The best knowledge base platforms for every company size

The best knowledge base platforms for every company size
By Diana Potter | On Apr 05, 2022
10 min read
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Did you see our recent article on which support platform is best for your company’s needs? Well this article continues that conversation, but this time we’re focusing on knowledge base and self-service platforms. Quite often your support platform will also be your knowledge base platform, but there are standalone software companies out there to help as well. 

In this article, we’ll be breaking down our advice by what stage a company is in. We'll evaluate your software options through the lens of 4 company sizes: 

  • 🐭 Mouse: At least 1 employee
  • 🦝 Raccoon: 5+ Full time employees
  • 🐺 Wolf: 30+ Full time employees
  • 🐘 Elephant: 100+ Full time employees

Your needs will differ based on the size of your company, your budget, the amount of time you have, your customer type, and so many other things. Unlike other articles we've put together, this time, our groupings will focus more on the state of your self-service rather than the development of your support team. A mouse sized company can have a large oversized focus on self-service and an elephant could have a smaller one. We’ll take this into account as we evaluate different platforms.

The information we’re sharing is based on conversations we’ve had with a number of different support and education leaders as well as personal experience. We asked them which features they needed at different stages as their team grew or their knowledge base grew, and then we aggregated their insights and identified the common elements that we believe will apply to most companies. Remember, though, that your needs may differ. It’s always a good idea to sit down and figure out what you want and need from your software before pursuing a search.

To start off, let’s discuss our groups. 

While every company is going to have different needs at different stages, here are some groupings that help you reflect on where you’re positioned next to other companies. You may fit just some criteria or all and we recommend paying attention to the first 3 categories of company size, support team size, and knowledge base complexity to figure out where you’d fit in. If you’re struggling to figure out which category you’d belong in, choose the one that seems the most applicable. 

Mouse 🐭

  • Company Size: At least 1 person
  • Knowledge Team Size: Non-existent. Education is written by whoever has time.
  • Knowledge base complexity: Small. You may be starting from scratch or just have the bare minimum FAQs.
  • Customers: A growing number, but you want a close connection and repeat business. You’re focused more heavily on 1:1 service vs scaling but eyeing the future
  • Top Features Needed: Easy brandability, WYSIWYG editor, search, and categorization. 
  • Budget: Extremely limited
  • Time Available: Extremely limited

What makes you a Mouse? 

You may be small, but you’re mighty and have an oversized impact on everything you take on. Because everything is so new or undefined you’re currently charting your own path and likely need to keep things simple.  Your team is small and agile and made up of a variety of roles and all wearing multiple hats and no one is focusing on education or knowledge right now. Instead it’s something that anyone takes on when they have time and are in a reactive mode. What you share is heavily driven by customer questions rather than proactively trying to get ahead of the questions.

When it comes to platforms, you need something quick and easy where you can document features or answer FAQs. Something that integrates into whatever support platform you choose. While some are better than others, odds are whatever you choose for support will work for education for you. 

Raccoon 🦝

  • Company Size: You have at least 5 full time staff + part time or seasonal help
  • Knowledge Team Size: Your knowledge is likely written by your support team and you’re unlikely to have someone dedicated more than 50% of their time to education
  • Knowledge base complexity: Full of articles but you don’t have overly complex needs. 
  • Customers: Growing rapidly
  • Top Features Needed: WYSIWYG editor, search and categorization, a custom domain, publishing settings, and version history
  • Budget: $-$$
  • Time Available: Limited 

What makes you a Raccoon? 

You may still be on the smaller side, but you’re very busy and scurrying everywhere to get your work done. You’re growing fast and starting to think about scaling in the future. You have at least a couple of dedicated support team members but no one is fully focused on education. Instead your support team as a whole likely writes articles or one or two people put some percentage of their time. You’re starting to think proactively and how you can prevent questions from new releases or known issues before they start and are looking for some degree of reporting in addition to writing tools. Your company also has a defined brand and you want to ensure that what you’re sharing stays on brand in a non-complicated way.

Right now your main needs still revolve around efficiency and you’re likely going to keep using your support platform for your knowledge base needs. If you’re getting a new knowledge base at this point, though, you can expand your options a bit and focus on the ones that offer the knowledge features you need. This can be at least some basic reporting, branding, publishing features like draft articles or version control, and a custom subdomain (help.yourdomain.com)

Wolf 🐺

  • Company Size: At least 30 full time staff + seasonal help OR you went viral due to something like Kickstarter or Shark Tank
  • Knowledge Team Size: You definitely have someone full time dedicated to self-service and education
  • Knowledge base complexity: Medium. You have a variety of content types and are focused on quality and your customer’s response.
  • Customers: Large numbers of repeat customers as well as a constant influx of new customers
  • Top Features Needed: Brandability and customization, HTML and/or CSS access, version history and publishing settings, SEO settings, integration with support platforms.
  • Budget: $$-$$$$
  • Time Available: You have dedicated resources and are investing in education and self-service

What makes you a Wolf?

At this point your team has taken shape. You’ve been focusing on knowledge for a while and it’s a full time job for at least one person. You’re thinking a lot about different mediums and carefully keeping your knowledge in line with your product, be it software or ecommerce. Since you have multiple people touching your docs you’re thinking about versioning, approval processes, and other team focused features. You may also be looking for internal docs or internal notes to help your support team scale their processes.

At this point you’re focused on scaling and efficiency as well as power. You may still be fine using your support platform for documentation but if you’re looking for a new platform you’re likely concentrating on ones with more advanced knowledge features like Zendesk or Freshdesk. Otherwise you may have just outgrown your support platform’s knowledge features and you’re starting to look for dedicated platforms.

Elephant 🐘

  • Company Size: At least 100 full time staff + seasonal help
  • Knowledge Team Size: You have more than 1 person dedicated to education
  • Knowledge base complexity: Large and complex. You have a variety of knowledge types, from videos to written guides. You keep everything well organized, easily browsable and searchable, and extremely on brand. Flexibility and customizability are the name of the game.
  • Customers: A large group of casual customers along with a good number of loyal repeat purchasers. 
  • Top Features Needed: Brandability and customization, HTML and/or CSS access, version history and publishing settings, SEO settings, advanced reporting, and multiple languages
  • Budget: $$-$$$$
  • Time Available: You have dedicated resources and can invest heavily

What makes you an Elephant?

Your team is large and has defined roles, including knowledge management. You likely have multiple people on that team who may be working on written documentation, videos, and different types of guides. Knowledge is something that’s fairly key to your operation and having a high level of control is a requirement. You’ll also want a high level of reporting and metrics so you can prove the ROI of your education investment and know where to focus next.

Right now control tends to be one of the more meaningful features that you need. This may mean advanced branding and theming so you can really personalize the look and feel of your documentation or set features to integrate into your contact methods. You may also be looking for customer permissions where you can control who sees what based on their status (a customer vs non-customer portal or showing admins different docs vs regular users). An API starts to matter so you can integrate into your software if you're a SaaS style company or just in-depth organization control and speed to publish if you’re ecommerce.

Knowledge base platform features to consider

At each stage of your company and your knowledge sophistication you’ll want and need different things. Because you have different priorities and resources at different times, but also because your relationships with customers will shift over time and you’ll focus more or less on education depending on that relationship.

We've put together a chart below to help you map out the most relevant features for your company size: 

  • 🐭 Mouse: At least 1 employee
  • 🦝 Raccoon: 5+ Full time employees
  • 🐺 Wolf: 30+ Full time employees
  • 🐘 Elephant: 100+ Full time employees

knowledge base platform feature comparison chart
View the full chart here

Comparing feature offerings across the best knowledge base platforms

Now that we've broken down the different teams and the features they need, let’s talk about the software that best fits them. While we can’t evaluate every platform out there, we’ve covered some of the most common.

In this list we've covered:

Knowledge base platform feature comparison by company
View the full comparison chart here

Evaluating knowledge base platforms by company size

The best knowledge base platforms for Mouse companies

Top platforms: Intercom, Help Scout, Trengo, HubSpot

Reasons why: You’re small and you need something less complex, you’re also most likely to just want an all-in-one platform. You need a tight integration between support education to simplify your processes. You’re not going to care as much about documentation architecture and branding, you just need to share the most important things with your customers to help them 24x7 or to prevent the need to contact your support team.

In this category Intercom, Trengo, Help Scout and HubSpot are all good fits. They have plan options for smaller teams and a tight integration between their support and education platforms. 

The best knowledge base platforms for Raccoon companies

Top platforms: Intercom, Help Scout, Freshdesk, Zendesk, Trengo, HubSpot

Reasons why: As you’re growing and expanding your education your needs will shift a bit compared to a mouse, but they’re fairly simple. You’ll need all the same things you did before but you’ll start wanting more control over branding and categorization. 

At this time we’d suggest all the same platforms as a mouse but add in Freshdesk and Zendesk as well. These both offer more power but they can be more complex and require more of an investment for a smaller team.

The best knowledge base platforms for Wolf companies

Top platforms: Zendesk, Freshdesk, Elevio, Stonly, KnowledgeOwl

Reasons why: By the time you’ve reached this point education has become a focus for you. You’re going to be outgrowing some of the earlier platforms and may even start looking at standalone documentation platforms that let you do more than the all-in-one options.

In this category we’d keep Zendesk and Freshdesk as options as they’ll grow well with you, but we’d suggest also looking at more standalone options like Elevio, Stonly, and KnowledgeOwl.

The best knowledge base platforms for Elephant companies

Top platforms: Zendesk, Freshdesk, Stonly, KnowledgeOwl, build something custom

Reasons why: Once you’ve hit this size, education is a key part of how you’ve scaled. You have a team that’s working on your education and you need a lot of control over everything that’s happening. Your team will likely have needs and wants that don’t fit as well into an all-in-one platform.

In this category we’d mostly keep the previous options, but remove Elevio. It’s great but has less customization and integration compared to the other standalone options. Zendesk and Freshdesk would both still be options here, but you’ll likely be hitting their limits. They can work well if your team is more focused on publishing knowledge than the overall branding and experience. 

This is also the point where you may be looking at your own custom build. While we can’t point you in any directions for this it’s something you’d likely work with your marketing team on and create a site in parallel with your blog and other marketing resources.

Wrapping up

Now that you have some platforms to look at, it’s time to start your search. Check out the different companies that may fit your needs. If you’re looking to test drive these platforms side-by-side, make sure you sign up for TestBox and try them out.

If you haven’t already read our series on finding a support platform, make sure to check it out here. We have some great posts to help you on your journey. You can also learn about some of our favorite features in Zendesk, HubSpot, Freshdesk, Help Scout, and Dixa.

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Diana Potter

Diana is a support, success, and experience leader. She’s currently the Head of Customer Experience for Qwilr and previously led customer departments for a number of leading companies. When she’s not writing or helping customers you’ll find her off in the woods taking photos or curled up with a book.

TestBox empowers you to have a self-serve, customer-led experience so you can buy new software and feel confident that you made the right choice. Currently focused on Customer Support, TestBox allows you to test out Zendesk, Freshdesk, HubSpot, Dixa, and other products side-by-side. It takes a matter of minutes to sign up and take these products for a test drive. Find out more at TestBox.com or follow on LinkedIn.