What is a wiki?

Traditional static websites often do not allow you to do much more than to read the content, contribute to a forum, email comments to the site owner or buy things.

But a wiki is different; it is a type of website that allows some or all visitors to the site to add, remove and change pages and content very quickly and easily, and all versions of pages are saved.

Wikis reduce email: the ability of groups to collectively edit and develop documents can save hundreds of back-and-forth emails as shown in the image below:

Wikis are invaluable in team projects where staff in different offices, cities, or countries can collaborate easily. They foster team working and communication.

This wiki/email comparison image was originally produced by Manny Wilson in June 2007 for a presentation to senior leadership at the United States Central Command to demonstrate how wikis could be used to more rapidly draft contingency plans.

One advantage of a wiki over a traditional website is that the responsibility for making changes doesn't rest with just one person, it becomes a group resource and everyone has a stake in it and a contribution to make. Making changes and adding content can become quite addictive and good fun.

Where did wikis come from?


The name "Wiki" was inspired by the Hawaiian word wiki or wiki-wiki, which means "quick". The first wiki was developed in 1995 by an American, Ward Cunningham, who wanted an alternative to the word "quick" for his product that would allow quick, collaborative editing. He remembered the wiki-wiki shuttle buses that run between terminals at Honolulu International Airport and the name stuck.

Who uses wikis?

In business wikis are now used by many of the world's most innovative companies for team collaboration, co-authoring of documents, knowledge management and intranets, event planning, contact with customers and for project work. Large and small companies are benefiting from the efficient use of time and knowledge that wikis bring. Wikis avoid long email chains and make collaboration much easier whether your team is in the same building or spread across the world.

Wikis are also used extensively in education for class work, assignments and projects.

Many community groups also use wikis to enable local residents to promote their town or village and to discuss issues as a group without one person always having the responsibility of keeping it up to date.

How your team can benefit from wikis

The number of ways you can use a wiki for personal, group or corporate use is almost endless:

If you have come across other good ways that wikis are used, please let us know:

How wikis can help you cut costs

Prevent knowledge loss

If employees leave an organisation they take a lot of experience and knowledge with them. Often that knowledge has not been written down and can be expensive in time and effort to re-create it. By using a wiki, knowledge can be captured and stored easily for future reference by current or future employees.

Better Use of resources

For a collaboratively-authored document it is common for a lot of people to contribute to drafts by email. Those comments and changes then have to be merged together. And frequently someone will have changed text that had already been changed by someone else which takes time and effort in checking. Using a wiki allows changes to be made to the always-current version of the text and the history of those changes is stored. Not only is this a good audit trail but it is much easier to see the current state of the document, and changes from many people do not have to be merged into a final version. Less time is spent on the process and so the cost is less.

Contribute through discussion forums

Using discussion forums on a wiki help all members of the team contribute to a topic, even if they are working remotely. It is more environmentally friendly and cheaper than travelling to meetings and is easier to see the thread of a discussion than with email.

Manage projects better

Using wikis to manage projects helps all team members to be in the loop about tasks, risks and issues and project plans. If a project ends it keeps all the relevant documentation together, and this is more efficient as well in case a project is halted but later starts up again. For any project in an organisation, if team members add lessons learned into a wiki as they go along it saves having to remember them later and they can see what others have written which saves duplication and time.

Communicate more effectively with clients

If you are doing work for a client you might want to involve them and obtain their ideas and feedback. Although doing this on email can work, it can be much more effective through the use of a wiki. Real-time collaboration via a wiki reduces expensive travel to meetings, lets your client see the current state of the project and contribute comments and feedback at a time that suites them. And it helps both parties to manage communication effectively.

How we can help you

We have expertise in designing, developing, managing and supporting sites built on the Wikidot platform in a wide range of businesses and community groups. Our preferred wiki platform is wikidot but we are able to advise and develop wikis on a range of other wiki products, for example for enterprise wikis an excellent product is Mindtouch.

Please contact us if you would like advice on how wikis can help your team or on which wiki to choose.

Information about prices is available here.

We can implement secure SSL-encrypted wikis if your content requires this level of protection.

We would be happy to conduct workshops with your team to show them how to contribute to and benefit from wikis in their work.

Site Design and Content by Strathview © 2012