps into different posts. A good knowledge base will make it as easy to glide through different posts as it is to turn a page. 

knowledge base related articles section

6. Add images, screenshots, gifs, videos

Visuals greatly improve the quality of a knowledge base post. It’s much easier to show customers where the little button on the top of your website is using an image, rather than write it out in text. 

I’m a believer that you don’t need to be a designer to create helpful screenshots. Even if they’re not perfect, as long as they get the job done, customers will appreciate it. 

Use videos to walk customers through a process with full context, but don’t be surprised if they don’t view them. Write out the content in the video (same goes for images or gifs) in plain language as well. 

knowledge base example 5 of video added into a post

7. Ask someone to review before you publish

We get used to quickly hitting send in customer support. The quicker the customer gets help, the better. We don’t have time to review and edit everyone’s work. But you’ll want to step on the brakes a little when it comes to knowledge base content. 

Unlike emails, where you know exactly who you’re talking to and if your content is helpful or not, most people will read knowledge base articles without ever letting you know. 

Show your post to colleagues first (doesn’t need to be another customer support person—actually someone without a firm grasp on the topic might be a better guinea pig!). Ask for honest feedback and encourage them to follow the steps laid out in a post to make sure you’re not missing anything. 

Tips for writing great support articles

You don’t need to be a flawless writer or a technical wiz to explain your product in a help center article. As long as you know your products and your customers, you’ll be able to make it work. 

MIT put together a great resource with knowledge base best practices—it covers everything from grammar to formatting in terms of how articles should be written. It might be worth putting together your own set of best practices for your internal team so everyone can create consistent posts. 

Keep these tips in mind to help you write the perfect knowledge base articles for your audience. 

Focus on customer pain points 

Rather than thinking about what you want to tell customers, or what you think is most important, focus on what you see everyday in your support inbox. 

Customer emails pour in everyday with valuable feedback. Use this knowledge to build a help center based on pain points and resolutions. 

Better to over-explain than under 

If you think something’s obvious…then you haven’t been working in customer support for very long. (I joke, sort of.) There’s no such thing as too much information when it comes to customer service. 

No need to limit yourself on your posts. If a reader already knows something, give them the chance to skip an article or peruse the subheadlines to find the exact information they need. But don’t make the mistake of leaving something out entirely. 

Create scannable content 

Everyone is impatient, especially when they need help with a website or product. Cut the fat as much as possible and make it easy to pinpoint answers at a glance. 

You’re not writing a novel. If your knowledge base does its job, the reader will forget they ever spent time reading it in the first place and move on with their life. 

A knowledge base article template you can use (with examples)

Here’s a look at one of the most effective posts in our help center. This template includes everything you want in a good knowledge base article. 

Note the clear title and subheadings, short blocks of texts, videos, images, numbered lists, and summaries. 

Use this template as your all-in-one resource for the most robust article you could ever write. But, keep in mind that most of your content won’t necessarily include every aspect of our template. 

Let’s take a look at some real examples from e-commerce knowledge bases. 

MantraBand features their “Shipping and Delivery” article at the very top of their knowledge base. They know it’s a common question and they cut right to the chase when answering it. 

Parabo Press uses bullet points and images to explain one of its product offerings. 

Source: https://knowledge-base–parabo.groovehq.com/help/hardcover-books

You can mix and match different elements of the knowledge base template to create the perfect post for your brand and your customers. You know your customers (and your product) best. Take what works from our template, and leave out what doesn’t. 

TWU’s Service Center has a nice checklist and reference guide you can use as a template as well. They break down must-haves for each article and their checklist ensures you don’t miss a beat.   

Write knowledge base articles your customers will love

We’ve gone over what a knowledge base is, different types of content, and how to write a great article. You should be well on your way to writing posts that will help resolve any user issues. It’s easier than it seems, I promise. 

As a bonus, I put together a handy little checklist for writing great customer support articles. Keep this in your back pocket when crafting new content.

  1. Get content ideas from your inbox
  2. Use an obvious title
  3. Start writing (or copying and pasting)
  4. Format the post for readability
  5. Link to related articles
  6. Add images, screenshots, gifs, videos
  7. Ask someone to review before you publish

These seven steps will lay the foundation for every article. Go forward with confidence. Your customers will devour your posts in no time, and your support agents will start to see ticket volume dwindle—all thanks to your knowledge base articles!

Grow Blog
Erika Trujillo

Erika is Groove’s Customer Success Manager, committed to helping you find the right software solution for your business needs. She loves finding innovative ways for your support team to scale and grow, always putting the customer first. She also loves to run marathons and play softball in her spare time.

Read all of Erika's articles

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