knowledge-management

What is Knowledge Base Architecture?

9 min read
Jan 9, 2023
a hand holding a pencil over a sheet of paper

Do you ever feel like there's a missing puzzle piece in your knowledge base architecture? If so, you're not alone. The fact is, many organizations struggle to identify the right steps for building an effective knowledge base architecture—or even knowing what it is! Whether you’re looking for an introduction to the concept of knowledge base architecture or comprehensive advice on how to achieve success when assembling yours from scratch, this blog post will provide practical strategies and use cases that can help. So if you're ready to start optimizing your online presence with helpful information and insights, read on!

What is information architecture?

Information architecture, or IA, is the practice of organizing information in a way that makes sense and facilitates easy access. It helps readers navigate information quickly and locate what they are looking for without constantly coming back to the same information. IA is often used by user interface designers in web-based systems, online databases, and library shelves to ensure information flows naturally from one type of data to another. This organizational structure can be a powerful tool for any business, organization or individual to allow quick access to essential information.

Establishing an effective knowledge base is an invaluable asset for any organization, and the responsibility of information architecture lies with knowledge base content specialists. A knowledge base content specialist is responsible for organizing knowledge base documents into an orderly structure which allows knowledge to be efficiently accessed by people. This typically includes categorizing knowledge by topic, setting up knowledge pathways, developing search functions, and creating a taxonomy and metadata system so that knowledge can quickly be located when needed. It's a difficult job but the end product - a smoothly functioning knowledgebase -- is more than worthwhile.

What do knowledge architects do?

Knowledge architects are content and data strategists who help ensure information is presented in the most helpful and organized way for the user. Their jobs involve creating content hierarchies, tagging content, labeling content, and writing knowledge base articles. By doing this, knowledge architects make sure content is easy to find, digestible and accessible for any users looking for it. On top of this, they often even go as far as to define content guidelines that optimize content creation processes, making sure that whatever content is produced has a neat structure from the start. In short, knowledge architects ensure anyone browsing a website or database can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.

Information architecture in a knowledge base

Information architecture is essential to creating an effective knowledge base. It involves organizing article types in a way that allows readers to find the information they need quickly and easily. Structuring your pages requires identifying article types, such as reference articles, as well as creating internal links so that users of the knowledge base easily access other related pages. A sound knowledge base structure will make it easy for visitors and customers to get the help they need through effective information discovery, resulting in fewer support requests for customer service teams.

Benefits of knowledge base information architecture

1. Improved searchability

One of the primary benefits of knowledge base information architecture is that it can improve the searchability of your knowledge base. When your knowledge base is well-organized, it is easier for users to find the information they are looking for. This can save users a great deal of time, as they will not need to search through a large number of articles to find the one they need.

2. Increased usability

Another benefit of knowledge base information architecture is that it can increase the usability of your knowledge base. A well-organized knowledge base is easier to navigate and use, which can make it more user-friendly. This can encourage more people to use your knowledge base, as they will be able to find the information they need more easily.

3. Enhanced credibility

A well-organized knowledge base can also enhance the credibility of your company. When users see that your company has a well-organized knowledge base, they will be more likely to trust your company and its products or services. This can lead to increased sales and customer loyalty.

4. Improved customer satisfaction

Organizing your knowledge base can also improve customer satisfaction. When customers can easily find the information they need, they are more likely to be satisfied with your company and its products or services. This can lead to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth marketing for your company.

5. Reduced support costs

Another benefit of knowledge base information architecture is that it can reduce support costs. When customers can find answers to their questions on their own, they will be less likely to need to contact customer support. This can save your company money, as you will not need to pay customer support representatives to answer simple questions.

6. Increased sales

A well-organized knowledge base can also lead to increased sales for your company. When customers are able to easily find the information they need, they are more likely to make a purchase from your company. Additionally, when customers are satisfied with your company and its products or services, they are more likely to make future purchases and recommend your company to others

Features of information architecture

As the owner of a knowledge base, it's important to focus on user experience. This means controlling certain distinct factors such as signposting, taxonomy and categorization, interlinking and navigation. Helping your users easily navigate the website by telling them where they are with headlines, properly labelling sections and articles for easy categorization, creating a matrix of hyperlinks related to their current query and clearly displaying the sitemap all creates a better user experience. So although you may not originally be an Information Architect professional, you can still apply these four principles in your work to create a user friendly knowledge base!

Design your information architecture with your customers in mind

As the owner of a knowledge base, you may not have professional Information Architecture (IA) experience. However, that doesn't mean user experience shouldn't be a main focus of your efforts. Four aspects which you can target are signposting, taxonomy and categorization, interlinking and navigation. Signposting is about using headlines and names to let users know where they are; taxonomy and categorization involves giving meaningful labels to the different sections and articles to best reflect their relationship; interlinking is creating hyperlinks between related sections so that users can hop around easily; navigation is displaying a sitemap and an overall view of the website flow, indicating which content belongs in what sections. Taking control of these four elements should help create an user-friendly experience for your knowledge base readers.

Tips for improving knowledge base architecture

If you're looking to give your knowledge base a much-needed facelift without having to hire an information architect, the good news is that there are several changes you can make today.

First, consider sprucing up your knowledge base software with a conversational tone of voice. Not only does this feel more engaging but it also increases the chance that customers find the answers they need quickly and easily.

Additionally, organizing knowledge bases into easy-to-navigate categories and labels will make it easier for customers to find their way around.

Finally, don't be afraid to sprinkle in helpful tips and visuals when appropriate—both will help get the point across more clearly. These small tweaks may seem insignificant but they can make all the difference when it comes down to improving the accessibility and usefulness of your knowledge base!

Easy access to basic information

Because you intimately know your product and all its little intricacies, it’s actually surprisingly difficult to come up with a structure that’s best for new users.

But here’s what’s important to remember:

When a user starts with your product for the first time, there will probably be a specific set of actions they need to take to get the most from your product.

So while dividing your articles into logical categories based on different areas of the product might be helpful once a user is up and running with your product, it’s not always the most helpful way of presenting information to a new user on your knowledge base’s homepage.

The goal should be to structure the information in a way that directs customers towards the articles that address their most common issues first. In other words, instead of dumbing down all the content into generalized product-oriented categories or burying the most useful information deeper in your hierarchy, prioritize and highlight key articles right away. Doing this will set up customers for success quickly, leading to satisfied customers who stay on your site longer.

Templates

Having knowledge base articles in a variety of formats is essential in order to best help your customers. Whereas how-to articles provide step by step instructions, troubleshoot articles offer tips on finding out what's wrong, reference articles explain options, and best practices recommend how to maximize the use of your product. Although you may have other types that are specific to your product, it is important to keep the numbers of article types down so as not to clutter the knowledge base architecture.

Creating a knowledge base for your website or business can be a great way to empower your users, but it's important to make sure you are keeping to what is actually important. You need to make sure that new articles stick within the defined types, and it might be easier to create a rough skeleton template for new article types. This structure helps maintain cognitive fluency and makes it easier for users to find the how-to information they are seeking. Not only will this result in more helpful content, but it'll also save you time when writing new articles.

Categorization

After you've highlighted the content that most users need to get going with your product, it's time to offer additional resources. Categories are a great way to help direct visitors towards what they're looking for, and can make all the difference in user experience. On top of this, it's become pretty standard protocol to have both featured articles and categories on knowledge base homepages - it goes without saying that whether you're a first-timer or a power user, categorization makes all the difference when navigating content.