What Makes a Good Wiki Page?

Groups large and small use Wikis to capture and share knowledge. As you read page after page of a Wiki, you notice that some pages are good, but others not so much. What traits distinguish a good Wiki page from its mediocre cousins? Here are the four key factors that make a Wiki page good.

A good Wiki page:

  1. Focuses on one idea,
  2. Provides context for all outgoing links and attachments,
  3. Uses attachments wisely, and is
  4. Short (500 to 1,000 words).

1. Focus the page on one idea only. Help your reader quickly realize that they are looking at the right page by focusing the page on a well identified topic, subject, or idea. For all the ideas that lay outside of its focus use references to other pages. This will help provide additional material to your readers and will clearly delineate the boundaries of your page.

2. Provide context in the body of the page for all outgoing links and attachments. Weave your content together into a coherent whole with links in context. See my previous post on why a good Wiki tells a story. You need to weave your pages together by providing a context for each outgoing link. The context doesn’t have to be much: a half sentence describing where your link is going, a short paragraph describing the attachment, or a heading for a list of links.

While it easy to quickly create additional pages (sometimes also known as child-pages, or sub-pages) without the link in context, they are not very helpful, and often are difficult to find. Your readers need to know in what order to look at the other pages, or why should they look at those pages. You must provide the necessary guidance by explaining the reasons for any link, and creating a context for them as well. The context will aid searching, and more-importantly, finding, your pages, too.

3. Use attachments wisely, that is: sparingly. When you have a plain text, or rich text document, you need to import that document as a Wiki page. Do not turn the document into an attachment. Just one extra step between your readers and the knowledge they seek may stop them from looking.

Most Wikis still have trouble indexing attachments. Some attachments, notably pictures, drawings don’t lend themselves to easy indexing, therefore if you want to find an attachment, you’ll have to find it based on the context of the page that it is attached to.

4. Keep the page short (500 to 1,000 words). Your readers access the Wiki pages on the screen. Make it easy on them. Short pages help the reader see the entire page at once, or bookmark just the right information for later reference.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Here are some good Wiki pages from Wikipedia:

  1. Atomic Commit: Concise, to the point, with links in context and focused.
  2. Two-Phase Commit Protocol: Not short, however kept focused on the topic, with links in context for further information. If the subject demands, you can go longer, just keep in mind that you might loose your reader…

Help your team by writing outstanding Wiki pages! Your team will thank you for them.