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Need Some Advice for HelpSpot

OK I’m opening this one up to the public. I’m having a hard time with this decision so I thought getting a few comments might be helpful.

First, I need everyone to put on their User hats. No technologists here, just users! Here we go:

Part of HelpSpot is a help desk portal and part of that portal is a knowledge base like system. It’s actually a little different, but that’s not important for now.

The problem is that the help desk is going to have the ability to create articles/pages in the KB and I’m not sure what the best approach is in terms of HTML support. The way I see it there are 3 options, all with significant downsides.

  1. Open text box that just accepts HTML or plain text. – The obvious big downside here is that you have to know HTML to be able to do any formatting. While help desk staff are more technical than your average user many still won’t know HTML, but perhaps this is an OK v1 option.

  2. WYSIWYG field that does the formatting. – Here I see a few issues. First is that there aren’t many good cross-platform options. The one I like best is tinyMCE. It’s LGPL and also has some nice commercial components which could be useful. Still, WYSIWYG components are often buggy. I’ve also found that users tend to go crazy with them and what you get is wild inconsistency between pages.

  3. Enable Markdown support. – Markdown is a text based system for formatting text to HTML. So to make a word bold you do this: this is bold. Now that’s pretty neat and fairly easy to learn, but is it too geeky? (all formatting details)

Thanks in advance for taking a few minutes to help me think this over. It’s great to have a group of people to bounce ideas off of. Another wonderful side benefit of blogging!

If you have other suggestions I haven’t considered please feel free to post those as well.

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