Forums/Documentation/Getting Started Guide (Zendesk Classic)

Lesson 2: Customizing the Agent Homepage (Classic)

Matthew Latkiewicz
posted this on April 19, 2011 16:19

This lesson is for Zendesk Classic. If you are using the new version of Zendesk, see Branding your help desk.

In this lesson, we’re going to go over and customize what you see when you first log in to Zendesk. If you just created your account, you will initially see the Getting Started Screen (see picture below).

However, on your subsequent logins you will be directed to your Web Portal Home Page. (You can also always get there by clicking the Home tab in the menu bar bar.) For new accounts, that screen looks like this:

We’ll show you ways to change the information on this page as well as customize the look of it. Your agents and you will be spending a lot of time working in this web portal, so it makes sense to get to know the interface, as well as how to get your content in there, and integrate the look of it with your company’s look.

There are five main areas to your support homepage:

  1. Header and menu bar
  2. Introductory Text
  3. Highlighted Forum Articles
  4. The Forum directory
  5. The sidebar

Header and menu bar

Your account name is in the upper left of the header along with a Zendesk logo. Links to your personal profile and to Zendesk’s help are in the upper right. The menu bar of your web portal goes across the bottom of the header.

Adding your logo and colors

Zendesk offers some simple web tools to change the colors and add your own logo. Anyone can use them, you don’t need to be a programmer or designer. NOTE: there are some advanced customization options as well, which we will look at in the next lesson.

While the Zendesk logo is nice, let’s swap it out with our own logo.

All the basic personalization tools are in Settings > Account > Branding. Go there and scroll to the bottom until you see Header logo.

Adding a logo is as simple as uploading it here, but it’s important to note that Zendesk will resize the logo to fit within a space 254px wide by 50px tall, so it’s best to make sure you have a version of your logo optimized for that size.

When you have a version of your logo that looks good at that size, click the choose file button and browse to it from your computer. It is fine if the image is larger than 254px by 50px - but Zendesk will scale it to fit within that space.

When you choose a new logo, you can also indicate a URL to which you want the logo to link. It makes sense to add your own website.

Click Save Changes on the bottom of the page and you have a new logo.

Changing the Colors

Now, unless you happen to have the exact same color scheme as Zendesk, your logo probably looks a little funny up there. Let’s change the colors to fit our brand and work with the logo better.

You should still be in the Personalize Your Zendesk page. Scroll to the section labeled Help desk colors. Click on the green bar next to Page header. Up pops a color picker tool.

We can either choose the color using the color picker (the round dot on the color block) or by entering in the hex number for the color.

TIP: hex numbers are a computer standard code for describing colors.

We are going to enter the hex number for our brand color - which is a deep blue - #002262. You can use either the color picker or also enter a hex number. Do the same for the page background with the alternate color. The page background is the frame around the main content of the page (pictured below).

Click Save Change at the bottom and your new colors are now visible.

If at any point you want to start over, you can return to the default green and dark grey colors by clicking the Revert to default colors link in the help desk colors link.

The menu bar

Now that we have changed our colors and logo, let’s take a look at the menu bar. This is how you will navigate your support site.

  1. Home - brings you back to the support homepage
  2. Forums - your knowledge base and community support
  3. Manage - a menu where you manage the pieces of your help desk including users, work flows, and pre-built responses.
  4. Settings - a menu with administrative and ownership control, including branding tools and tools that integrate your Zendesk with other tools. (Note that you’ll only see the Account menu if you’re an administrator. Individual support agents will not have access to these settings.)
  5. Twitter icon - Zendesk allows you to monitor and respond to support requests that come through Twitter. This tab gives you direct access to that feature.
  6. Views - The customizable collection buckets for all your support requests.
  7. + New- Takes you directly to a new support ticket.
  8. Search Bar - searches your entire support history, including knowledge base and tickets.

The Manage and Account tabs have a number of related sub menus.

Hiding the Introductory Text

Let’s look at the other sections of your web portal home page and make a few changes to get you started.

The Introductory Text is the section right below the menu bar. It is completely editable and a good place to put a welcome message or other information about your support -- hours, contact information, etc. The introductory text comes more into play when we start to configure the web portal for our customers’ use, so let’s hide it for now.

To hide it, go to Settings > Channels and then click the green edit link next to Web Portal. This page has a number of settings for your web portal content - what is shown and how it is displayed. To hide the introductory text, uncheck the show box on the first item and click the save button at the bottom of the page.

The remaining settings all address your Zendesk Forums. You can use forums to build out a knowledge base and FAQ section, as well as to offer community support, creating a space for your customers to ask public questions and engage with other customers.

As you see, you can choose to show your forums on your home page. Let’s return there to see what they look like. Click on the Home tab in the menu bar.

Adding a Knowledge Base to Your Web Portal Home Page

The forums occupy the bulk of your home page. Forums are collections of articles and/or community questions and feedback. Each entry in a forum is called a topic. One great way to utilize that is to add a knowledge base and start building up some documentation on your product or service. This can be helpful for your support agents as they are troubleshooting a customer’s questions. It centralizes your support knowledge in one place and integrates it with your ticketing system.

To start building a knowledge base we are going to explore the forums, add some new content relevant to our business, and display that on our web portal home page.

When you first sign up for your Zendesk account, you are set up with a few example forums -- Announcements, Community Help, Tips & Tricks, Feature Requests, and Agents Only. If these sample forums work for you, you can definitely start adding content to them.

For our knowledge base example, let’s customize the forums so that they are organized around our product line. We want to group articles around each product we manufacture to make it very easy to browse. To do that we are going to create separate forums for each product line and then group them into a forum category called Knowledge Base. Lastly, we’ll configure how it displays on the home page.

Creating new forums

To create a new forum around a product line, we will go to the Forums page on our Zendesk. Click the Forum tab in the menu bar. It looks very similar to what we had on our home page. But while the forums can be displayed on the home page, all forum organization and configuration happens here. Notice the green actions link on the right side of the page, which were not available on the home page.

Add a new forum by clicking the actions link and choosing add forum.

Add a title of a product line. We’ll call our "Digital Compact Cameras", one of MondoCam’s product lines. Add a description of the product line in the description field - this will be displayed along with the forum and can provide some general information about the product. Leave everything else as is. These options become useful later when building out an area for customer community support. For now we are focusing on knowledge base articles and the defaults work well for that. For more on community support and forum options, check out the community support video tutorial.

Click the Add Forum button at the end of the forum. This takes us into our new forum. The title we just added is across the top, along with some breadcrumb style navigation (you can click Forums to go back up one level); a search bar allows us to search within that forum (not that interesting yet as we have no content); when we add forum topics, they will be listed in the main column; and the description we wrote is in the right column.

Let’s add a knowledge base article about this particular product line (“digital compact cameras” in our MondoCam example). Click the Add Article button on the right side.

On the next page, you create your knowledge base article by adding a title and the article body. For our example, we are going to add a question a customer might ask about our product line. This will help our agents troubleshoot customer questions.

You can either write something from scratch, or if you have an existing knowledge base, simply copy and paste an article into the text box (you can paste in text as well as images). Notice the drop-down titled Which forum does this topic belong to?It has our new forum selected, but you could change it to another forum.

Lastly, we can set a few options for how this topic is displayed. We don’t want people to leave comments on our knowledge base articles -- we’d rather have them submit a support ticket if they have questions -- so let’s check the disable comments box. Leave the other items unchecked for now. Your form should look something like this:

Looks good. Click update in the bottom right of the form. This brings us to the forum topic as people will see it when they browse to it. If you need to ever make a change to your documentation -- when a product is updated for instance -- you can edit it at any point by clicking the green edit link in the upper right of the article.

Ok, remember that we were adding a knowledge base article to display on our web portal home page. Let’s go back there and see what it looks like. Click the home tab in the menu bar.

Looks ok - there’s our forum along with the sample forums Zendesk starts you off with; and the article we just added is listed.

But it could look even more organized. And some of those sample forums don’t apply to our business. To clean up how this looks, and make it much easier to browse for our agents, we can create a forum Category.

In addition to grouping related topics together in forums, you can group related forums into categories. Let’s create a category called Knowledge Base and move our product forum into it.

Create a Forum Category

Creating a forum category is very similar to creating a forum itself. First, as we did before, we need to go the Forums tab in the menu bar. On the forum management page, click the Add Category button in the upper right of the main column. On the new category page add a title and a description. The title will be displayed on the home page as a section heading (see picture below)

We’ll title ours “Knowledge Base” and add a simple description: “Official Articles, Manuals, and Tips about all of MondoCam's products”. When you click Update, you’ll see your category on your Forum Management page. Let’s see how it looks on the home page. Click the Home tab.

Next, we want to move our product forum into the Knowledge Base category.

To move the forum category you created earlier, click the title of the forum; and then click the green edit link on the forum page. You’ll now notice a drop-down titled “Which category does this forum belong to?” open that up and choose “Knowledge Base” (or whatever you named the category you created).

Click the update forum button.

Now when you go to the home page your category shows up with your forum within it.

How are we doing? Our web portal home page is definitely taking shape. It sports our logo and colors, and we are starting to build up a knowledge base for our agents to access. From here, you can continue to organize and add articles to your knowledge base.

Pinned Forum Topics (and how to unpin them)

There’s one last item on the home page we haven’t looked at yet. The message titled “For Your Eyes Only”

It reads:

This topic was posted to the restricted Agents Only forum in your help desk and pinned to the home page. The topic is visible to help desk agents only, not your customers.

This points to an aspect of the web portal home page and of forums that we haven’t considered yet: what can your customers see? We are going to look at that in the next section.

For now, let’s focus on the other piece introduced by this post: the idea of pinning topics to the homepage. It turns out that this “For Your Eyes Only” post is a normal forum topic. You may remember from earlier in the lesson a set of options for how a forum topic is to be displayed (see below).

One of those options was to pin a topic to the home page. When you enable this option, it shows up on your home page just like this “For Your Eyes Only” post. This gives you the ability to showcase particular content that could be useful for your support agents.

And when that content is no longer useful -- perhaps you want to highlight a product update, but only for a week -- you can unpin it. Now that we have read the “For Your Eyes Only” post, it isn’t really something we need to see every time we log in.

To unpin it, all we have to do is click the unpin link under the title.

It disappears, but note that it hasn’t been deleted. You can still see it listed in the “Agents Only” forum in the Forum Directory on the home page.

TIP: To re-pin something, go into the topic and click the green edit link the upper right of the main column. Select the checkbox at the bottom titled “Pin to Home Page” and update the post.


In this lesson, we customized the agent home page to look more in line with your company’s brand. And we started building a knowledge base that your agents can use when troubleshooting customer questions. We looked at how the Zendesk forums are organized, with topics, forums, and categories; and saw how to move items between forums and categories. Lastly, we saw that we could highlight particular forum topics by pinning them to our web portal home page.

In the next lesson, we’ll return to setting up Zendesk for your customers point of view. We’ll set up your web portal for their use so you can communicate important news and announcements to them; so they can help themselves to your public knowledge base; and so they submit tickets and keep track of their support history. We’ll also make the support experience more seamless for them by removing the word Zendesk from your support email and your web portal URL.

Next Lesson: Customizing the Customer Experience →



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Marie-Josée Brault

I suggest you add how to reorder categories in this tutorial. It took me forever to find it.

May 31, 2012 08:19