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Repurposing knowledge base content

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:

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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

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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.

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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.

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We have a page which takes a Zendesk article ID and reformats it as a standalone help file without the help center navigation.
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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.

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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:

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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! 

7 comments

  • 0

    Great article Tom!

    Thanks for sharing

  • 0

    Hi Tom, 

    Thanks for sharing!

    Can you expand on the smart mapping between the product and articles? How are you doing this mapping?

    "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."

    The example screenshot looks like it one article displays. Is that always the case, or are there times where you display a few options related to the topic a user can choose from?

    Also, how is the app determining which content to roll up from a specific product page?
    What is the mapping between the product and the app to know what content to roll up when?

    Is it all based on tagging of the articles, or are you manually assigning articles to pop up from a specific location in the product?

    Thanks,

    Diana 

  • 0

    Also, is the experience different on desktop versus mobile (phone or tablet)? Did you make adjustments to the experience accommodate for different devices?

    Thanks!

  • 0

    Hi Diana,

    (I just stumbled back across this article as we're looking at upgrading our knowledge base mappings shortly.)

    Yep - we also sometimes show a list of articles where there is more than one possible article. We also include a 'search' at the bottom of the article for if you didn't find what you're looking for. I've attached a screenshot of the list view (although the actual design will change very soon).

    The search facility is all done using the Zendesk API, so we don't need to do any re-indexing of content or tags to return the correct results.

    We initially hard coded the link between each page and the relevant Zendesk article ID; however now we've built a back-end interface for our documentation writers to manage it more easily (screenshot attached). This is all a manual process, rather than automated.

    We don't currently do a different interface for different devices, as our core use case is for desktop users who will have the help article and our application open in two different windows on a desktop PC or laptop. If your content has no large images or tables, the wysiwyg editor for Zendesk will produce articles which are responsive automatically, otherwise you might have to do something clever with the CSS to make it handle the articles nicely.

    Stoo

    Product Manager | dotMailer

    @StooGill

  • 0

    Hi Stoo, 

    Thanks for this additional info. It is very helpful. I'll circle back if I have more questions. 

    I like the easy interface you built for writers to manage the mapping. 

    Thanks,

    Diana 

     

     

     

  • 0

    We've put a web app together that achieves something quite similar, but with everything done in the background for you, all you need to do is create an account and authorise access to your zendesk account (which is as simple as clicking a button to allow access), then you can display your whole knowledge-base inside a tab on all pages of your site.

    I've put together some details of this here: https://support.zendesk.com/entries/97968123-Displaying-your-knowledge-base-in-a-tab-on-your-site

  • 0

    Hello Stoo Gill

    Your post refers to some screenshots and I was not able to find those.  Can you please clarify / share those screenshots?

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