How Many Article Templates Should We Have?

We always caution KCS design efforts to not “over engineer” the process or the content standard.  This is particularly true when it comes to article templates. People often ask, “how many templates should we have?” The answer is ONE… keep it simple! Because many of the KM tools offer us the capability to create different types of templates for different types of issues doesn’t mean we should. We often see organizations creating different templates for different types of issues: how to, informational, diagnostic, break/fix. In my experience, multiple templates for different types of issues create more confusion than value. 

We have not found an environment yet where the basic template outlined in the KCS v6 Practices Guide doesn’t work.  This is true across technical support, customer support, professional services, HR, legal….  Some organizations change the names of the fields to fit their environment. Some organizations add an optional, “additional information field” to the basic template. Some organizations create a section in the article that is only visible to a certain audience (like internal notes). But the basic structure works for all types of issues: how to, technical, diagnostic, procedural or policy and in all types of organizations. 

There are numerous advantages to a single template for all content. One is consistency and familiarity of the structure for the audience being served.  Another is that search engines do better indexing content with a consistent structure.  And perhaps most importantly, if after a few searches it appears there is not an article that addresses the issue we are working on, we should capture our search words and phrases as a Work in Progress (WIP) article in the workflow (searching is creating).  We won’t truly know the type of issue we are working on until we resolve the issue, and if we have multiple templates for different types of issues, which one do we use to create the WIP?

 As we suggest repeatedly in the KCS v6 Practices Guide and the KCS v6 Adoption Guide: keep it simple, start with a single, standard template for all types of content, and evolve it based on experience. Designing an elaborate content standard with multiple article templates in the absence of experience is like going on a buying spree without knowing what size clothes we wear. It’s fun to buy something shiny and new, but it defeats the purpose when we end up with a bunch of clothes that don’t fit!  

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