Content templates: Your blueprint for support success

blueprintHave you ever walked into a room and touched the wall, looking for a light switch that didn’t exist? You expect a light switch there because that’s where they typically are. This same cycle has conditioned customers’ expectations of your support site. Like a blueprint for a house, content rules help your knowledge base meet those unconscious expectations to make for a seamless, usable experience. Studies have shown that a low-effort experience is a driving factor in cultivating repeat business.

The typical use case for a knowledge base article is simple: Customer has a question, customer finds an answer. Your products and services likely require more complex explanation than a quick FAQ. One best practice is to provide a framework for articles that makes it easy for content creators to include all of the necessary details while making it easy for customers to digest the information. These content templates are what put the light switches where customers expect to find them.

There are two universal content types – How To and Troubleshooting – but within many industries, other types of content types may be prevalent. Your most frequently used articles can tip you off to any other content templates you may need. Let’s take a deeper look at what a How To article must contain:


An introduction to the topic that confirms for the reader that they’re in the right place. Your overview is a great place to introduce customers to terms that may be new to them.

This article explains how to clean or descale your espresso machine.


What does a customer need in order to use a service or product? Common prerequisites include pieces of information a customer must know, account statuses, or tangible items.  

To sign up for paper statements, you will need:

A Consumer or Business account in good standing

A copy of your most recent bill

Your account PIN


By this point, your reader knows they’re looking at the right article, and has all the information they need to get started. The best Procedure sections use quickly scannable bulleted or numbered lists to convey information. Break down complex procedures into smaller steps.

To set an alarm on your clock radio, follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold the Alarm button on the side of your radio.
  2. Press the Hour and Minute buttons to select the desired time.
  3. Release the Alarm button.
  4. Move the Alarm Type slider to Radio or Buzzer as desired.

Escalation Path

One of the most important questions a support article needs to answer is, “What if that doesn’t work?” Providing the answer to “What next?” empowers your customers with information, even if the end result is that they need to contact you for further assistance. We recommend starting with a canned statement that links to your Contact page, and editing it to be specific to the article’s purpose.  

If you have additional questions on your bill, please contact us.

If you have followed the above steps and are still unable to print, please contact us.

Once you have these base elements, you’re off to a good start. The best content template is customized to include industry- and business-specific information. You may need to include technical requirements, exceptions, or other information that your customers expect to see.

promo_May26-2016On May 26th, Irrevo is hosting a webinar titled Making Your Support Content Work Harder For YouWe’ve invited special guest David Kay of DB Kay & Associates to help share actionable recommendations for improving the overall quality of your content and measuring support content success. RSVP today – We hope to see you there.

How to get your team to buy-in to new content authoring standards

In our recent webinar, The 5 Biggest KM Challenges You’ll Face, our presenters, Melissa Burch, Knowledge Strategist of Irrevo and Brian Bombard, Senior Director of Proactive Support Delivery for Oracle Applications, shared their wisdom on tackling the trickiest problems common to every KM transformation. One of the toughest parts of transforming your strategy is getting buy-in from the people most affected by change.

How do you communicate and get buy-in on content authoring standards?

Melissa Burch, Irrevo:
Build your content contributors into creating your authoring standards as much as possible. Does it mean does that you go to them with a blank sheet of paper and ask them “Well, what should our publishing standards be?” No, but bringing them an early version of the publishing standards and asking for feedback while these are in development can be helpful. This holds true for many of the knowledge management programs holistically. If don’t solicit feedback and you try to roll out changes too quickly , it’s possible that you will run into resistance. Things that are imposed on humans are usually not very well received; it’s just not our style. We like to participate in the process, it’s just human nature.

Brian Bombard, Oracle:
The only thing I would add is once you’ve come up with those standards, make sure you build it into your toolset. Make it as easy as possible. If an engineer selects a certain doc type, make it so that they don’t have to remember what template they need to use.

Melissa Burch:
Making those publishing requirements very difficult to put into practice because they are not supported by the tool is certainly going to put a barrier between a person who’s very busy, but wants to share what they know with others and keeping the ability to do that as streamlined as possible is great advice.

Further Insight

If you missed the live broadcast of The 5 Biggest KM Challenges You’ll Face, you can watch our presentation on-demand.