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Using internal wikis for web development projects

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A team web development project is always a complex undertaking. It involves different developers with different levels of experience, different areas of expertise, milestones to accomplish, and timeline to achieve.

To facilitate the sharing of information, it is not always enough to use project management tools like Asana or Jira. Sometimes a wiki may be needed to help spread knowledge and best practices to everyone working on the project.

In this guide, we discuss the practicality of using wiki tools for sharing information between web developers.

What is a Wiki?

A wiki is a program that allows users to collaborate in creating and contributing content to a website. The word comes from “wikiwiki”, which is Hawaiian for “fast”. In other words, a wiki is an application that allows crowdsourced content to create information pages.

In addition to wiki pages, Web 2.0 tools allow users to connect and share information through rich media such as RSS, OpenSocial, and OpenID. Another use for wiki tools is to share creative content such as photography and design concepts. A very easy way to share web pages on the wiki is to add a share icon to the top of the page. Just add the share icon to a wiki page.

Benefits of Wikis

Wikis bring a number of benefits to web development teams, such as:

Knowledge sharing

Since people working on the project have different levels of expertise and experience, the wiki allows subject matter experts to provide information according to their specialization. This valuable knowledge can be accessed by others who need such information and dispels the formation of “information silos” that typically prevent teams from working in isolation from each other.

Searchable

Information stored in a wiki is categorized and organized into hierarchical and logical structures. It allows users to easily search for information based on a topic, area, or category, and learn what they need in an instant. This improves productivity and minimizes the need to chase other colleagues in the search for data.

Single source of truth

By acting as a central repository of information, all data is checked before being integrated into the wiki. This makes the stored information verified and accurate and the wiki acts as the only source of truth for the entire team.

Easy updates

The wiki allows contributors to update information easily and conveniently. Thus, all references are up to date, an essential factor for any web development project.

Wikis and web development

Wikis have the potential to facilitate knowledge sharing with stakeholders as well as disseminate the expertise of a motivated development team, leading to better management and accountability.

Many wikis are publicly funded in different ways. For example, several open-source wikis exist, such as BikiWiki, ObjectiveWiki, GrowWiki and PDFLabs wiki, but we can also see some web-based initiatives in this space. These include Virgil Technology wiki and KnowledgeVerify.

Microsoft’s SharePoint platform is arguably one of the best solutions for online collaboration on web projects. Since SharePoint is integrated with almost all major applications (Windows, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), users can create shared web pages based on SharePoint site templates and share them with their colleagues. While it’s true that SharePoint can’t solve all problems related to sharing and preserving information, it is a great starting point for finding common ground on project development.

The advantage of wikis over other collaborative tools

Although project management tools generally include collaborative functions, they are not as complete as a wiki when it comes to sharing knowledge. The wiki is notable for having the following features that other tools may lack:

Search functionality: Wikis have full search capabilities to make finding information easier. No need to explore tree structures and categorical hierarchies.

Comments: Adding comments to a page is a quick and efficient way to contribute and help others.

Content creation: You can write wiki articles using any text editor, or you can write them using wiki syntax – it largely depends on the platform. The wiki syntax is quite similar to the HTML format. One thing that makes wikis useful is that when you share a wiki page, everyone can see the changes as they are made. So sharing works through a web link instead of having to post to a file.

Wiki markup is a sequence of tags that represent the structure of a page. There are two main types of wikitext; wiki syntax and HTML syntax. The wiki syntax comes from Wikipedia, which is a popular wiki. Both are immediately available to developers, making it easy to create and edit content.

Access control: Since wikis can change based on edits and the number of links added to pages, they use an access control and versioning system.

With its growing range of software options and constant framework decisions, the web development world is always in need of quick and organized information fixes. The fast build and publish options mean that, for a technology nearly 20 years old, wikis can still be a valuable tool for web developers today.