Blog / Growth

What are the differences between documentation and a knowledge base?

Let’s explore the differences between documentation and a knowledge base. There is some overlap, but they are different.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

When you get to grow your customer base, you have to create a documentation site and a knowledge base at some point. But what are the differences between the two?

Both will provide information about your SaaS product, but there are some clear differences.

What is (product) documentation? #

The goal of documentation is to help users understand the product. The structure is often like a manual. A set of instructions that guides your user through various parts of the product.

It’s useful for leads and recently subscribed users a global understanding of your product. From the first onboarding steps to set up of certain workflows in your app.

The various topics are often divided in sections that match your app’s features. In Spinal this is: Content Types, Content, Collaboration and Account.

Who should maintain documentation? #

Creating and maintaining is often done by technical writers or documentation specialists. But for smaller SaaS teams this is more often done by developers and designers who worked on the features.

What is a knowledge base? #

A knowledge base is for specific questions around certain aspects of the product. Think of it as a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). It is more geared towards experienced users. These often bubble up at support requests.

Typical questions could be:

  • how can I change my password?

  • how can I update my billing information?

  • how to set up another Content Type?

Who should maintain the knowledge base? #

Having dedicated, professionals working on your knowledge base will make a day and night difference. But, just like with documentation, for smaller teams, customer support representatives might be the ones in charge. As they deal with recurring questions, they know what makes the most sense to add into the knowledge base.

Keep your information up-to-date #

Having out-of-date documentation or knowledge base is a recipe for high customer support load. Information or product screenshots that do not match your product anymore, will leave you with a confused and frustrated user.

Having one person in charge, per Content Type, to review and check if all is still up-to-date is generally good practice. Set up recurring item in your project management tool of choice to go over everything every few months.

Written by July Forand


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