Documentation is one of the most important parts of supporting a product or service you are offering. A documentation website is an ordered and categorized document that articulates how a product works. In other words, a documentation website teaches users how to work with a product step by step.
A complete support website could include several sections like a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page, a ticketing system, a live chat option, supporting forums, documents, etc.
However, in this article, I will focus specifically on the best tools and methods to create a content-based educational documentation website, to form a part of the supporting services you can offer to your customers.
You can build your product’s documentation as an independent website or make it using WordPress plugins and then include it in your existing website
Best Ways to Create a Documentation Website with WordPress
Before we get to the main event, let’s first take a quick look at the best ways to create your professional product documentation with WordPress:
- WordPress Documentation and Knowledge Base Themes: These kinds of themes were developed especially for building educational documents and support websites. Most of them provide a built-in tool for creating docs and are compatible with all documentation builder plugins.
- Documentation Builder Plugins: These plugins provide additional features and functionality to your WordPress website enabling you to create organized groups of articles.
- Using the Default Page Builder (Gutenberg): Later on I will show you how to convert your fresh WordPress installation to a documentation website without adding extra add-ons to your site. (But you’ll need at least WordPress version 5.9.3.)
Now let’s find the best WordPress themes and plugins for your documentation website.
Best Documentation WordPress Themes on ThemeForest
ThemeForest is one of the biggest marketplaces on the internet that includes thousands of premium and professional themes for WordPress.
On ThemeForest you can find many powerful themes designed especially for documentation and knowledge base websites. So if you’re looking for an easy and straightforward way to create your documentation site in the shortest possible time, then read on and pick a theme from the list below.
Manual is one of the best choices on this list. Almost 3,000 websites use this popular and powerful documentation theme. It is fast, easy to use, and provides many built-in features like an admin-friendly documentation builder, a lot of pre-made templates, a one-click demo installer, and more.
Its designers have cared a lot about the details and the site’s front end, which increases user engagement and motivates them to explore your documentation. Furthermore, the Manual theme is fully compatible with most third-party documentation builders and forum plugins.
With Docly you’ll be able to display your documentation pages inside a modern and eye-catching environment. It comes with an extended management area and a handy theme customizer which allows you to change your site to something unique and special.
“We designed Docly for the readers, optimizing not for page views or engagement — but reading. And it turns out that context is a vital part of learning.”
If you’re looking for a helpful and straightforward WordPress theme to create a fast documentation resource for your users, then Tikidocs is a good choice. It includes all the necessary inner pages for a documentation website. After importing its pre-built demo, you can easily change and customize it through an admin-friendly editor.
TheDocs doesn’t provide numerous and complicated built-in tools, instead it allows you to import a simple content-focused design and customize it as you like. This elegant theme helps you clearly display your contents inside a clean and minimalistic structure and make them more accessible with a sticky TOC (table of contents) in the sidebar.
This theme is a good choice for those who need to minimize development and design time and want to focus on content creation.
Lore is another fast, SEO-optimized, and well-documented WordPress theme that comes with a ready-to-import demo and a useful plugin named Knowledge Base to help you create new articles and categories for your website. The knowledge base part and the blog section have different post types so that you can still have a blog on the other side of your documentation site.
If you’re planning to build a complete support website with WordPress, then Wikb is a good choice as the starting point. It is a multipurpose support theme that in addition to an eye-catching design and a built-in documentation builder, has the essential prerequisites for selling premium courses. It is also fully compatible with most forum plugins, live chat systems, and ticketing tools.
This responsive documentation theme has several stunning demos you can install with a single click and customize to something more unique by the use of different header styles and color schemes inside an easy-to-use theme customizer. If you want to create a beautiful documentation website for various screen sizes, then pick this responsive theme from ThemeForest.
No more confusion for your users! KnowHow, one of the best-seller documentation themes on ThemeForest, provides you with a content-first design that guides the visitors to the right place from the moment they enter your site. Also, with a simple header, a proper main menu, and a global search box, it will be effortless for your users to explore the site and find the desired article in the documentation part or achieve a suitable answer in the FAQ section.
HelpGuru is another theme developed by the creators of the KnowHow theme that we have seen above. If you want to access the simplicity of KnowHow and additional built-in features (like a forum or blog) at the same time, this theme is what you need!
Knowledgedesk comes with many third-party premium add-ons and plugins saving you up to $163 by purchasing it! It also includes BWL Knowledge Base Manager, which is a powerful and valuable documentation builder plugin for WordPress. Please take a look at its six pre-made home pages to find out more about this elegant documentation website builder.
Best Documentation Creator Plugins for WordPress
If you already have a WordPress website and don’t want to change its theme, then you can install a documentation builder plugin and start to create a Docs section inside your existing website. Here I will show you the best WordPress plugins for building documentation on your site.
DeepDocs is a premium documentation builder available on the CodeCanyon website. It is a professional and well-performing plugin that allows you to easily create different categories of educational articles with drag and drop. With this plugin, you can also change the appearance of your documentation website in a live customizer.
This plugin is one of the most known documentation builders from the WordPress repository and has more than 30,000 active installations. It provides wonderful features like a modern documentation editor, insightful analytics for your site, attractive templates, a useful AJAX search box, and more.
Suppose you’d like to create a completely unique and different documentation website. In that case, you need to be a little creative and find more solutions for this purpose. Although Split Post is not a documentation builder, it helps you divide a blog post into different steps based on a specific category and showcase them along with a drop-down menu that includes your TOC (just like a documentation website). You can check all its 20 live demos and templates on Envato Elements.
“Split your long post content into multiple pages with ajax pagination to maintain reading experience and speed up your page loading time.”
WeDocs is another free plugin from the WordPress repository. It is a simple documentation builder that allows you to create your documentation with little effort. It follows the default styles of your theme and doesn’t affect the appearance of your site.
After installing this plugin, you’ll have access to a live documentation builder. Like the BetterDocs plugin, this one also comes with many additional features that allow you to manage your documentation website more professionally.
Now let’s take one step further and learn how to create a documentation website without using any extra plugins, using the default features of the WordPress CMS. Don’t forget to be creative!
One Step Further: How to Create a Documentation Website Using the Block Editor
To create an ordered and structured documentation site using the Gutenberg editor, you need to use WordPress 5.9.3 or higher. Here, a new template editor helps you create a sidebar for your website and put it where ever you need it.
In the following mini-tutorial, I will create a new sidebar and put a list of links (to different posts) inside it. Then, I will add it to the Single-Post template that WordPress uses by default to showcase your posts.
When we’re done, all the posts will have a list of contents on the left side. This sidebar will be the table of contents of your documentation website.
1. Create a New Template Part
First, log in to your WordPress admin area. Then, upgrade to WordPress 5.9.3 and make sure your theme supports the new Editor (I’m using the Twenty Twenty-Two theme).
From the left-hand menu, navigate to Appearance > Editor.
In the next screen, select Template Parts from the left side and click Add New. It will open a pop-up window that allows you to choose the type of template you want to create.
Pick the General type and choose a name for the template (I named it New-Sidebar). Then, click Create.
2. Customize it According to Your Needs
After you have created a new template part, you will be taken to a live template editor that is just like the Gutenberg page builder.
As I mentioned before, we are trying to create a content list for our documentation website. To do that, add a Table block to your newly-created template. Then, with a custom order, add all your posts (as a link) to this table and click Save.
3. Add Your List of Content to All Your Posts
Now, go back to the Appearance > Editor, and this time click Templates from the left-hand menu, where you can find the main templates of your theme. Choose the Single-Post template that is responsible for showcasing your articles. Here, I’m going to edit this template and showcase the New-sidebar template (that we created in the previous step) next to a new Post Content block.
So like the GIF below, first delete the default (full-width) Post Content block.
Then, add a new List View above the Comments section, where the Post Content block was before we deleted it.
After that, put a Columns block inside the List View and choose the 30/70 variation for it.
Now you have two empty columns. Add the New-sidebar template to the left column and a Post Content block to the right one.
Now, Save the template, open a pre-written post, and take a look at what you just made!
With this trick, users will see an ordered list of the content next to your posts, which we’re all familiar with as a “documentation structure”.
A documentation website acts as a 24/7 support agent and provides a complete guide on using a product or service. In this article, you learned about the different ways you can create a documentation website using WordPress. You have also learned how to make an ordered TOC for your WordPress blog and add it to posts.
If you’d still like to learn more about creating documentation sites and templates, then check out this free course on Envato Tuts+: Building a WordPress Theme Documentation Template, or check out the articles below.