Imagine you’re doing a group project. You have a Google Drive that contains your assignment prompt, research, writing, and presentation, all of which has been created and edited by multiple members of the group.
Now imagine turning your Google Drive into a website. That’s sort of what a wiki is but instead of a group project, we’re talking about full-scale companies.
From start-ups to enterprises, businesses use wikis as centralized databases for their documentation. Gone are the days of printing out employee handbooks in binders or sending style guides in Word documents as one-off emails.
Content that can and should be shared company-wide is all placed in a wiki. That way, anyone can go searching this universal knowledge base for information they need, like what days are company holidays or what the guidelines are for guest blogging.
Below we’ll offer an official definition of what a wiki is (and what it’s not). Then we’ll walk through how to make one.
What is a wiki?
In the simplest terms, a wiki is a website that can be edited by multiple users. While some are publicly accessible, most are not. These private wikis are typically created by organizations to manage and share large amounts of information.
A wiki is more than just a website though. It’s often a discussion forum, staff directory, style guide, event calendar, archive, employee handbook, and blog all rolled into one. To avoid any confusion, let’s look at the major differences between a wiki and a blog.
What’s the difference between a wiki and a blog?
There’s a few major differences between a wiki and a blog, but the biggest are their target audiences and information sharing models. A wiki is most often an internal channel created by and for a group (whether they be employees, volunteers, etc.). A blog, on the other hand, is an external channel created by a group for another group (whether they be customers, readers, etc.)
Additionally, a wiki is considered a many-to-many communication type while a blog is considered a one-to-many communication type. That’s not to say that blogs must be run by one individual to be considered blogs. Multiple authors may contribute to a blog, but typically blog posts feature one author addressing multiple readers. A wiki, on the other hand, is created and edited by a multitude of authors for a multitude of readers.
A wiki and blog also share the same basic functionality: users can easily write, edit, comment, add images, and search through an archive of content. But wikis don’t go far beyond that. Blogs, on the other hand, usually provide more functionality and design options.
Now that we’ve established why you might need a wiki and understand the basic differences between a wiki and a blog, let’s walk through the process of making one.
How to Make a Wiki
- Choose your wiki software.
- Set security protocols and community guidelines.
- Establish your wiki architecture.
- Invite collaborators.
1. Choose your wiki software.
There are many softwares available for creating a wiki online. To make your choice, consider whether you want an open-source or hosted solution and what functionality you need.
If you’re a large, global company looking for open-source software, then you might opt for MediaWiki, the collaboration and documentation platform powering Wikipedia. But if you’re a smaller business or simply need less bells and whistles, then you might prefer more basic software like DokuWiki, WikiWikiWeb, or Google Sites.
If you’re looking for software that’s easy to use and manage, then you might opt for a premium software like Tettra. With Tetra, you can connect other work management tools like Slack, put users in charge of particular sections of the wiki, and get enhanced search and analytics tools — all without coding. Even those just getting started with website development can use this tool to set up a wiki in no time.
2. Set security protocols and community guidelines.
There’s two major things to consider when starting a wiki: security and community. To ensure your wiki is secure, it’s recommended that you work with your IT department to ensure that the content you post complies with company policies and national laws.
The second step is setting up community guidelines. Since wikis could quickly devolve into irrelevant or incorrect information or editing wars, you should also lay down some ground rules. Are their certain style guidelines you want wiki authors to follow? What’s the process for editing other people’s posts? Appointing curators can help ensure that the right content is in the right place in front of the right people.
3. Establish your wiki architecture.
Like any website, you want to structure your wiki in a way that’s easy for users to understand and navigate. You can do so using categories, tags, and internal links.
To start, make a list of the broadest topics your wiki will cover. Say your list is training, culture, and product. Then each of these topics will be a category. You can also use department names, like marketing, sales, product, and HR, as categories. In the example below, the wiki post is found under Marketing > Experiments.
In addition to categorizing your wiki posts, you can also add tags that will make the posts easier to find in search and internal links so that readers are directed to other relevant and useful content.
4. Invite collaborators.
Now that you’ve established rules of use and a basic architecture, you can start inviting people to add content to the wiki. While you do have the option to simply share the wiki publicly, it’s not recommended to do so immediately. Why?
Because you want to set up user roles and permissions and it’s easiest to do so when sending out invites.
You might be thinking, wait a second — wasn’t the whole point of the wiki that anyone can write and edit it? That’s true to an extent, but not necessarily during the build process. Ideally, creating a wiki will be a gradual, iterative process: you publish the most essential and accurate information, get some feedback, publish a little more, get some feedback, and so on.
Once you feel comfortable with the information and structure, you can share the wiki with the company.