Blog / Growth

The ultimate guide to building a knowledge base with a static site generator

Are you looking to create a comprehensive knowledge base for your website? Look no further! In this ultimate guide, we will explore the power of static site generators and how they can help you build a highly functional and user-friendly knowledge base.

Photo by Luke Tanis on Unsplash

Whether you are a starting SaaS business, or already serving hundreds of customers, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to get started and take your website to the next level. We will delve into the benefits of using a static site generator for your knowledge base, discuss the key features of every knowledge, and provide step-by-step instructions on how to set up with Spinal. From organising and categorising your content to implementing search functionality and creating an intuitive user interface, this guide has got you covered. Let’s dive in!

Benefits of using a static site generator for knowledge bases #

If you are here, chances are you’re familiar with the advantages of a static site generator. However, in case you need a quick refresher, here’s a brief introduction.

Static site generators have gained popularity in recent years due to their numerous benefits for building knowledge bases. Unlike traditional content management systems (CMS), which generate web pages dynamically, static site generators create HTML files that can be served directly to the user. This approach offers several advantages. Firstly, static sites are incredibly fast, as they don’t require database queries or server-side processing. This ensures that your knowledge base loads quickly, reducing bounce rates and improving user experience.

Secondly, static site generators are highly secure. Since there are no dynamic server-side processes, the attack surface is significantly reduced, minimising the risk of security breaches. Additionally, static sites are easier to host and scale, as they eliminate the need for complex server setups or database configurations. This makes them an ideal choice for businesses of all sizes, from indie hackers to the fortune 500.

Lastly, static site generators provide better version control and collaboration opportunities. With a static site generator, you can store your knowledge base content in Git. This allows multiple team members to collaborate on the content, track changes, and easily roll back to previous versions if needed. The ability to work offline is another advantage, as it allows you to write and update content without an internet connection. Developers love this!

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of a static site generator, let’s move on to choosing the right static site generator for your knowledge base.

Choosing the right static site generator for your knowledge base (spoiler: it’s the one you already use) #

When it comes to choosing a static site generator for your knowledge base, the best option is the one you’re already familiar with.

If you are already using a static site generator for your company’s site, it’s likely that it can be used for your knowledge base too. This has several advantages. Firstly, using the same static site generator for your knowledge base ensures consistency in your development process. Your team is already familiar with the tools, workflows, and deployment processes, you can leverage your existing knowledge to build and maintain your knowledge base more efficiently. Secondly, using the same static site generator allows you to reuse existing components and templates, saving you time and effort. You can take advantage of your existing design system and layout structures, ensuring a consistent look and feel across your website and knowledge base.

If you’re starting from scratch or looking for a new static site generator, there are several popular options to consider. Jekyll, Hugo, and Astro are all widely used static site generators with large communities and extensive documentation. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The best advice is to use a static site generator written in a language you and your team are familiar with.

Now it’s time to start organising and structuring your knowledge base content.

Organising and structuring your knowledge base content #

Organising and structuring your knowledge base content is crucial for providing a seamless user experience and making information easily accessible. A well-organised knowledge base helps users find answers quickly and reduces the need for customer support. A calm SaaS’ dream!

The first step in organising your knowledge base is to define a clear taxonomy. Think about the main categories or topics that your knowledge base will cover. These could be product features, troubleshooting guides, FAQs, or any other relevant topics. Once you have identified the main categories, you can start creating subcategories and organising your content accordingly.

To create a logical structure for your knowledge base, consider using a hierarchical system. This can be achieved by creating folders or directories for each category and subcategory. Within each folder, you can create individual markdown files for each article or piece of content. This approach allows you to easily navigate and manage your knowledge base content, making it easier to update and maintain in the long run.

In addition to the hierarchical structure, it’s important to consider cross-referencing and linking between related articles. This helps users discover additional relevant content and navigate seamlessly through your knowledge base. You can use internal links within your markdown files to connect related articles, creating a network of interconnected content.

Another important aspect of organising your knowledge base is metadata. Metadata provides additional information about your articles, such as tags, categories, author names, and publication dates. This information can be used to filter and sort your content, making it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.

By organising and structuring your knowledge base content thoughtfully, you can create a user-friendly and intuitive experience that will keep your users engaged and coming back for more.

Now that your content is organised, let’s move on to writing and formatting it effectively.

Writing and formatting content for your knowledge base #

Writing and formatting content for your knowledge base requires a different approach than writing for a blog or a marketing page. The goal is to provide clear and concise information that is easy to understand and navigate.

  1. Start by identifying your target audience and their level of expertise. Are they beginners or advanced users? This will help you determine the appropriate tone and level of detail for your content.
  2. Use headings and subheadings to break down your content into digestible sections. This makes it easier for users to skim and scan your articles, quickly finding the information they need.
  3. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Use bullet points and numbered lists to highlight key points and steps. This improves readability and makes it easier for users to follow along.
  4. Use clear and descriptive language. Avoid jargon and technical terms unless necessary, and provide explanations or definitions when needed. Remember, your goal is to make your content accessible to all users, regardless of their level of expertise.
  5. Enrich your written content by adding visuals like screenshots or videos. These visuals can help simplify complex concepts and provide visual cues to aid understanding.

Next, let’s explore how to add search functionality to your knowledge base.

Adding search functionality to your knowledge base #

Having a search functionality in your knowledge base is essential for users to quickly find the information they need. A good search feature saves time and improves user satisfaction. Here’s how you can add search functionality to your knowledge base.

  1. Choose a search engine: There are several search engines available that can be easily integrated into your knowledge base. Algolia, Elasticsearch, and Lunr.js are popular options. Consider factors like ease of integration, customisation options, and pricing when selecting a search engine.
  2. Index your content: Once you’ve chosen a search engine, you’ll need to index your knowledge base content. This involves extracting and organising the relevant information from your markdown files or other content sources. The search engine will use this index to provide accurate search results.
  3. Implement the search interface: Depending on the search engine you choose, you may need to implement a search interface on your knowledge base. This can be a search bar at the top of the page or a dedicated search page. The interface should provide users with a way to enter their search query and display the search results.
  4. Customise the search experience: Many search engines offer customisation options to tailor the search experience to your knowledge base. You can configure features like auto-complete, filtering, and highlighting to enhance the user experience.
  5. Test and optimise: After implementing the search functionality, it’s important to test it thoroughly. Make sure the search results are accurate and relevant. Monitor user feedback and behaviour to identify any areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments. By adding search functionality to your knowledge base, you can empower your users to find the information they need quickly and efficiently. Now let’s move on to customising the design and layout of your knowledge base.

Customising the design and layout of your knowledge base #

Customising the design and layout of your knowledge base allows you to create a unique and branded experience for your users. It’s important to ensure that your knowledge base aligns with your overall website design and reflects your brand identity.

Some tips for customising the design and layout of your knowledge base:

  1. Use a responsive design: Ensure that your knowledge base is responsive and looks great on all devices, including desktops, tablets, and mobile phones. Responsive design improves user experience and accessibility.
  2. Choose a clean and readable typography: Select a font that is easy to read and suits your brand. Stick to a consistent typography style throughout.
  3. Apply your brand colours: Use your brand colours to create a consistent and cohesive look across your knowledge base. Consider using colour sparingly to highlight important elements or to create visual hierarchy.
  4. Include your logo and branding elements: Incorporate your logo and other branding elements into the design of your knowledge base. This helps reinforce your brand identity and creates a sense of familiarity for your users.
  5. Use visuals strategically: Add relevant visuals such as images, icons, or illustrations to enhance your content. Visuals can help break up text-heavy sections and make your knowledge base more engaging.
  6. Consider accessibility: Ensure that your knowledge base is accessible to users with disabilities. Use alt tags for images, provide transcripts for videos, and use proper heading structures for screen readers.

Now that we have our design sorted, let’s discuss updating and maintaining your knowledge base with Spinal

Updating and maintaining your knowledge base with Spinal #

Spinal is a minimal, and beautiful Git-based CMS designed for static site generators. It is used by hundreds of (SaaS) companies around the world. As no Git knowledge is needed, you can invite your entire team to help maintain your knowledge base.

Here’s how you can use Spinal to update and maintain your knowledge base:

  1. Connect your static site generator: Spinal supports popular static site generators like Jekyll, Hugo, and Gatsby. It’s just one click.
  2. Manage your content: Spinal provides a beautiful, minimal editor for managing your knowledge base content. You can create, edit, and even schedule your articles.
  3. Collaborate with your team: Spinal allows 10 team members to collaborate on the content. You can assign roles and permissions to control who can view, edit, and publish content.

With Spinal, updating and maintaining your knowledge base becomes a breeze. You can focus on creating valuable content while Spinal takes care of the technical aspects of content management for your entire team. Now, let’s move on to promoting and driving traffic to your knowledge base.

Promoting and driving traffic to your knowledge base #

Creating a comprehensive knowledge base is only half the battle. To make the most of your efforts, you need to promote your knowledge base and drive traffic to it.

Here are some effective strategies for promoting your knowledge base:

  1. Optimise for search engines: Implement SEO best practices to improve your knowledge base’s visibility in search engine results. Use relevant keywords in your content, optimise meta tags, and ensure your knowledge base is mobile-friendly.
  2. Share on social media: Leverage social media platforms to promote your knowledge base. Share informative snippets or articles on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Encourage your followers to engage with your content and share it with their networks.
  3. Guest blogging: Contribute articles or guest posts to relevant industry blogs or publications. Include links to your knowledge base in your author bio or within the article itself. This helps drive referral traffic and establishes you as an expert in your field.
  4. Email marketing: Utilise your email list to promote your knowledge base. Send out newsletters or email updates featuring new articles, updates, or special offers. Provide links to relevant content in your emails to encourage click-throughs.
  5. Cross-linking: Make sure to cross-link your knowledge base content with other relevant pages on your website. This helps improve the visibility of your knowledge base and encourages users to explore more of your content.
  6. User feedback and testimonials: Encourage your users to provide feedback and testimonials about your knowledge base. Positive reviews and testimonials can be shared on your website or social media, helping to build trust and credibility.

By implementing these strategies, you can drive traffic to your knowledge base, increase brand awareness, and establish yourself as a go-to resource in your industry. Now that we’ve covered promotion, let’s move on to best practices for building a successful knowledge base with a static site generator.

Final Thoughts #

Utilising a static site generator for your knowledge base offers numerous benefits, streamlining the creation process, enhancing performance, and ensuring security. Choosing the right static site generator, often the one you already use, leverages your familiarity and existing infrastructure. Organising and structuring content, writing and formatting effectively, adding search functionality, customising design, updating and maintaining with a CMS like Spinal, and promoting through various channels are all crucial aspects of building a successful and user-friendly knowledge base that caters to your audience’s needs.

Written by July Forand


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