10 Best Knowledge Base Software for Business [COMPARED]

What is a knowledge base, what are the types of knowledge bases, and what should you include in one. In this article, we're going to dive into that and more.

Continue reading if you are a technical writer or professional who wants to learn more about modern knowledge base software and how to choose the one that will increase your productivity.

Knowledge Base software
Shortcuts to some of the topics in the guide:

Internal knowledge base software

Internal knowledge management is critical to productivity and continuity. Read more.

Knowledge base for customer service

Empower your customers to find their own answers with practical guides. Read more.

Knowledge base for software teams

Specialized knowledge base for engineers and developers that build software. Read more.

Knowledge management is critical for companies of all sizes.

Knowledge base software enables you to simplify the onboarding and retention of employees and improve customer support.

Choosing the right knowledge management solution is challenging, so use this guide to learn more about knowledge base software and how to leverage it to grow your business.

Each organization uses knowledge base software in a specific way, aligned with its goals because knowledge-intensive activities contribute to the growth of organizations. The co-founder of Asana, Justin Rosenstein, talked about organizations that harness knowledge as having a competitive advantage.

What is a knowledge base software?

Forrester defines knowledge management solutions as the software used to create, publish, and maintain curated content, enabling employees to answer internal and customer-facing questions and customers to find answers via self-service.

The main functionality of knowledge base software is to add and find information. As a result, search and retrieval are critical since the format, publishing flow, and nature of documentation for the business can vary.

Nonetheless, the term knowledge management or knowledge base can look a bit corporate. Still, recently SMBs started to adopt them along with other namings like content hubs or knowledge hubs.

Why use a knowledge base?

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), Fortune 500 companies lose roughly US$31,5 billion a year in lost productivity because they fail to share knowledge. On the other hand, improving search and retrieval tools for employees would save a Fortune 500 company roughly US$2 million a month in lost productivity.

Excellent and accessible documentation leads to successful companies because knowledgeable consumers create powerful outcomes, and the same goes for employees.

As more and more technology is added to the stack of an organization, knowledge is dispersed even more. Information gets stuck in various places like email, social media, forum discussions, comments, and even people's heads.

For example, Apple uses an internal tool dedicated to collecting each piece of information relevant to its success. Buyers and users are opting for tools that address their needs instead of developing solutions that are laborious to use.

The end result is that knowledge needs to be consolidated in a single repository or system, aligned to customer needs, but created collaboratively. Moreover, this content must also be accessible to those who search for it on the fly.

What is a knowledge base for?

Teams or companies use a knowledge base for capturingtribal knowledge. There's no one correct answer to how you process tribal knowledge, but most commonly, these are the strategies used:

Ask knowledgeable employees to document their knowledge

Nobody knows a job better than the people working it. This might seem obvious, but managers often put together onboarding materials and other company documentation without consulting their employees. As you build out documentation, rope knowledgeable employees into the process. Ask them to record their day-to-day tasks and their steps to complete them.

Create a single source of truth

One danger of tribal knowledge is that it tends to create knowledge silos. Because it is unwritten, tribal knowledge is rarely shared between individuals, with fewer teams and departments. Creating a single source of truth is a great way to encourage sharing information and expertise within your company. This allows employees across various teams, departments, and locations to update and access the document, spreading a lot of would-be tribal knowledge.

Use visuals

Whether it's flowcharts, diagrams, or other visual documentation, diagrams can be an excellent tool for cutting down tribal knowledge. By outlining processes in a diagram, you can establish a transparent methodology for your employees to follow instead of relying on tribal knowledge.
In short, a knowledge base is for recording tribal knowledge so that entire teams can benefit from shared experience, saving your company time and resources.
And this applies to both internal and external knowledge bases since it allows customers or employees, for that matter, to ask and find answers to questions about your products, access instructions for using and troubleshooting your products and learn more about your business.

What are the types of knowledge base software?

Knowledge management is paramount at this moment because work, and people, have fundamentally changed.

With a knowledge base software, you can:

  • Speed up onboarding by centralizing knowledge on an intuitive platform
  • Keep knowledge accurate by making information easy to find and update
  • Prevent knowledge loss and reduce repeat questions that sap productivity
  • Collect institutional and proprietary knowledge in a continuous, organic way
  • Identify how your articles are linked between knowledge over time
“Now that ‘work from anywhere is the new normal, that access is no longer a given. Further, employee churn is at record levels. When key people leave the organization, their expertise goes with them. Both of these trends will continue and accelerate in 2022, putting both business productivity and continuity at risk. Internal knowledge management focused on capturing knowledge and connecting subject matter experts will be essential to mitigating this risk.”
- Gartner

In any organization, you have various types of knowledge - from employee handbooks to product knowledge. Therefore you need a platform that enables employees to create, publish and maintain curated content for internal and customer-facing questions. That’s where the knowledge base software comes in to help with the knowledge and content management.

There are multiple types of knowledge base software so let's cover the main ones.

Internal knowledge base

According to Gartner’s 2022 Planning Guide for Collaboration and End-User Technologies, internal knowledge base software will be critical to productivity and continuity.

An internal knowledge base is usually used to collaborate and share all company knowledge and information internally. When creating an internal knowledge base, you can include anything meant for internal use, which has multiple benefits.

Internal Wiki and Knowledge Base

Increase productivity

There's the benefit of the internal knowledge base, which is increased productivity. Having a structured source of internal information can increase your company's overall effectiveness by making it easy for employees to go and find information answers to urgent questions by simply browsing through the knowledge base.

They don't need to diverge from the task at hand and wait for an answer from a busy colleague.

Reduce onboarding cost

It's common for onboarding processes to be time-consuming and costly, and companies can save a lot of time and effort and increase productivity at the same time by using knowledge bases where all relevant information is already available. When new employees come on board, they have all the documents they need to get started and run.

Improve communication and collaboration

Through the knowledge base, employees can store and share any needed information with each other.

Reducing knowledge churn

Then it's also a repository of organizational knowledge, which means employee turnover, which happens to be sometimes common in specific organizations. Millennials and generation z switch workplaces almost every two years.
Knowledge bases act as repositories of all this valuable information for your company and help new employees get up to speed and contribute as soon as possible. This is also another benefit when you look at onboarding.

Want to see what you should include in your internal knowledge base?

Read more on our blog.

External knowledge base

The recent Global State of Customer Service report found that 86% of respondents expect a self-service option, and two-thirds try self-service first before contacting a live agent.

Here's a quick example of a knowledge base from Apple. It contains the products, quick shortcuts, a search bar, etc.

apple support site
https://support.apple.com/

An external knowledge base, also known as a customer-facing knowledge base, is where customers or potential customers can learn anything they ever need to know about a company's products and services.

It's usually public to everyone and can be easily found online. If you browse through any software's help and documentation section, that's their external knowledge base. Let's look at the benefits of an external knowledge base.

Reduce customer support costs

They reduce customer support costs, so whether your company is a startup or a hundred-year business, a comprehensive knowledge base can help you save customer support costs by reducing the number of tickets that the staff has to handle.

Instead of focusing on minor issues, your staff can focus on critical issues and tickets of high importance.

Improve customer satisfaction

You also have improved customer satisfaction people generally don't like it when they need something or are not knowledgeable on a specific topic and have to ask someone.
By providing them with this information right at their fingertips, customer retention will increase without sacrificing your company's customer service.

Reduce customer wait time

You have reduced customer wait times. We all know that irritating feeling when we're waiting for customer service while being put on hold for more than 10 minutes, and sometimes with some companies, it's over an hour.

Knowledge base for software

Documentation is necessary to support communication amongst stakeholders, technical concepts, and the context behind decisions made during the software development process.

Documentation for software doesn't need to be voluminous formal specifications. It could come in the form of automated acceptance and unit tests. Or well-written code in a 'self-documenting' higher-level language. Or, even better, a combination of many forms.

A knowledge base for software is necessary for mainly two purposes :

  • For the ease of developers: A program is never complete. The different versions are released according to the need of new users and as an extension of the previous versions. The new developers want to know what has been done in the past, how the programs are written, the architecture, how things are arranged (databases, modules), the compatibility issues, etc. Documentation answers all these questions.
  • For the ease of the users: As a user, I want to know how to get started with the software. I want to read the help sections if I encounter any problems. I want to learn how to install the software in my environment. Good documentation facilitates the users while installing and using software and acts as a potent marketing tool.

What should be included in a knowledge base?

What should a knowledge base contain? Your customers and employees can access information immediately with a properly organized knowledge base.
Customers and employees use self-service knowledge software to manage their account information, reset passwords and billing information, and get assistance with HR, legal, and IT issues. 

Here is a representative list of what you can include in a knowledge base:

FAQs

Frequently asked questions are answers to questions that have been either asked regularly or that you expect your users to ask at some point. FAQs usually explain topics that don't require in-depth or technical support. They cover topics that can be described often in one or two paragraphs, sometimes just one or two sentences.

How-to Guides and Tutorials

How-to guides are generally short tutorials that explain a single step or action in detail, essentially to help your new users get acquainted with the basic processes of your product or service. Tutorials are more extended more in-depth and can cover a broader range of functions and product features.

Both how-to guides and tutorials are generally supported with screenshots, but you have to be careful because screenshots can quickly become outdated. They're also backed with other visual representations or even short step-by-step videos.

Reference Documentation

You want to include quick start guides, installation manuals, and troubleshooting manuals. These documents target a more technical audience and provide more detail than tutorials and how-to guides.

Release notes

Technical documentation is produced and distributed with a product update. For example, if you have recent changes, enhancements, or bug fixes, it briefly details specific changes, including a product update.

White Papers

We also have white papers, in-depth reports, or guides about specific topics. They are used to convince readers of your expertise and subtly suggest that your product is the best product to solve their problem.

News and updates

We also have news and updates, and most knowledge bases contain a separate section for just this section can include community announcements, product updates, new version releases, known issues, and much more.

A knowledge base is quite a large body of information.

It's no exaggeration to say that even a simple knowledge base may contain hundreds or thousands of articles, videos, images, and documents. As your company or product grows, so does the knowledge base. 

Continuous updates are required because you wouldn't want your customers to see the wrong information feature or product name anywhere on the knowledge base.

That is why specialized knowledge-based software has been developed that makes the creation updating systematic.

Best knowledge base software (COMPARISON)

This section aims to organize the research about knowledge base software platforms to help you make an informed decision when choosing a centralized repository for all of the company’s documentation.


Archbee

Archbee is a software documentation platform with a modern block-based editor that does writing and collaborating easy. The user interface is clean and straightforward, and it is a multi-faceted app. The information architecture is Spaces - Category - Document, where each Space can be a different project (published or private) with internal role permissions and public access control.

There is no limitation on the number of Spaces so that you can build internal and external documentation.

Cost:

  • Ranges from $30-$400 per month
  • Subscription is based on team size

Type:

  • browser-based SaaS
  • macOS, Windows, Linux apps

Intended Use:

  • API references
  • developer guides
  • internal wiki’s
  • public knowledge bases
  • documentation portals

Pros:

  • simple and clean
  • intuitive navigation
  • search engine
  • versioning
  • multiple integrations
  • standalone app

Cons:

  • no free version for personal use
  • not open-source software


GitBook

GitBook started as a completely open-source platform and finally became a paid product. The two-way sync integration with GitHub and GitLab differentiates it from other tools. This is why it's a good choice for developer documentation, but this also limits what can be done and how it can be done.

Cost:

  • From $6-$12 per user/per month
  • Subscription is based on team size

Type:

  • SaaS

Intended Use:

  • product docs
  • knowledge bases
  • API docs

Pros:

  • two way integration with GitHub
  • built by developers, for developers

Cons:

  • steep learning curve
  • non-intuitive to use
  • markdown limitations
  • cannot remove Powered by logo


BookStack

BookStack has an interesting organizational flow of content in Books→Chapters→Pages, creating an overview of documentation that much more complex solutions can’t touch. Overall, it would make a valuable tool in knowledge base creation.

Cost:

  • Free

Type:

  • browser-based software
  • open-source software

Intended Use:

  • knowledge base
  • wiki documentation

Pros:

  • self-hosted
  • no subscription
  • highly structured documentation
  • optional Markdown editor

Cons:

  • self-hosted
  • reminiscent of Confluence
  • lack of integration options that other platforms


MediaWiki

It powers Wikipedia and is used by several thousand companies, so it has a very robust infrastructure. The level of detail for support, development, and tools on the MediaWiki site is extensive and impressive. You would be hard-pressed for the 'wiki' format to find a more robust alternative, and it is great for that singular format but might be a little too singular in vision.

Cost:

  • Free

Type:

  • Open-source software
  • server-based software
  • CMS

Intended Use:

  • knowledge management platform
  • business-wiki
  • structured data

Pros:

  • powerful
  • extensible
  • great support
  • wiki-like interface

Cons:

  • UI/UX is a little outdated
  • difficult to restrict access


Nuclino

Nuclino is another exciting solution. The interface completely gets out of the user’s way, and the UI is minimal and modern. While it’s probably best for collaborative efforts, I’m sure quite a few startups use this solely for their team’s documentation efforts. Because the offerings are large in scope, there tend to be some unnecessary features.

Cost:

  • $5 per user/per month
  • free version

Type:

  • browser-based software
  • macOS, Windows, Linux, mobile apps

Intended Use:

  • knowledge base
  • team collaboration
  • wiki’s

Pros:

  • collaborative editing
  • extensive Markdown support
  • hierarchical tagging
  • versioning
  • access rights management
  • modern UI
  • integrates with many apps

Cons:

  • wiki-esque
  • jack-of-all-trades; master of some


XWiki

XWiki is a second-generation wiki, meaning that it is focused on structure and application rather than content creation (a hallmark of first-generation wikis). For anyone familiar with wikis, there is a minimal learning curve with a structure that is geared toward non-developers. Because of this lack of complexity, the value is in the platform's efficiency to spool up many different use cases in a minimal amount of time.

Cost:

  • Free

Type:

  • browser-based
  • macOS, Windows, Linux apps
  • open-source software

Intended Use:

  • knowledge base
  • business applications
  • training website
  • collaborative intranet

Pros:

  • efficient, fast, and user-friendly
  • powerful and adaptable
  • many use case scenarios

Cons:

  • wiki-esque
  • outdated UI
  • rights management could be improved


Slab

Slab seems to fall somewhere between Notion and Confluence in the seemingly crowded collaborative documentation space. The dev team's high level of integration and rapid development equates to more features, more often. This can be a good and bad thing as more features don’t always equal better features or higher productivity levels.

Cost:

  • $8 and $15 per user/per month
  • tiered pricing structure
  • Free version

Type:

  • SaaS

Intended Use:

  • knowledge base
  • SOPs
  • tutorials
  • process documentation
  • team collaboration

Pros:

  • intuitive and easy to use
  • very modern UI and workflow
  • high level of integration
  • real-time collaboration features
  • fast search

Cons:

  • lack of advanced features
  • basic table and image control
  • basic permissions


ClickHelp

Single-sourcing tools for content reuse are a great boon for any technical writer. It’s great to create a document, tag elements that do not need to be published, and like that, you have two separate documents. Users expect to get the information they are looking for on any device, and content reuse makes this process more streamlined and efficient. This tool can be handy for a knowledge base and any/all other documentation needs.

Cost:

  • ranges from $55 to $139 per month

Type:

  • browser-based software
  • cloud or on-premises hosting

Intended Use:

  • API documentation
  • knowledge base
  • user guides
  • FAQs

Pros:

  • Flexible and powerful
  • versioning
  • single-sourcing
  • analytics
  • scalable

Cons:

  • CSS knowledge is helpful


Guru

Guru was a recommendation, and I think it's interesting. If Trello and Sharepoint had a baby, Guru would be it. The concept of 'Knowledge Cards' works out of the box and is an interesting way to present information to anyone in the company and end-users. Because the platform is versatile, a wiki spin-up is essential for knowledge base creation.

Cost:

  • $5 to $20 per user/per month
  • Free version (limited to 3 Core users)

Type:

  • browser-based software

Intended Use:

  • knowledge management
  • knowledge base
  • wikis
  • product enablement
  • onboarding

Pros:

  • extensive and adaptable
  • searchable
  • intuitive tagging features
  • integrates with existing apps

Cons:

  • card format only
  • too many features/too extensive


Document360

This is one of the mature solutions. Designed with a scaling company in mind, it bridges the gap between being lean enough for a startup yet scalable and robust enough for a vast enterprise environment. It is designed explicitly for a knowledge base and isn't another out-of-the-box knowledge management solution that you must build and maintain a wiki on top of.

Cost:

  • $99 to $499 per project/per month

Type:

  • SaaS

Intended Use:

  • designed for knowledge bases
  • software product documentation
  • project documentation

Pros:

  • category manager
  • roles & permissions
  • versioning
  • integrations & extensions
  • platform API

Cons:

  • Outdated editor
  • Some integrations require third-party apps like Zapier.
  • No support for API references

Conclusions

And there you have it. We just went over what a knowledge base is, the types of knowledge bases, and what you should include in one.
Organizations looking for a knowledge base software should be investing time to define their requirements. Most of the time, you should look for the following capabilities:

  • Easy content capture. You should be able to flag information from any source (email, discussion forum thread, social media interaction) and kick it off to be included in your collaborative content hub.
  • Democracy. Everyone within an organization and customers should be able to recommend information to be included in the content hub.
  • Flexible authoring environment. You must be able to create and publish content without arduous workflows. Not all content should be subjected to the same workflows. Some content must be able to be published instantly, for example, a service alert. Other content should be able to be routed through review or legal compliance flows.
  • Collaboration. A particular segment of people or customer-facing personnel should be able to change content and republish it without arduous approvals.