Sharepoint Knowledge Base Review
A Look at the Pros and Cons of This Common Knowledge Base Platform
If you’re in the market for a knowledge base, SharePoint has likely popped up on your radar. This popular Microsoft software program is often recommended for its versatility and customizability. But digging deeper, it may not be everything you’d hoped for.
No matter which knowledge base you choose, you have to be absolutely certain that the solution you ultimately commit to is:
- Fully functional
- Easy to navigate and use (for both your team and your customers)
In addition, you must be sure that whichever knowledge base software you choose adds value to your customers’ interactions with your business and creates an impressive and memorable experience for them. That’s a tall order to fill!
In researching knowledge bases, you’ve likely come across Microsoft Sharepoint. Reading Microsoft SharePoint reviews on sites like Software Advice or Capterra shows that user experiences with the software are overall positive. SharePoint does have a number of major selling points, among them:
- Its ease of integration with other systems in the Microsoft suite of programs.
- Its highly customizable options (in fact, customizing SharePoint is more of a requirement to get the most out of the software).
Although SharePoint is a quality program, it’s certainly not for everyone. In fact, based on our experience working with a variety of knowledge base systems, we’d argue that it’s not the best choice if you’re looking for a robust knowledge base program.
In this article, we’re going to delve into reasons why you may not want to choose SharePoint as your knowledge base software of choice for your organization.
SharePoint’s Shortcomings as a Knowledge Base Solution
For all of its beneficial features and its reputable place among the Microsoft suite of programs, SharePoint simply falls short as a knowledge base in a number of ways. Most notably, they include:
- Its overwhelming (and underwhelming) feature set
- Its pricing tiers and overall cost
- Its functionality and ease of use
Let’s take a closer look:
SharePoint Caters to a Very Specific Audience
SharePoint is designed to appeal to a very specific niche audience. If you fit into this demographic, great -- you’ll find SharePoint brings a great deal of value to your organization. But if you don’t fall into this narrow slice of users, you’re going to find that SharePoint is both underwhelming and overwhelming, and not nearly as useful as it presents itself to be.
SharePoint Can Be Overwhelming for Non-Technical Users
SharePoint’s biggest complaint among its users is how overwhelming it is. If you’re looking for a knowledge base software that your team can hit the ground running with -- SharePoint probably isn’t going to be the best option unless you’re already a seasoned user of the system.
One of its biggest selling points is actually one of its biggest drawbacks. It allows for detailed customization as far as database creation and interface design are concerned. The problem is, this level of customization is practically necessary in order to get any real use out of the software right from the start.
That means you’ll have to configure SharePoint before you even start using it. If you or your team doesn’t have a great deal of technical know-how, this can feel overwhelming, if not impossible.
One Capterra reviewer sums up the sentiment nicely:
Pros: Little or no training required if you have technical ability
Cons: If you are not a power user, your ability to add will be very limited.
In other words, if you’re not a SharePoint power user right out of the gate, your ability to get the most use out of it is going to be handcuffed and hobbled, right from the start.
One Capterra user likened SharePoint’s myriad choices to shopping for cereal:
Using Sharepoint is like shopping for cereal with 50 different choices, whereas using Google is like shopping for cereal with only 5 different choices. It might seem great to have 50 choices on the surface, but you soon find yourself in the middle of the aisle unable to make a decision because of the myriad of potential choices you could make.
Even if you’re fortunate enough to have the technical know-how to use SharePoint to the fullest, there’s still the problem of deciding which route will get you from where you are to where you want to go. What’s the best way to go about developing your knowledge base and configuring it to meet everyone’s needs?
It’s easy to get bogged down in the details, which in turn leads to analysis paralysis among you and your teams. That can cause productivity to skid to a halt. In short, getting the most out of SharePoint means that your team must not only have a high degree of technical knowledge but also have the creativity to build “something out of nothing” with every decision that they make.
Having that kind of customizability sounds great -- in theory. But it would definitely be nice to have some sort of road map or guidance when starting out.
Cloud-Based SharePoint is Underwhelming
With all of this talk of software “in the cloud”, it might sound highly beneficial to have the cloud-based version of SharePoint, but you might be surprised to learn that this version is considerably lacking in both features and functionality. There’s no middle ground: the on-site version is overwhelming in terms of the levels of customization it requires while the cloud-based version can be a little too simple.
The truth boils down to the fact that smaller businesses and organizations will likely need to upgrade from the cloud-based version to the on-site version at some point anyway, which means investing even more time, money and resources in terms of not only installation but also configuration and onboarding all of the teams that will be using it.
Helpjuice: The Smarter SharePoint Alternative
Fortunately, rather than trying to decide if you want to deal with the hefty customization of the on-site version of SharePoint versus the trimmed down “lite” cloud-based version, there is a better alternative to both: Helpjuice.
Helpjuice is an intuitive knowledge base software that’s easy to set up and use, right from the start. With very little time spent customizing and getting up and running, you and your team can immediately begin to:
- Create new pages and documents
- Edit text, add links, add multimedia directly within documents
- Categorize and tag documents for easy searchability.
Helpjuice is designed to be streamlined and simple. If you can use Google Docs, you’ll feel right at home with Helpjuice. If you do want advanced customization features, you’re in luck, too. Helpjuice allows for customization via CSS which makes it easy for designers and developers to make the knowledge base match your existing site’s brand, look and feel.
In addition, you’ll benefit from detailed support documentation and direct access to a knowledgeable support team. Rather than forcing you to slog through countless pages of documentation, Helpjuice’s team is on standby, ready to help you get the most out of the system.
Lack of Functionality and Ease of Use in SharePoint
Even if your team can technically wrangle SharePoint to do what you want it to do at its fullest capacity, that doesn’t mean that you yourself can do it. That’s because, as many Capterra reviews will attest to, SharePoint doesn’t offer much in the way of functionality nor in ease of use. It tends to be slow-loading and take up a large amount of bandwidth. For companies that may already be stretching their bandwidth thin, having a bloated, slow-loading software program doesn’t make the situation easier.
One Capterra user summed up the experience succinctly by explaining:
Customization time and costs Integration can require extra development effort. The licensing model is very complex [and you] need the right expertise to get it set up correctly. It will require a lot of configuration and training. It's browser based so if there is no internet, it means no SharePoint.
Can your organization really stand to have a combination of complex licensing troubles, detailed technical configurations and extra time and cost spent training and onboarding your staff on how to use the system? And that’s saying nothing about any downtime from the network itself that could affect your ability to work seamlessly with the system.
Another common complaint, despite its so-called collaborative tools, is that SharePoint’s online editing system seems to overwrite concurrent changes by multiple users at the same time. When you have several users making changes to documents at the same time and doing so in real time, SharePoint seems to have trouble keeping up and keeping track.
It’s also worth noting that many users encounter issues updating SharePoint from older versions of the software. Although this might not be as much of a problem for you right now if you’re considering buying the latest version, it will become a headache when updates are rolled out in the future.
Beyond issues with updating, collaboration and ease of use, SharePoint also suffers from problems on the customer-facing side of things. There are two major difficulties that customers face when using a knowledge base built with SharePoint:
- SharePoint’s built-in problems with indexing content and
- SharePoint’s lack of information architecture when organizing information
Difficulties with Indexing Content
To put it mildly, SharePoint’s ability to index text inside of files like PDFs or PowerPoints is sorely lacking. It’s simply undiscoverable via search. Even if text is uploaded directly to a Wiki page, SharePoint can only read the metadata for that page. That means that customers have to spend an inordinate amount of time scouring your knowledge base to find the precise phrase used within your existing metadata for a certain page. Realistically, what customer is going to do that?
Disorganized Information Architecture
Secondly, SharePoint is lacking any sense of context or meaning behind its information architecture. Documents and data are presented in a vacuum, without any real idea of what the data actually means. Unless customers are lucky enough to stumble across the exact information they’re looking for, it’s unlikely that they’ll find it naturally, much less easily.
Helpjuice vs. SharePoint Knowledge Base
In terms of sheer user-friendliness, Helpjuice once again beats SharePoint. With Helpjuice, users can easily create and tag documents as well as categorize them into directories and subdirectories, creating an easily-understandable information architecture that helps things get found faster and more easily.
Helpjuice’s built-in editor also lets people collaborate quickly, easily and seamlessly. Two or more people working on documents simultaneously is no problem at all, and even remote collaborators can work on the same documents, all while ensuring that no one’s work gets erased or overwritten. In addition, collaborators can link to more in-depth and detailed information in just a few clicks, making it easy for them to guide users to more advanced information if necessary.
Search is also made easier and more intuitive with Helpjuice. Similar to Google’s suggested search capability, Helpjuice’s powerful Intelligent Instant Search recommends documents, pages and other forms of media to users in real-time as they’re typing, making it easy for them to find what they need.
Helpjuice’s categories and tagging system use machine learning to provide contextual, relevant search results. This gives end users the convenience and instant gratification they are looking for when searching a knowledge base. Beyond that, it can also provide them with supplemental material should they wish to delve deeper into the information they’ve been presented.
SharePoint Cost vs. Helpjuice Cost
On the surface, it looks as if SharePoint doesn’t seem that expensive. With its per-user price, SharePoint tries to skew the impression toward being cost-effective and simple. However,e organizations that ultimately get on board with SharePoint find that the costs can quickly add up.
SharePoint is designed to be used in different ways by different members of the company. Some departments may use it internally, others may use it to create customer information portals and share documents and data. Others may use it for a combination. With that being said, each team or department will use different features and functions of the software. Where problems arise is that no matter how much or how little different groups use it, your organization will be paying for the same tier across the board, even if some users could conceivably get by using the cheaper, lower tier.
In addition, there’s a serious difference between each of SharePoint’s pricing tiers. That means if you want certain specific features found at a higher tier, you’ll need to upgrade the software even if you don’t plan on using all of those features associated with that tier. Here again, a great deal of money, time and resources are wasted just for a few things that would be “nice to have”.
When you consider how many more actual usable features you get for the money, Helpjuice far outshines SharePoint. For enterprise customers, Helpjuice works to determine a fair and accurate price per user that depends on the organization’s size and how it plans to use the knowledge base software. In short, this minimizes waste by ensuring that users don’t pay for features they won’t use.
Helpjuice is designed to be affordable, and structures its features in such a way that it’s almost certain that users who upgrade to the more feature-rich tiers will use all of the features therein, and not just have to upgrade for one or two things that their organization really needs.
Also, unlike SharePoint, Helpjuice is designed specifically for use as a knowledge base for customer-facing teams and departments within an organization. It’s not designed to be used by everyone in the company in different ways. When working with the enterprise level of Helpjuice, you only need to consider who will actually be using the knowledge base software, rather than trying to take into account every conceivable use of the system among every team member.
And finally, perhaps the most important point:
SharePoint is Not Specifically Designed to Be a Knowledge Base Software
It has been mentioned several times that SharePoint tries to be all things to all people, and in many cases, it fails spectacularly or severely underwhelms at best. It’s far better suited for knowledge management rather than use as a knowledge base, and even though you can create a knowledge base with it, the user-unfriendliness coupled with the technical know-how needed, make it much more of a challenge than it needs to be.
With that in mind, SharePoint is meant to be more of a knowledge repository than a knowledge base. They may sound like the same thing on the surface, but a knowledge base is far better suited to not only storing information, but making it easy for users to find. As we’ve discussed previously, SharePoint doesn’t take context into consideration when organizing and storing data. Helpjuice, on the other hand, is built from the ground up specifically to make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for and to allow groups to collaborate and contribute seamlessly from anywhere.
If you’re ready to start building a reliable, collaborative knowledge base that both your team and your customers can use quickly, easily and intuitively, it’s time to work with a real knowledge base software platform. To learn more about using Helpjuice to create a knowledge base, check out our detailed Features page. If you’re ready to take the next step and start using Helpjuice, learn more by creating your very first knowledge base and see for yourself how simple the process can be.
Emil Hajric, 2020