Have you ever encountered a knowledge base that was an absolute joy to use? It answered your questions, helped you get the most from the product, and eliminated the need to create a ticket.
Some companies have those knowledge bases. And some…don’t. I think we all like the former companies more than the latter.
KnowAll is a theme from HeroThemes that helps you join the list of companies with great support knowledge bases. If you need to create a knowledge base for your product or service, it’s an excellent option. And in this post, I’ll be taking a hands-on look at everything this WordPress knowledge base theme has to offer.
Why You Probably Need a Knowledge Base
In my brief stint as a working stiff, one of my job responsibilities was overseeing my company’s knowledge base. Through that experience, I learned first hand just how awesome knowledge bases can be.
See, you have the obvious support-oriented benefits like:
- Fewer customer service requests because customers can find answers themselves.
- Higher customer retention because customers use your product better and get more value from it.
But many people overlook the SEO benefits of a good knowledge base. Knowledge base articles can rank like crazy. So your knowledge base can actually work as a form of content marketing to find you new customers! Awesome, right?
By the time I quit, I increased conversions from our help center by 300%. And while that was still a drop in the bucket compared to our other marketing channels, those are basically free customers.
So, if you’re selling a product or service, you need a knowledge base. And if you need assistance creating one, KnowAll can help you do it.
Overview of KnowAll Theme Features
KnowAll sets you up with a fully-functioning knowledge base. That means you get:
- Knowledge base articles with shortcode builder for styling
- Categories and subcategories
- Search widget with auto-complete
- User feedback on how helpful your articles are
- Detailed analytics on article usefulness, search terms, and how often readers still need live support
- Transfer customers to live support and track which articles result in live support requests
- Dedicated widgets for table of contents, search, and more
- Add attachments to knowledge base articles
- Make all or parts of your knowledge base private (that is, for logged in users only).
- Lots of smaller features.
One thing to always remember is that KnowAll is a theme. That means you’ll basically need to use it on a standalone WordPress install. I don’t think this is a bad thing because it ensures your knowledge base doesn’t look like a hacked up WordPress theme – but it is something to always remember.
If you want to see KnowAll in action, you can check out the demo. In the next section, I’ll get hands on and take you through every feature of the KnowAll theme.
Hands on with the KnowAll WordPress Knowledge Base Theme
Let’s start at the beginning – installation.
KnowAll has one of the nicest setup wizards I’ve encountered. It’s well designed with proper UX standards. For example, the progress bar at the top lets you know exactly how much set up you have left:
After installing the required plugins, I decided to import all of the provided demo content. And with that content, my theme actually looked exactly like the demo.
KnowAll starts strong by avoiding the disappointing situation where a theme looks nothing like the beautiful demo that convinced you to buy the theme. Kudos for that.
Configuring the KnowAll Theme
There’s really not much to configure in the Settings page. Most of the options deal with:
- Ordering/organizing your knowledge base articles
- Analytics for user feedback
On the General settings tab, you can set up breadcrumbs (essential for a knowledge base), as well as choose sorting options and the number of articles to display.
There’s also the Restrict Access option, which is new in the latest version of KnowAll. It allows you to restrict access to your knowledge base to users who are logged in. If you have a private membership site or otherwise just want to restrict access to paying customers, this is a really nice feature:
You can also restrict individual categories – so restricted content isn’t an all or nothing proposition.
The Slugs tab is a boring, but necessary, set of options. You can choose base slugs for your articles, categories, and tags. As I mentioned, knowledge bases can actually do surprisingly well in organic search, so you’ll definitely want to put some thought into the slugs you use:
The Article Feedback tab is very important. It lets you configure how your readers can vote on whether or not your help articles actually…helped. You can disable it if you want, but I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want such valuable analytics data:
Finally, the Transfers tab lets you hook up with an external support service. For example, if you use a dedicated support ticket platform, you can transfer readers who need more help directly there:
Why not just use a regular link to your support center? Because when you set up the URL with KnowAll’s transfer system, it will log all the transfer requests. That way, you can try to figure out why some users aren’t finding the answers they need in your knowledge base.
For example, maybe one specific article leads to a high number of support tickets created. That would be a good indicator that the article isn’t giving your customers the answers they need.
And that’s it for the settings! Let’s create some categories.
Creating and Ordering Knowledge Base Categories
You can create knowledge base categories using a new custom post type. The interface is pretty standard, but some nice features are that you can:
- Give your category a parent category
- Add a featured image to the category
You can also restrict access for an individual category. So you could, say, leave your general knowledge base open to the public, but restrict access to one or more specific categories that you don’t want the public to see.
If you want to change the order of your categories, you just need to head to the Category Ordering tab. There, you can use a drag and drop interface to change a category’s position:
All in all – working with categories is super duper easy.
Creating and Ordering Knowledge Base Articles
Creating new articles is also done with a new custom post type. The article editor is basically identical to the normal WordPress Editor, but with the addition of a few new meta boxes at the bottom:
You can see the editor above and the meta boxes in the image below:
One really nice feature here is the addition of Heroic Shortcodes. I know firsthand that 50% of writing a good knowledge base article is formatting. You need to properly format your text with lists and callouts to make it scannable.
Heroic Shortcodes let you do that. For example, if you want to add a callout in the middle of a list of instructions, you just need to open Heroic Shortcodes:
And that shortcode gives you this on the front-end:
In addition to the callout messages, you can also add:
It might seem like a small thing, but I guarantee you that properly using these different styling options will make your knowledge base 100x better.
Finally, if you need to re-order your articles, you can do it using the same drag and drop interface as you used for categories. Or, if you chose “sort by date”, your articles will be ordered automatically.
Styling the KnowAll Theme
Up until now, I’ve ignored how to actually style KnowAll to fit your existing design. Let’s change that!
KnowAll uses the WordPress Customizer for style tweaks. I’m a huge fan of using the Customizer over custom theme options menus, so this is a big plus for me. Let’s be honest, WYSIWYG styling is always better than “save + refresh”.
Getting into every single detail that you can customize would take a whole post of its own. But, suffice it to say, you have a great deal of control over how your knowledge base functions.
Let’s just look at one settings panel in the customizer. Say you want to customize how your articles function. You can:
- Change the layout
- Enable/disable a sticky sidebar
- Show related articles
- Show “last modified” date
- Enable comments
The interface is similar for other aspects of your site. And you can, of course, also customize colors, fonts, and logos.
Using the KnowAll Widgets
KnowAll also comes with a number of widgets. You can use these widgets to build separate sidebars for your homepage, category page, and article pages:
For example, the Table of Contents widget lets you add a table of contents to every article. This is similar to how MailChimp structures their knowledge base. It’s very helpful for readers to be able to quickly navigate your articles:
Viewing Knowledge Base Article Analytics
Last but not least is analytics. I’m a data nerd so this is actually one of my favorite features. The Analytics tab gives you tons of helpful data. You can view:
- Feedback – users can vote on whether articles were helpful or not. They can even leave text feedback.
- Searches – great for finding new ideas for articles. If lots of your customers are searching for a specific topic, you should probably write an article on it.
- Transfers – see how many customers you had to transfer to your human support channels.
How Much Does KnowAll Cost?
KnowAll costs $99 for a single site license. That includes one year of updates and support. After your first year, your license will automatically renew unless you cancel. Of course, if you cancel you’ll still get to keep your knowledge base – you just will no longer receive updates and support.
I know there are cheaper options, but I do think you get enough value to back that up. Going with something like Zendesk will cost you more for the same knowledge base features (though you’ll also get access to other helpful support features).
Groove is closer in price but still comes out to $180/yr per agent (though, like Zendesk, you’ll also get other help desk features).
So if all you need is an awesome knowledge base, KnowAll is probably going to be your cheapest option compared to an external solution.
Looking solely at the knowledge base functionality, I think KnowAll can stand toe-to-toe with the big guys like ZenDesk and Groove. You’ll still need some type of live support channel (maybe a help desk plugin or a live chat plugin!), but that’s easy to integrate with KnowAll thanks to the transfer feature.
You have everything else you need. You can create articles, add helpful styling with Heroic Shortcodes, and divvy up articles into as many categories and subcategories as needed. And if you need to keep some areas private, you can easily restrict content on a per-category basis.
Once you get your knowledge base set up, it’s easy to analyze and improve things using KnowAll’s analytics. You’ll be able to see which articles need fine-tuning, as well as what topics you need to add based on search analytics.
The only thing to remember is that KnowAll is a theme. Depending on your needs, you may want to go with a plugin instead. If so, check out our review of HeroTheme’s Heroic Knowledge Base plugin. Personally, I think a custom-built theme is a better option than trying to tweak your current theme to look like a knowledge base.
If you’re happy to use a standalone theme, KnowAll is the best I’ve seen. I’ve tested a few free options and none of them come close to the functionality you get with KnowAll. I haven’t tested the other premium options, but KnowAll is my current bar to beat.