Alternative-to-Helpscout

Best Alternate to Help Scout (Docs)

on June 8, 2020

We often receive this question on our support “What is the difference between Help Scout Docs vs Document360?” especially from people who are already using Help Scout as their customer support product and started experiencing challenges of maintaining their knowledge base with their in-build knowledge base offering called “Docs”. 

We will give a detailed explanation of why Document360 can be a good alternate to Help Scout docs with a clear and unbiased explanation. 

There is a fundamental difference between Help Scout and Document360 that customers need to understand. Help Scout is a complete customer support product, their core offering is their ticketing system that helps to resolve support queries, besides as a platform they provide supporting offering like Docs (self-service knowledge base), Chat, Customer Management, Shared Inbox, In-app messaging, etc.  

Whereas, Document360 is designed as a solution purely to address one problem (very well), providing a great “knowledge base software“. So Document360 will have wider and deeper capabilities when compared to Help Scout when it comes to the knowledge base.

Why should I choose Document360, when we already have Help Scout?

This question will depend on your knowledge base requirement. If your requirements are straight forward just a simple bunch of documents to support your product written by just one or two people, Help Scout will be sufficient. But when you are growing, as your customer base increases your documentation needs will also increase significantly.  You’ll need more control and features.

Here are the few highlighted features that are missing are pretty basic on Help Scout Docs. 

Version Control: Your knowledge base will be edited and published by a bigger team (engineering, marketing, support, etc). It’s important to have a complete version history of each knowledge base article, rather than overwriting it. You might lose some good content written by a previous writer.

Workflow: You will need a level of the approval process. Before content is published someone needs to review and approve it.

SEO:  Your knowledge base is also a good marketing source. If you look at the importance of the knowledge base SEO. So you’ll need capabilities like changing the slug (with keywords), meta title, meta description, sitemap, robot.txt, etc.

Localization: If you are targeting the global audience (maybe in the future), the platform should support it. 

Realtime Search: Search is THE important aspect of a knowledge base, in Document360 a significant investment is made to make it as good as possible.

Category Manager and Rich Editor: Even though every product in the market will offer these, there is a huge difference. How many levels you can go deeper, drag and drop, rename, hide, can you upload videos, code, callouts (like error, warning), etc

Auditing and Notification: As your knowledge base grows, you need to have control of who is doing what in your KB. It shouldn’t be a black box.  ex: Someone deleted an article (it may be a good one generating 100’s of leads)

Even though it’s handy to have one consolidated tool like Help Scout for customer support, sometimes it’s better to pick up best in class relevant tools for each requirement. The knowledge base is something you cannot keep switching, there are implications like losing search engine traffic. So, it’s better to pick the right one at the start, or at least switch it when you start noticing the above-mentioned challenges. 

Please note, Document360 can work together with Help Scout, you just replace their knowledge base part with more advanced Document360 and continue using the rest of their customer support capabilities.

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Features Comparision

The highlighted points above are pretty much applicable to any customer support product in the market that offers Knowledge Base like ZenDesk, FreshDesk, Intercom, Crisp, etc. Now let’s go a bit deeper and compare some of the core features and how the products differ. 

1. Category Management

For a knowledge base, how you structure and manage your categories is very important. One of the big challenges we have noticed on Help Scout category management is, it’s pretty hardcoded to only 2 levels. 

Collections > Categories > articles

Collections are top-level buckets like Getting started, Reporting, Account Management, etc. Here is the screenshot from Help Scout’s knowledge base

Help Scout docs collection

Each Collection will have a group of Categories and each category will have a group of Articles. Here is the screenshot of categories and articles. 

This structure is not suitable for growing SaaS businesses. You’ll need a flexible category management options like multiple levels of sub-categories. Take an example of the famous Stripe or Microsoft knowledge base

Stripe – category management Microsoft – Category Management
Stripe Docs Categories Microsoft Docs Categories

Also, for the knowledge base, a tree-view structure category view is much better, it provides the full depth of your knowledge base and makes it easy for the readers to navigate between various categories and articles. 

Document360 provides a complete flexible category management solution. There is no limit on the depth of the sub-categories (we got a soft limit of 6, so people don’t use it in the wrong way). It also comes with rich capabilities like inserting articles, categories easily on a specific level, indicators showing the state of the articles, hide, rename, delete, drag and drop move, etc. 

Document360 Category Manager

You can see some real examples of Document360 customers here  Customer.io, Spryker

2. Real-time search with the highlighter

The importance of a great Search in a knowledge base is understood. Every product in the market will claim they have search functionality. However, the quality of the search can vary significantly. It’s the difference between Google and others. 

Even though Help Scout comes with a decent search engine, it only shows the article title on the result and it’s missing an important part of highlighting the keyword in the article. Article title alone will not be sufficient for the users, your search keyword may be deeper in the article, and it’s important to highlight it.

Imagine if Google only shows the article title, it’s pretty useless, right?

Watch these short gifs, showing how the search functionality work between Help Scout and Document360

Help Scout Search

Help Scout search

Document360 Search

Document360 Search

Also, Help Scout doesn’t provide a dedicated search page. Sometimes the user might want to navigate through all the results (not just the top 10 shown). Whereas Document360 provides a dedicated search. 

The other important thing to note, Search is not available for the content writers inside the Help Scout portal. 

Search Analytics

Document360 comes with complete search analytics. It’s important to understand the keywords users are searching on your knowledge base, whether they can find the content or no results. This will help to improve your knowledge base over time. This feature is missing in Help Scout.

3. Version Control

Version control is something very important on your knowledge base once a group of people is updating the content, else you risk content overwrites. 

Help Scout comes with a partial version control option for your articles. Every time you publish a new version of your article, that version is saved as a revision. Here is the screenshot

Help Scout - article revision

This is not helpful, for example, there is no option to compare the difference between the two versions, you cannot fork a new version of the article from a specific version. There can only be one draft version, the last one you are editing. Until you publish that version, it just stays in the draft.

In Document360, you get a full version control system with multiple draft versions, you can easily compare between versions, you can fork a new version from any previous version, and you can even delete unnecessary forked versions (if you have permission). Here a couple of screenshots from Document360

Document360 - Version historyDocument360 Difference Viewer – clearly showing new content in green, the deleted portion in Red

Document360 - Difference viewer 4. Rich Editor

For people who are responsible for creating your knowledge base content, it’s important to give a great editing experience. Help Scout comes with a basic HTML editor with a minimal set of options. Being a multi-capability product, it looks like they made the choice to keep the options limited to an absolute minimum. 

But once your knowledge base starts to grow, then you will start seeing the requirements like

  • Inserting Code (with language highlighter)
  • Inserting callouts (like error, info, warning boxes)
  • Internal linking of articles
  • Inserting Videos directly (without using embed code)
  • Find and replace, etc

Document360 covers all of the above points and one of the unique features of Document360 editing experience is, it comes with two different editor choices. 

  • Markdown Editor, and
  • WYSIWYG Editor

Markdown editor is a minimalist editor, that helps writers to focus purely on the content and not too much on formatting. You simply need to remember some basic commands and can produce great articles. 80-90% of your articles in your knowledge base will be pretty straight forward content with the standard structure like headers and paragraph text. Document360 Markdown editor comes with realtime preview (as you type), live preview (with design). 

Document360 - Markdown Editor

The WYSIWYG editor is a rich editor that allows you to do pretty much any level of formatting. Like rich tables, font color, background color, etc. 

Document360 allows you to switch between editors at the article level. 

Some nice features on Document360 Editor

  • You can add/remove different contributors to the article (can be made publicly visible)
  • You can set status indicator like New and Updated (and make it automatically go away after certain days)
  • Add attachments to the article (ex: PDF, Excel files)
  • Complete commenting and discussion between writers

5. SEO Configuration

Your knowledge base can become one of your key content for your SaaS product. It’s important to make sure your customers can find the content on search engines like Google. Let’s take an example if someone is searching “how invoices work in stripe”, here is how the results will look

Stripe search result

As you can see all the top results are coming directly from the “docs”. To achieve this, your knowledge base product must support certain things to make it optimized for search engines.

Help Scout doesn’t provide any options related to SEO.

On the other hand, Document360 comes with a lot of SEO focused features, lets take a quick look

In SEO, your keyword must be present in URL, header, and also important to configure meta-title and description (the description you see on the above search result). You can configure all of them at the article level. Also, you can configure exclusions (sometimes maybe you do not want the article to show up in Google)

Document360 - SEO Settings

Document360 also allows you to configure custom Robot.txt and Sitemap.xml files (few advanced SEO items) if in case you need them. 

Non-core Features Comparision

All the above 5 points we discussed are really important for a good knowledge base product. Also, there are a lot of other features that come with Document360, they are a bit advanced, may not be required by every customer. However, as your product starts to scale and if you wanted to future proof choosing the correct knowledge base product for your SaaS then it will become essential features.

Let’s take a look at 10 advanced features that come in Document360 but not available in Help Scout.

  1. Article Review Reminders  – When you publish an article, it’s common the content writers forget about it and never touch it again. Article reminders help you to set a notification to owners after a period (ex: 3, 6 months, etc) to verify and either update the article or mark it with a future date.

2. Auditing and notification – When your knowledge base is maintained by a team of people, it becomes essential to keep track of who is doing what. Document360 audits all the events (you can even configure which ones to record), also, you can configure notification via email, slack, webhook, etc.

3. Security and Roles – Document360 comes with a good security mechanism, you can access specific content writers to specific folders. You can define roles like editor, draft writer, etc. Ex: You might want to restrict regular writers from making SEO changes.

4. Private Knowledgebase – There may be a scenario, where you wanted to restrict your knowledge base not available in public. Your customers need to login to access it. This is possible in Document360, with complete reader management, including self-service and bulk-import for readers registration

5. Backup & RestoreDocument360 does backup daily, also the users can back up manually and restore the content from backup without reaching to us. If someone in your team messed up your knowledge base, you can simply restore to an older version (like a time machine)

6. The Drive – Imagine having something equivalent of a Google Drive inside your knowledge base, that helps to organize all of your media assets like images, videos, PDF files, etc with a good folder structure. That’s exactly what Docuement360 Filemanger (now The Drive) capability is. Let’s take an example, you wanted to change a screenshot with the new one? The Drive helps you to change it in a central place. 

7. Localization and Versions –  Document360 comes with a rich localization capability. It’s really deep and complete implementation. It also allows you to have multiple versions of your knowledge base. Example: You have a live version and your content team is working on the next major upgrade and they wanted to do it in parallel and then switch. The second example, you might have different versions of your product and need a knowledge base to support all the versions (ex: SQL Server 2012, SQL Server 2016)

8. Analytics – Document360 comes with rich inbuild analytics that shows various stats like your best performing article, author, category. Search analytics helps you understand the performance of your search in the knowledge base, what queries are used by your users, whether they can find the answer or not. Feedback analytics helps you to understand whether your users like/dislike the content and view the comments they left.

9. Home page builder – Document360 comes with drag and drop home page builder. This helps to build a great custom-looking home page for your knowledge base without any developer’s help. 

10. Variable and Snippets – Single sourcing and content reuse is a major thing when you have a sophisticated knowledge base. You do not want to copy & paste the content in multiple places. Variables and Snippets help you to achieve this. There are two use cases, a simple name/value pair content (variables), for example, You may not want to hardcode your product name on your articles, instead, you wanted to manage in a central place. The second scenario reusing a piece of content in multiple places (snippets), it could be a table, a code snippet, or event a piece of formatted content. 

Help Scout and Document360 can work together

It’s important to understand the context. The idea for us here is not to blame Help Scout with a bunch of missing features. Help Scout is a complete customer support product and knowledgebase (docs) is a small part. Hence they are going to have only a handful of features.

However, Document360 on the other hand is the focused product on knowledge base with a single mission of covering all aspects of the self-service knowledge base. So, it’s going to have deeper and wider capabilities to cover your knowledge base. 

There is one big advantage of using Help Scout as your knowledge base since there is a tight integration between the knowledge base and the ticket system. When the support agents are replying to customer support queries they can easily do a lookup in the knowledge base before writing their own reply.

Help Scout agent reply

This challenge can be mitigated by using the Document360 – Help Scout App (coming soon – similar to our other customer support apps like Freshdesk, Intercom, and ZenDesk). Then the agents can perform the same lookup directly from the knowledge base built using Document360.

It will be a better option to use Help Scout for all your customer support requirements and use Document360 for your self-service knowledge base. 

Migration from Help Scout (docs)

We can migrate 100% of your categories and articles safely into Document360 without losing any of your search engine rankings (thanks to our redirect capability). If you are interested either sign up for a 14 days trial or book a demo

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Author: Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar is the Founder/CEO of Document360, a SaaS platform that helps your team create, collaborate, and publish a self-service knowledge base for your software product/project with ease.