5 tips for organizing your knowledge base

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So you have decided to start a knowledge base. Smart choice!

But a knowledge base can’t be established simply by installing a knowledge base software and slapping together some articles.  It needs to make sense to the reader, and it needs to be user friendly.

One way to achieve that is by classifying your articles into categories. But how do you choose categories to make your knowledge base most useful?

Here are a few pointers:

1. Plan ahead and keep the number down

Like other things in your knowledge base, you need to plan ahead with your categories. Too many categories are meaningless, and too few categories don’t work.

The best way is to create something like a mind map or a list and divide your knowledge base articles (or potential headlines) into broad topics. They become your categories. If needed, you can create sub categories, but don’t go crazy with the number.

2. Keep them self explanatory

Your categories can’t be obscure . You have lost the battle when readers need to click on the articles associated with a category to find out what it is about.

A good tip here would be to do keyword research, and adapt  the top keywords as categories. Don’t make them too long, but use terms that your readers are familiar with.

3. Have one category per article

Most people make the mistake of assigning a number of categories to a single article. This defeats the purpose of categories and converts them into tags (which are also very important).

A rule of thumb is to have one category assigned to each article. This simplifies navigation and helps the reader get the central idea of the article. Besides, multiple categories per article means the same article will show up multiple times, which can make you look like you are padding the base.

4. Keep them consistent

Another symptom of an unplanned knowledge base is when your categories don’t have the same depth. When you go about building your knowledge base on an ad hoc basis, some would be broad enough to describe a wide range of topics while others get so narrow that you can barely fit in 3 or 4 articles there.

For example, look at the category classification of the Opera Knowledge Base. You can see categories like Plug-ins and Security but you won’t see anything that is about ultra specific issues or bugs. Steal that idea.

5. Don’t freeze the list

As your knowledge base content grows and you add more articles, you will might need to add more categories to the list. It’s perfectly acceptable to do that, but you have to make sure that there are a sufficient number of articles before you can branch out into a new category.

Having only  one or two articles per category makes it look like your knowledge base is not very helpful. You don’t want readers to have that impression.

Conclusion

Properly categorizing your knowledge base makes easier to use and much more effective. How are you organizing your knowledge base?

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