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April 19, 2024
March 7, 2024
XX min read

What Is a Wiki? Definition, Examples, and Benefits

If I asked you to name the world’s most famous wiki, you’d probably say ‘Wikipedia.’ And you’d be right!

But if I asked you for a definition of ‘wiki,’ or why businesses might buy a company wiki, you might struggle. 

After all, there are a lot of different types of wikis out there. There’s an internal wiki, an external wiki, a company wiki, what does it all mean? Some are accessible to everyone, others are tightly restricted to specific groups of people. Some are powered by AI, others aren’t. 

In this article, we’ll define what a wiki is, discuss the different types of wikis, explain how to make a wiki, give you an overview of the benefits and use cases, along with some examples.

Let’s dig in!

Wiki definition

What is a wiki?

A wiki is a web-based application that lets users easily publish, edit, manage, access, and share information. Companies use wikis to allow their employees to access the information they need to do their jobs and to document their own knowledge with ease.

The word ‘wiki’ comes from the Hawaiian word ‘wiki wiki, which means ‘fast.’ It’s a fitting name because one of the key benefits of a wiki is the speed at which it allows teammates to document and share information with each other.

Now that we’ve defined what a wiki is, let’s take a look at some of the different types of wikis available today.

Internal wiki vs external wiki

An internal wiki is a type of software that companies use to store, organize, and share sensitive information. They’re secure internal websites that are only accessible by people who have specific permissions–usually a company’s employees. A company wiki is used to give teams a single source of truth for useful information and to ultimately improve efficiency.

An external wiki is a software application that members of the public can use to view, publish, and edit information. They are public-facing websites that can be accessed by anyone. Some external wikis provide different permissions to different people. For example, in some cases you might need to have an account to be able to edit content on an external wiki. Companies use external wikis to share content like product specifications and company updates with the public. Both business and non-business communities use external wikis to make relevant information widely available.

To summarize, the key difference between an internal wiki and an external wiki comes down to who has access. Internal wikis are specifically designed to limit access to specific groups of people, while external wikis are widely accessible to the public.

What is a company wiki?

A company wiki, also known as a corporate wiki enterprise wiki, is a private website used by internal teams to capture, find, and share knowledge. It acts as a central repository where employees can collaboratively create, edit, and remove information. Most company wikis have strict permission controls and privacy features that ensure only employees can access and adjust content. The primary purpose of a company wiki is to enable knowledge sharing between teams, improve alignment, and increase employee productivity.

Now let’s take a look at some examples of popular wikis.

Wiki examples

The first ever wiki was developed in the mid 90s by Ward Cunningham, an American computer programmer who co-wrote the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. The wiki he developed was called WikiWikiWeb and it set the standard for all the wiki software that would follow. 

Here are some examples of wikis that are widely used today:

  • Wikipedia: an free online encyclopedia where members of the public add, edit, and organize information on a vast variety of topics.
  • WikiHow: an online manual full of information about how to complete various tasks, handle different situations, and find solutions to many of life’s challenges.
  • Wiktionary: a free digital dictionary that contains definitions of words in a wide range of languages, alongside a thesaurus, quotations, and details of the etymology of different words.
  • iFixit: a wiki of repair guides for consumer electronics and appliances that users can edit and contribute to.
  • Wikivoyage: a free web-based travel guide assembled through collaborative editing, providing destination guides and travel information.
  • SharePoint: sometimes referred to as SharePoint Wiki, this is a cloud-based content management platform used by companies across the globe to help their employees share information with ease.

Read on to learn about the key benefits of a company wiki, and how to make a wiki.

What are the benefits of a wiki?

Company wikis are fast becoming a standard part of the tech stack for most organizations, from small startups to large enterprises. After all, they can solve many universal business problems and offers a range of benefits. Let’s look at some of those now.

Find information easily

A wiki makes it easy for employees to find information. Simply put, wikis give every member of a team one place to find the information they need to do their jobs. Whether they’re looking for a product release date, an approved company logo, or HR policy, they can find it in their company wiki. And increasingly, some modern wikis are adding integrations that allow employees to search for information directly within whatever app they’re working from at a given moment.

Share knowledge quickly 

A wiki gives employees a way to share information quickly. With a company wiki, employees have a single location to document the information they want their colleagues to be able to access. Whether it’s a project status update, a memo outlining go-to-market strategy, or a standard operating procedure, employees can publish valuable information in their wiki with confidence that it’ll be found by teammates who need it.

Reduced app overload

The number of apps the average company uses has grown dramatically over the past decade. While each app has a role to play, having a large number of software tools can create information silos, decrease productivity, and reduce operational efficiency. A new breed of AI-powered wikis are helping companies to solve this issue by making it possible to search across multiple sources from a single user interface–a workflow sometimes referred to as enterprise search. Some AI-powered wikis also allow users to create, edit, and adjust content to make it relevant to specific groups of employees. With features like these, wikis allow companies to consolidate tools, such as an intranet

Increase employee efficiency 

A study by McKinsey found that employees spend 20% of their time on average searching for the information they need to do their jobs. That’s the equivalent of losing one day every week to a task that’s both inefficient … and deeply frustrating! With a company wiki, employees have a single source of truth for information. This drastically reduces the time each employee has to spend searching for information and helps to significantly increase efficiency company-wide. 

Improve company culture

Research from Gallup found that employee engagement has been stagnating in recent years, as workers report feeling disconnected from their teammates and their company’s mission. This has a knock-on effect on a team’s culture, productivity, and overall performance. However, with a wiki, company leaders can share important updates with their teams more easily and employees can engage with each other's content daily. This can go a long way to helping workers feel more connected to their company and engaged with their work.

As you can see, wikis offer an array of benefits to teams across an organization. But what type of information is most commonly documented in a wiki? We’ll explore that in the next section, where we look at common wiki use cases.

Top wiki use cases

Companies typically use wikis across a range of use cases. After all, a wiki is at its most effective when used across multiple teams and home to various types of content. Here are some of the top wiki use cases.

  • Employee onboarding materials: a company wiki is a great place to store the documents, tasks, and handbooks that are needed by new hires during onboarding.
  • Standard operating procedures: for many companies, the most common type of content found in a wiki is standard operating procedures that outline how best to complete certain tasks like filing a ticket with IT, filling out an expense report, or referring someone for an open role.
  • HR policies: whether it’s benefits information, PTO policies, or training materials, wikis are often used by HR teams to store materials that are relevant to all employees across a company.
  • Product FAQs: a wiki gives customer-facing teams a single source of truth for product information, making it easier for them to answer customers’ questions quickly and accurately.
  • Brand assets: company logos, employee headshots, and product images are often stored in company wikis, making it easy for employees to find the latest versions of key brand assets.

How to make a wiki

By this stage you might be wondering: ‘how can I make a wiki?’ Whether you’re looking to create a company wiki, an external wiki for an online community, or a different type of wiki altogether, here are the key steps to follow.

Choose a wiki platform

The first step is to select a wiki tool that suits your goals. If you want to make a personal wiki, a free open-source solution like DokuWiki might be a good fit. If you’re looking to implement a company wiki, you’ll need to consider factors like cost, ease of use, permission controls, integrations, and AI-powered capabilities. You might find it helpful to read about the best wiki software tools.

Set up your wiki

Once you choose a platform, the next step is to set it up. This might involve creating an account, assigning roles to different team members, customizing a homepage, and configuring permission settings. Many wiki tools provide templates to help you get started quickly.

Add and organize content

The next step is a fun one: adding content. It’s important to consider the structure and layout of your wiki pages to ensure it’s as easy as possible for users to navigate. Create pages for high-level subject areas, and add detailed subpages underneath. It’s also important to add internal links between related wiki pages.

Customize appearance

Before you share your new wiki widely, it’s important to customize it–especially if it’s a company wiki that’ll be used by a large number of employees. A lot of wikis allow you to adjust colors, fonts, layouts and other design features to match your brand’s style. This can go a long way to ensuring employees have familiar and engaging experience every time they use the wiki.

Establish processes to keep content fresh

The final step is to create guidelines and processes that ensure the wiki is widely adopted and well maintained in the long run. Historically, a lot of the work in maintaining a wiki was done manually, but with the advent of AI technology, the task is a lot easier nowadays. Whatever wiki software you use, it’s important that old content gets archives, popular content is always up to date, and analytics are continually leveraged to drive adoption.

Best wiki software

The world of wikis has changed dramatically since Ward Cunningham launched WikiWikiWeb in the 1990s. Today, some of the internet’s most popular websites are external wikis, while companies across the globe view internal wikis as a critical part of their tech stack.

In this article, we explained what a wiki is, shared examples of popular wikis, discussed the many benefits of a company wiki, and outlined how to make a wiki. Now you might be wondering what the best wiki software is for your business. The good news is there are a lot of options available today, many of which are adopting the latest AI technology to make it easier than ever for employees to find the information they need to do their best work. To learn more, read about the best wiki software tools.

Key takeaways 🔑🥡🍕

What are the key features of a wiki?

Wikis are characterized by several key features that distinguish them from other types of websites. They allow multiple users to collaboratively create, edit, and organize content, with changes being tracked and easily visible to all participants. Wikis also feature internal linking between pages, enabling users to navigate and explore related topics seamlessly.

How do wikis facilitate collaboration?

Wikis are designed to foster collaboration by providing a shared space where multiple users can contribute and edit content. They typically feature version control, allowing users to see the history of changes made to a page and revert to previous versions if necessary. Wikis also often include discussion pages or comment sections, enabling users to communicate and coordinate their efforts in improving the content.

What are the benefits of using a wiki for knowledge management?

Wikis offer several benefits for knowledge management within organizations. They provide a centralized repository for information, making it easy for employees to access and share knowledge across departments and locations. Wikis also promote a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement, as users are encouraged to contribute their expertise and refine existing content. Additionally, wikis can help reduce duplication of effort and ensure that information remains up-to-date and accurate.

Written by
Mark Whelan
Search everything, get answers anywhere with Guru.

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