Anatomy of a Knowledge Base article | How to contribute

Anatomy of a Knowledge Base article

This is the introduction where I give you some context for this article and a brief overview of what's in it. By doing this you can quickly determine if this is the right article for you.

In this case, you want to learn how to write help articles for Mozilla Support. So in this article I'll show you examples of the most common writing techniques and wiki markup that we use. You can use both the article and its wiki source as a guide when you write.

In general, we have two basic kinds of articles with two kinds of introductions:

  • Tutorial or how-to article intros: A brief summary of the feature or task and what things can be learned (example).
  • Troubleshooting article intros: A brief summary of the symptoms and the solution (example).

How to structure an article

The general idea here is to try to build skills from simple to complex while trying to keep the information needed by most people near the top. So a simple, common solution would usually come before a complex or edge-case solution.

For example, in this Tab Groups article we start with why you should use the feature, then move on to how to make a group and end with more complicated tasks like searching and organizing.

Write descriptive section headings so readers can scan quickly

By naming the section after the task or solution it allows people to quickly browse the article or scan the table of contents to see the scope of the article. In some cases this may be enough information for some users and they wouldn't even need to read the rest of the article.

Create step-by-step instructions

There's nothing more frustrating than finally finding the instructions you need and then getting stranded while trying to follow them because the writer assumed you knew something you didn't. This is why we break our instructions out into complete, numbered steps. If you have to click "OK" at some point we even make that a step.

Here's an example from the How to set the home page article:

  1. Open a tab with the web page you want to use as your home page.
  2. Drag and drop that tab onto the Home button Home Button .
    Home Page 29 - WinXP Home Page 29 - Win8 Home Page 29 - Mac Home Page 29 - Linux
  3. Click Yes to set this as page your home page.

Create instructions for different operating systems or versions of Firefox

Often Firefox instructions are different for different operating systems. We have special wiki markup that lets us show Windows instructions to Windows users and Mac instructions to Mac users. If you switch the operating system at the top of this article the steps below will change.

Tip: Look at the wiki source to see how it's done (please don't actually change the article though).

  1. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and choose Options.
  2. Select the General panel.
  3. In the Startup box under Home Page: click Restore to Default.
    HomePage-Fx34Win
  4. Click OK to close the Options window.

  1. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and choose Preferences.
  2. Select the General panel.
  3. In the Startup box under Home Page: click Restore to Default.
    HomePage-Fx34Mac
  4. Close the Preferences window.

  1. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and choose Preferences.
  2. Select the General panel.
  3. In the Startup box under Home Page: click Restore to Default.
    HomePage-Fx34Lin
  4. Click Close to close the Preferences window.

Use templates in your step-by-step instructions

There are a lot of common steps in Firefox articles. For these we create "templates" so that we don't have to write (and translate) them over and over again. Usually templates have instructions for all operating systems in them which makes writing out steps even easier. Here are the same steps as shown above but written using templates.

Tip: Be sure to look at the wiki source to see how it's done (please don't edit anything though).
  1. At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox button and then select Options.At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Tools menu and then select Options.On the menu bar, click on the Firefox menu and select Preferences....At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Edit menu and select Preferences.

    Click the menu button New Fx Menu and choose Options.Preferences.

  2. Select the General panel.
  3. In the Startup box under Home Page: click Restore to Default.
    HomePage-Fx34Win HomePage-Fx34Mac HomePage-Fx34Lin
  4. Click OK to close the Options window.Click Close to close the Preferences window.Close the Preferences window.

Note: This is a list of all of our templates. And you can learn more about using {for} markup in this article.
Was this article helpful?

Please wait...

These fine people helped write this article: AliceWyman, Verdi, adampeebleswrites, lizhenry. You can help too - find out how.
Get support for another platform:
Customize this article

Firefox