By Tom Corbett and Stuart Gill at dotMailer
As well as being an excellent system for managing support queries, Zendesk’s super-easy to maintain forums are a great way to curate instructions and guides for users. At dotMailer we take advantage of Zendesk’s API to re-use that same content in our email marketing software; ensuring that we can efficiently keep all of our documentation up-to-date.
The problem with knowledge bases
We like to think that our application is really easy to use, but some users always like to refer to help documentation; so in dotMailer we include a link to our dotMailer’s knowledge base, powered by Zendesk. We love the knowledge base, it’s simple to use and allows us to share content with our customers easily. But, this gives us two problems:
Hiding the clutter — the knowledge base is great, but we want our users to be able to find relevant help without being distracted by lots of navigation, announcements and other messaging; we don’t want our users having to constantly switch between our web-application and support center
Getting users to the right help, quickly — a link to the knowledge base is one thing; but we don’t want users to have to (after clicking the help link) then work out a search term and navigate their way through to the right help article
So depending where you are in the dotMailer platform, you’ll find our Assistance icon which pops up content related to what you’re currently working on. So when working on segmentation you get segmentation articles, and when using our new automation interface you get articles relevant to that. This content is presented in a simple, de-cluttered interface, rather than taking the user to the support center itself.
Not wanting to maintain multiple sets of documentation; we do this by pulling the content live from our knowledge base — our team create content in Zendesk and the in-context assistance is instantly updated to contain the most up to date content.
The tech stuff
So, how did we achieve this magical feat? It’s all done through the Zendesk API.
We have a page which takes a Zendesk article ID and reformats it as a standalone help file without the help center navigation.
Pages in dotMailer have a help icon, this opens up the standalone help file page in a new window. Our developers can add this to any page in dotMailer with a simple control, just specifying an ID.
Any link in an article that’s in the format of a valid article URL (e.g. https://support.dotmailer.com/entries/23075757-Getting-started or /entries/23075757-Getting-started) is rewritten to the in-context help format so that it opens in this simple format rather than in the help center.
- At the end of each article is a search function for accessing other help articles
It’s as simple as that; if you have developers building your own site / application – they can achieve something similar using the Zendesk API.
Taking it that one step further
Depending on your business model, you may find that this isn’t quite enough to get the job done — here are a few extra piece we’ve needed to include at dotMailer:
Not all articles are relevant to all users – so we add extra restrictions (using Zendesk tags and forum IDs) to limit which articles are returned to which users
In addition to our own customers, we also support resellers — so we also have to ensure:
- All help articles are written in whitelabel-safe language (not referring to our brand)
- The help page titles are recolored according to the brand of the reseller
Any articles not relevant to reseller customers are tagged (using Zendesk tags) appropriately and are excluded from search results
Using Zendesk’s knowledge base in this way has greatly improved the quality and timeliness of our documentation; we still have a few articles that are out of date (mostly with my name next to them) — but when we update them we now only have to update them once!