Top Tips for Creating a Corporate Wiki

Claudiu
Claudiu
bits and pieces of documentation & marketing 👨‍💻

This article is about the top five ways to make your wiki valuable and effective. It's important to know what your team wants and needs from your wiki, so you can create a space that will help you achieve it.

📚 Table of contents

Research shows that corporate wikis are highly beneficial for companies, bringing them advantages like improved processes, more accessible work, and even a better reputation.

That doesn’t come as a surprise when you know that internal wikis are digital spaces where you can share your knowledge and allow your team to grow their skills and collaborate.

If you’re not sure where to start with your wiki, we’ve got you covered! Here are the five top ways to make your corporate wiki valuable and effective.

Design an Intuitive Content Hierarchy

When a wiki is intuitive, it’s easy to use, which means it will be helpful to your team.

If the structure is haphazard, everyone will have a hard time finding their way around it, causing your team to become resentful and reluctant to use it in their everyday work.

Source: Twitter

This disorganization and complexity might be why most employees who took part in a Twitter poll described their internal wiki as a “complete dumpster fire,” the opposite of helpful.

If you want your wiki to make it to the “well-maintained & useful” category, you’ll have to organize it intuitively. Start with dividing all the internal documentation you have created and collected into different collections or categories.

So, instead of posting all of it in the same section, decide how you will divide the content.

Archbee’s internal wiki starts with the employee handbook, divided into subsections describing the more significant points a new hire needs to retain, such as their roles and duties, company information, first day activities, what working for Archbee is like, etc.

Instead of posting everything under the same section, we’ve divided the content in an easy-to-understand way.

Source: Archbee

If you keep this principle for the rest of your internal wiki and use a logical and straightforward content hierarchy, people will find it easy to use. After all, having a clear division simplifies reading and shortens the time spent looking for the right document.

Intuitive organization means placing things exactly where a reader would expect them to be. For example, Trello does an excellent job with their online employee handbook, which lets us see how they organize data on a company level.

Source: Trello

Instead of organizing information by departments, as many companies do, Trello have chosen to cover general topics like the first day, benefits, time off, and travel, among other things.

What’s more, they have made their company handbook public, which means prospective employees and Trello customers can benefit from the document, alongside Trello’s employees.

You risk alienating new hires and outside parties if you opt for the departmental organization of your wiki.

For example, your customer might not know which department your new project falls under, while the new hire might not understand the difference between two similar departments.

By organizing our wiki by major topics, you allow everyone to find data quickly.

Categorize Topics Moderately

Categorization is vital for facilitating navigation around your wiki. However, overdoing it will have your team struggling in a maze of endless subcategories.

Too many options can confuse people and cause them to waste time, so you definitely shouldn’t overdo it. Don’t instantly offer 50+ different topic categories.

Users will need time to even find a general category, let alone a subtopic, so opt for broader categories to reduce the possible options.

IBM Developer, IBM’s Wiki for coders, follows this advice and gives visitors four clear options.

Source: IBM Developer

Visitors can decide whether they want to search through broader topics, explore IBM’s products and services, see different community content, or publicly available code documentation.

Therefore, no one should have a tough time trying to choose the desired area.

When you open an IBM Developer article and look to the right, you’ll see which categories it falls under.

Source: IBM Developer

For example, the article “Using Istio for advanced microservices deployments” is shown under seven categories, including Containers, Microservices, and Node.js.

This means that you’ll find the article under all those categories. It’s more like a tagging system.

A wiki administrator or the person who wrote the article added the tags, allowing visitors of these sections to see the same entry.

At the same time, the wiki legend shows that the article in question is under the scope of four major topics, Technologies, Products & Services, Architectures & Deployment models, and Languages, frameworks, and runtimes.

Source: IBM Developer

Like with categories, these tags mean you can find the article under any of the seven listed topics within specific subtopics.

The categorization is just enough for you to get the needed information and know where to look for what, but it’s not overwhelming. A single article doesn’t contain 50 different tags.

When creating your wiki, think about adding tags so you can make use of your categories and help people find their way around your internal database.

Connect Sections With Crosslinking

If you want to provide additional information to readers, crosslink!

Instead of repeating definitions or giving the same explanations every time you mention a complicated term or even topic, you can simply use an internal link to the content.

You won’t risk clogging your wiki, but you will still provide more information.

For example, Canva does this in their article on resetting passwords in their public knowledge base.

When mentioning that the password has to be eight characters long, the company links an article about how to protect your account, including picking a good password.

Source: Canva

The article explains which passwords are going to be more secure for users. That way, Canva kept the original article to the point but allowed the reader to learn more if they were unfamiliar with the topic.

You should do the same thing with your internal wiki. Some employees might not need this extra information, especially if they’ve been with you for a while.

Instead of cluttering articles with data no one needs, simply link to sections explaining these topics in detail for those who want to learn more.

The most famous wiki, Wikipedia, has, to quote Moz.com, “the strongest natural inbound link profile of any website.”

That makes sense, considering every article you visit includes internal links to other articles on the website which give more details on the topic.

For example, just the introductory section of the “Link building” article contains seven internal links.

Source: Wikipedia

Learn from Wikipedia and try to insert relevant links into your content to help readers get even more information than they would by just reading the original content.

Create Good Navigation

Your corporate wiki needs to be easy to navigate. Otherwise, readers won't get what they came for, and your efforts will be a failed investment.

Anyone who visits it, be it an employee or a customer, should easily understand how to get around your wiki searching for the info they need.

Let’s take IBM Developer as an example again because they also did a great job with navigation.

The site lets you choose between the four different broad categories, one of which is “Topics”, which is also highlighted on their homepage.

The category has six subcategories, including “Technologies”.

Source: IBM Developer

The company shares its knowledge through 25 broad subcategories, each containing more information on techs like AI, IoT, and data science.

Source: IBM Developer

IBM Developer keeps the topics as limited as possible, considering the vast knowledge contained in the wiki. But, they do it for the sake of easier navigation.

You will see additional subcategories on the left when you enter a “technology” section.

Source: IBM Developer

They include tutorials, APIs, articles, podcasts, and different information sources regarding the topic you chose. In other words, the menu narrows your choices down and lets you quickly find what you’re looking for.

IBM Developer could have done this differently and had the main menu let you choose between the type of content you want (podcasts, articles, tutorials, etc.), but this is simply more logical.

You’ll rarely go into research thinking, “I need a podcast.”

You’re more likely to go to a company wiki in need of more information on a topic they are experts in, like Analytics, for example.

The topic keeps narrowing until you reach the necessary information, which is precisely what you need.

When you enter any content types within a subcategory, like AI articles, you’ll see the available content within that category and that type on the right.

Source: IBM Developer

At the same time, the original menu will stay on the left, allowing you to easily navigate to and from the content you are exploring.

If you’ve looked around the wiki, you may have noticed that IBM uses the same format within each subcategory, making it easier for readers to navigate them all.

If you enter any of the topics, you’ll see the same menu on the left side, leading you to the same data type.

Using a template for categories and subcategories will help you create and post internal documentation easier and prevent time-wasting and frustration.

Enable a Search Box

If you’re not able to search for a keyword in your corporate wiki, what is its point?

Think about it—employees won’t find the procedure or instructions they’re looking for if they can’t search the entire space quickly. The same goes for your customers, who will turn to your wiki for troubleshooting and FAQ.

No matter how polished and entertaining your wiki is, not everyone has time to waste. Matt Boyd, a solution architect, says you shouldn’t put that much effort into making your wiki look fancy.

Source: Twitter

Instead, spend that time and energy making your wiki searchable and easy to navigate. Good content organization and navigation will help steer people in the right direction, but that’s true only if they know where they’re going.

When someone logs into your wiki and wants to see what articles you offer on a new project you’re doing, they should be able to use a search bar and look the project up by its name.

This is a feature that beautifully complements the navigation and categorization functions we mentioned in the previous sections.

If you use software that lets you manage your knowledge, you’ll want to ensure it has a good search option. After all, it’s what makes your wiki helpful to readers.

Source: Archbee

The software should offer the reader different options based on their search, including articles, categories, or comments. Based on the entered keyword, the first result should be the best match.

Capiche, for example, lets you search for a keyword in a pop-up window. We looked up the term “api” and got a couple of good hits.

Source: Capiche

When you type the keyword, the site offers different results, starting from products, i.e., software that deals with that keyword.

Then, you’ll see questions asked by community members, essays written by staff or the community, and finally, users who have the term in their bio.

At Archbee, we go further with our search option and offer search analytics.

The analytics option allows you to see who has looked up what using the search bar.

You’ll get information on what your team or customers are looking for, how often readers used a keyword, and how many matching documents the software found.

Source: Archbee

In the image above, you can see that Archbee search analytics show there were no documents found for the keywords “download”, “Import”, and “tags”. This means that the admins should add more content with these keywords, preferably giving more information on how to use these options.

This feature will do wonders for your wiki content, especially if you’re just starting and aren’t sure what content is more problematic for your team and users.

Even if you’ve had a wiki for a long time, you might be missing some information.

The search analytics option will show you what you need to add to help your team and customers.

Conclusion

A good wiki should be highly informative, but you already know that.

Now it’s time to make it easy to search through and navigate. You can do that by using software with great search options and making sure you divide your content into logical sections, create subsections, and crosslink.

The content itself should be pretty intuitive—it should be clear where your readers should look for the data they need.

Once you manage to do all of this, you can sit back and let the wiki do the rest for you and your business.