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Community discussion: How do you organize content in your forums and KB?

Zendesk update: Here's the article we created based on all your feedback! Thanks to everyone who contributed. And please, add more feedback here if you have it!

Users frequently ask us for tips and best practices for organizing content in forums and knowledge base--especially what categories and forums should they set up. We thought the best way to help users was to show them what other users have done!

Have you set up your forums/KB and structured content in an effective way? Share with the community. Responses will be compiled into an article, with attribution to the contributors.

Provide the following in a comment below:

  1. How do you organize content in your forums and KB? What advice can you share?
  2. Provide a link to your site or include a screenshot so we can see it. Can we feature your site in the article we're creating?
  3. What is your industry? Choose one of the following:
  • IT services and consultancy
  • Software
  • Web Applications
  • Retail
  • Education
  • Marketing and Advertising
  • Professional and Business Support Services
  • Media and Telecommunications
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing and Computer Hardware
  • Financial and Insurance Services
  • Government and Non-profit
  • Entertainment and Gaming
  • Web Hosting
  • Travel, Hospitality, and Tourism
  • Social Media
  • Real Estate
  • Other

20 comments

  • 0

    When organizing our knowledge base as we began with Zendesk, we were lucky to have had a previous knowledge base to help inform the restructuring our content. One thing we tried to do, was to create a pyramid style taxonomy that used previous web traffic analytics and prior ticket information to separate our content into the most essential "buckets" of content.

    As we are in the Software industry (SaaS), we decided to choose those most essential buckets by discussing and reviewing the most common activities and features of our product, and then titling those as Categories with recognizable and intuitive names that related to our software.

    My advice would be that if your organization already has documentation or knowledge base content (or even if you have an idea of the specific content you'll be creating), that you take the time and effort to select the exact location of each individual article.

    It is tedious, and there is plenty of dialogue and opinion that goes into it, but creating a comprehensive list of all knowledge base articles, creating generic top level Categories (based on traffic and product analysis), and then assigning each article to the category one by one helped us ensure that our content was in an intuitive and correct location for our users. As you go through this process, you'll start to see overlap between articles underneath each Category, which can help you create smaller groupings for your Forums that will fall under those Categories.

    I've attached a screenshot of our site. We've done a lot of customization on the homepage of our Zendesk, but the six icons there each correlate with our six most trafficked Categories. We have others as well, but they are only available via searching or the Browse page for the sake of simplicity in navigation.

    Thanks all! Good luck and stay Zen.

    Ryan 

  • 0

    Wait, do I get a goody anyway for participating ? :P 

  • 0

    Here at pluscloud we use Zendesk to assist our users during and after the implementation of our products. As a IT consultancy company it's very important to have information organized. Most of our partners do offer their own KB but this is often too comprehensive for users to look for quick solutions on easy questions. To ensure our clients get their answers quickly we provide our own stripped down Dutch KB which helps our clients to get back to work asap.

    We tag tickets we receive properly. Every once in a while we check which questions come back frequently based on those tags. This enables us to have a very to the point KB which really helps our clients to get the best out of their solution.

    We think it's important for customers to identify your helpdesk at Zendesk as it's part of your organisation. That's why we also customized the look 'n feel of our helpdesk. Enclosed you can find a screenshot or you can access it at http://help.pluscloud.nl

  • 0

    Of course, Andrea! I was going to email you about it.

    Can you pretty please paste in the info you sent me in email!? :) 

    And I will definitely send something your way!

  • 0

    Over at LiquidSupport my Users are Finance Oriented, so they are very logically minded.  

    I have tried a number of different methods, and found that a listed system is best for my users.  I keep it short and simple.  Never more then 3-4 Forums are ever active at a time, and all the sub-forums are listed in such a way that every month I look at my stats and organize the highest viewed articles or training videos first, followed by the legacy documents.  

    I have attached a screenshot, so you can take a look.  Not as "fun" as I would like, but my users prefer it this way.  After I started organizing it this way we saw a 5% increase in views from one month to the next.  

  • 0

    @Andrea you definitely deserve it :-)

    Enjoy!

  • 0

    Any best practice tips for mobile apps? My company has 2 apps for both iPhone and Android and we're looking to organize our KB. We're not sure if we should have 2 forums, separated by app or device, or to have 4 separate forum, for each app on each device. Suggestions, comments, Bueller?

  • 0

    @Arnaud - oh shucks, merci ;p

  • 0

    @Shelly - I would have a dedicated forum for iPhone and another for Android. That way users don't have to dig through too much and know exactly where they need to go!

  • 0

    @andrea thanks for the tip!

  • 0

    Here's a peek of what's coming on Jennifer's post, part of what I included:

    I’ve always worked for software companies. This means that I’ve had to include knowledge base articles + community forums.

    So that right there gives me two forums, kb, community, and system updates.

     

    For KB…

    There tends to be different areas/modules in a software. Each category within the forum will be a different module. For example, for Amilia I have:

    -          Getting Started Guide

    -          Managing your org

    -          Catalogs and Registration Forms

    -          User Management

    -          FAQ

     

    … and so on. Each category has about 10 articles.

     

    For community..

    I’ve divided that one into ideas and tips/tricks. Ideas can turn into feature requests, so it helps us keep track alongside jira.

    Tip/Tricks are good for community incentive ! As we expand to different cities/countries, we may have “USA” forums and “Canadian” forums… and so on.

     

    For System Updates..

    We have release notes, news, and system updates.

  • 0

    At Viewpath, we have our forums organized by sections within our app. For example, when you are on the Resource tab, and you select Help from inside the app, you’re taken to the Resource forum. Takes a bit more work than sending everyone directly to the home page, but the users really like that they’re immediately taken the help section about the area they are currently in.

    We also created links at the top of the home page to take people to 6 main sections: Help Guide, Training Videos, Community, FAQs, Blog and Feature Announcements to help navigate the home page in Zendesk and take you to our blog in a quick and easy manner. 

    Best advice: spend time trolling other people’s help desks. See what you like, what pops out as a good idea, etc., before you dive into creating your own. Expect to rearrange and redo sections as you discover what works and doesn’t. Make your forums easy to navigate. Too many forums, and customers start feeling unable to locate what they’re looking for

    Since we're a project management app in the software industry, I’m also excited that we’ve added community pages with a Tips & Tricks section that our users can add directly to, as well as a Feature Requests section where users can vote up issues they would like to see implemented/fixed. This will be a big help for us in determining the direction of development.

    You can check us out at  support.viewpath.com. Good luck!

  • 0

    In an effort to reduce ticket load and encourage community participation we have partitioned our ZenDesk support center between our knowledge-base and our forums via the navigation as shown in the image 'forum.gif' attached. The community forums is actually a subset of the knowledge-base, so it's not a true fragmentation, but it works visually as we've placed the community forums section sequentially at the BOTTOM of the knowledge-base. Our knowledge-base is comprised entirely of article forums (users can vote for the most helpful articles), whereas our community forum is comprised entirely of question forums (users vote for the question to be answered and the ZenDesk operator marks the appropriate answer). We find the act of marking a user's comment as an answer adds a certain element of gamification among users who are actively involved in answering other users' questions.

    We also built a widget that steers the user's eye towards submitting a ticket to our general community support forum, as shown in attached image 'widget.gif'.  Since we've added the widget we've seen a dramatic spike in people both submitting questions and answering other peoples' inquiries, which has cut down on our support load, but has also introduced new challenges in moderating a forum in which users are generating new content on their own. 

    All-in-all, trying to move from a a tickets-solved-by-agents model to a sustainable user-driven-content model has been an interesting experience. The end goal is to have a piece of software that is supported entirely by an educated and enthusiastic community of users. 

  • 0

    To add context to the comments above, we are a CRM software company that provides a software solution for non-profit organizations that allows them to run various fundraising campaigns, run online events, manage an online giftstore, support membership enrollments, send out email blasts, etc. So each one of those modules within the system has its documentation stored in an appropriate forum.

  • 0

    Here at Ticket Turtle we organized our KB articles primarily by area of our software system.  Our system has tabs for each of the primary sections, then sub menus within the primary tab.  So I designed our KB articles to match that format.  Then in addition we have an About section, a FAQ section and more.  

    Attached is a screen shot of our system with tabs and menu, and a screen shot of our KB forums.  

  • 0

    At School Annual Publishing, our advisers still get a printed User Manual in their fall yearbook kit, so our Forum has two sections - and one of them specifically mimics the printed manual sections.

    We expand greatly upon the topics in the printed manual to include videos and additional images.

    The other section of our knowledge base is built around Tips / Tricks, Announcements, and Troubleshooting - and none of these are found in our printed material.

    We are in the process of a mini redesign which will rename the topics within the sections so they follow a "lesson plan".  This targets the folks who "don't know where to start", but is still totally searchable to those who are looking for a specific topic.

  • 0

    Patrick: Those are great suggestions. Like you, my knowledge base area will be articles (written by me, at least for a while), and I'd like to direct our users to the community areas. Thanks for the ideas!

  • 0

    We think of content via several dimensions.  

    First dimension is by access, whereby I mean Public, All Customers, Select Customers, Partners, Internal only.  

    Second dimension is offerings such as Products, Platforms, Solutions, Services.  

    Third dimension is by role/audience.  In our case say a DBA, Application Developer, IT Admin, Data Scientist

    Fourth dimension is content type: Discussions, Papers, Answers, Blogs, How To Video's, Polls/Survey's, Announcements (marketing posts or videos)

    I imagine that my users would be able to use these values to select an "intelligent" set of the above.  Similar to how LinkedIn Search or other such filtering tools would work.  I think that might make content exploration very dynamic and interesting especially if the results panes could actively be updated with nice previews, etc.

    Finally, I would like all of our content to be viewable in local languages so ability to select a language and have the whole site (posts, files, etc.) show up in that language would be nice.

  • 0

    I am  working for a startup in the hardware manufacturing space.  We make a NAS device.

    I am trying to figure out how to organize future articles.

    I would like to organize by customer topics as opposed to engineering topics.  I think I can then tag the articles with engineering topics to organize on a different level.  Is there a way to be able to browse using facets (similar to search on eBay or Amazon)?

    Customer topics:

    Setup / Config

    These would be "How to" articles

    • How to setup Active Directory
    • How to add users
    • How to delete users

    Troubleshooting

    These would be structured articles that would would reference the "How to" articles.

    • Can't access data
    • System won't boot up
    • Can't find system on the network

    Engineering topics:

    • Networking
    • CIFS
    • File System
    • Cleaning / Garbage collection
    • Management
    • Mesh / replication

     

    I am reading about KB management (KCS) at 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_Centered_Support

    http://www.serviceinnovation.org/included/docs/kcs_practicesguide.pdf

    It would be cool if Zendesk could incorporate some of the concepts found here on creating and updating content.

     

    I like Scott Gilbert's classifications and think it would be great to have a more robust security model that would allow users to belong to multiple groups and maybe add a role classification.  It would be good to have a system that could filter content permissions based on multiple criteria.  

    Users

    • Prospects
    • Customers
    • Resellers
    • Employees

    Product

    • OneBlox1000
    • OneBlox2000
    • OneSystem

     

    Comments / feedback / suggestions welcome.

     

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