7 steps to launching a Zendesk help center

Written by
Craig Stoss
Director of CX Services at PartnerHero
August 1, 2023
min read

Table of Contents

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Launching a help center is essential for the customer support leader who wants to provide a self-service channel that empowers customers. 

If you’re using Zendesk as your help desk tool, its Zendesk Guide is a powerful platform that integrates directly into your tickets, forms, chat widget, and overall support flow. 

Zendesk Guide is a full-featured help center that will allow you to share articles and information in a variety of ways, maintain consistent branding, and build edit and approval workflows for constant improvement. 

This guide will explore the seven steps to make your Zendesk help center launch a success.

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Step 1: Define your help center goals

Before diving into the technical aspects of setting up your help center, defining your goals and objectives is crucial. There are many reasons to create a help center, so being clear with your goals will shape all of the next steps.

Your goals might be:

  • To improve SEO by making your product details searchable
  • To improve self-service options for your customers
  • To train or use a chatbot or other ticket-deflection tool
  • To maintain internal documentation of workflows
  • To keep a private knowledge base accessible only to authenticated clients

To help understand what you need, ask yourself questions such as:

  • What specific customer pain points do I want to address?
  • What are the key topics and categories I want to cover?
  • What kind of content do I want to provide (articles, FAQs, tutorials, etc.)?
  • What metrics will I use to measure the success of my help center?

Clearly defining your goals will help you shape your help center's content and structure to align with your support strategy.

Step 2: Plan and organize your content

Once you have a clear vision of your help center's goals, it's time to plan your content strategy. 

Start by creating an outline of the main categories and subcategories that will house your articles and resources. Categories could be product areas, features, use cases, lines of business, etc. 

A logical structure that reflects your customers' needs will help them navigate the help center easily. Keep in mind that the structure should reflect how the customer uses your product, not necessarily the internal structure of your product or services.

The second part of this step is to design a process for creating, editing, approving, and flagging articles. You can adapt frameworks such as Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) or Information Mapping to your specific needs to make this step easier. 

Depending on your chosen methodology, you might need to hire people or upskill your team to take on the various roles that accompany a knowledge management practice.

Step 3: Customize your help center's design

In Step 2, you planned the categories and structure of your knowledge, and in this step, you’ll choose how to present those in an easy-to-navigate layout. Zendesk Guide offers a range of customization options to make your help center visually appealing and consistent with your brand. 

Most often, companies download a help center theme from Zendesk's Marketplace. They can range in price from free to several hundred dollars and provide a variety of different looks and feels, so you can find what fits your brand's style. Most themes can then be customized to match your style guide. You can add your logo, change text, image and button colors, and adjust fonts.

Another option is to design your own theme. Creating your own theme is useful if you want to completely integrate your knowledge base into your existing web assets and have control over every aspect of its design. The level of customization you want may require knowledge of CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and CurlyBars. Luckily, Zendesk provides documentation to help you get started. 

With either choice, customization is imperative. A visually appealing help center that aligns with your brand will enhance the user experience and provide continuity throughout the customer journey.

Step 4: Create your content

Now it's time to create and organize the actual content for your help center. Here are some best practices:

  • Use clear and concise language: Write articles that are easy to understand, avoiding technical jargon whenever possible.
  • Prioritize FAQs: Identify frequently asked questions and create dedicated articles or sections to address them.
  • Use audio/visual media: Incorporate relevant screenshots, gifs, and videos to improve understanding and engagement.
  • Organize your content: Put content into categories and subcategories to improve navigation and make it easier for customers to find relevant information.
  • Use article templates: For different article types to keep the look and feel consistent, create templates with headers and required sections.
  • Maintain a style guide: Create and maintain a list of when different style elements should be used—for example, when you should use bold or italics, or what size your images should be.

Step 5: Test and review

Next, thoroughly test the functionality and user experience of your new help center. These tests can check for errors such as broken links or inconsistency in formatting and styling. Furthermore, the most impactful tests run through real customer use cases. 

For example, you could check to see if your top inquiries can be found using different search strings, the mobile responsiveness of your theme and content, accessibility for users with disabilities, integrations with chat tools or bots, SEO, etc. These types of tests allow you to fix frustrating end-user problems before they occur.

To be thorough, you could run search queries through your help center based on the last few hundred tickets you have received and see what percentage could have been self-serviced. Or ask a non-expert to try to find a specific article given a very vague problem statement. Finding out what search terms aren't working before your users do will create a smoother experience.

Step 6: Launch and promote

Once you’re satisfied that your knowledge base is usable and contains the most important articles, it's time to launch your Zendesk help center! 

If this is your first attempt at launching a self-service channel, you should guide customers gently but often. This will help them form a habit of searching for content before reaching out, maximizing the effectiveness of your help center.

These forms of marketing create a general awareness of the launch:

  • Email newsletters
  • Social media platforms
  • Website banners or pop-ups
  • In-app notifications

Encourage your customer support team to promote the help center during interactions with customers, reinforcing its value as a self-service resource.

Step 7: Monitor, analyze, and iterate

After the help center's launch, closely monitor its performance using Zendesk Guide's analytics and reporting features. Pay attention to metrics such as article views, search queries, and customer feedback. Analyzing this data will help you identify areas for improvement and guide your ongoing content strategy.

Specifically, look for patterns in:

  • Search queries that aren’t finding the right content
  • Articles that have low read/view counts
  • Product areas where content is missing or outdated
  • Articles that customers don’t find helpful

Continuously iterate. This step doesn't end as part of a healthy knowledge program. Updating and expanding the content based on the evolution of your product or services and the feedback you collect will help you maintain a usable, high-quality self-service help center.

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Launching a Zendesk help center

Launching a Zendesk help center requires careful planning, organization, and ongoing maintenance.

These steps will help you create a comprehensive self-service resource that improves customer support and satisfaction. 

Fortunately, Zendesk Guide has features that will help you through each of these steps. It includes tools that allow customization, easy content creation and approval as well as enable continual monitoring. The search capabilities also deliver a high-quality support experience for your customers. 

Self-service is critical to get right if you want to scale your support team, and launching a Zendesk help center is one of the best ways to make that happen. 

Written by
Craig Stoss

Craig has spent time in more than 30 countries working with support, development, and professional services teams. He’s administered Zendesk himself, and he’s currently building out a team of Zendesk consultants in his role as Director of CX Services at PartnerHero. In his spare time, Craig leads a local Support Thought Leadership group and writes for Supported Content.

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