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... only if the rank and file users are pretty tech savvy!

This week my colleagues and I have been experimenting with Wiki's to find one that we could use in an initiative to capture the corporate memory.

What we discovered was that most Wiki's have a pretty low level of intuitions at key points. For example inserting images, creating simply hierarchal structures and simple navigation.

Now I appreciate that many have a reasonable text editors so users don't have to use tags but this just seems to highlight my next point, there's isn't much that distinguishes one Wiki from another currently, most have very similar strengths and weaknesses.

I was even surprised by the Wiki offerings from Microsoft and IBM as they are not at the same level of intuition as main user products such as Office and Lotus Notes 8. This I found surprising as technologies such as AJAX and Silverlight are raising the level of richness for web-based UI's to a much higher level.  Clearly there is still some work to do in these areas but for now I still would find it difficult to recommend the use of Wiki's internally as a widely available tool for business. Which is a shame because the promise is exciting, the benefits are huge just the execution is poor.

I would recommend that Wiki designers look very closely at the end-to-end experience and get target users with little to average computer experience to use them, perhaps even look at some of the work from Alan Cooper on interactive design.

I know that Wiki's are rarely used in isolation but with a whole raft of other collaboration tools but still Wiki's are design to be used right? It is key that they are updated by the right people not just read. This is the difference between Enterprise Wiki's requirement over say something like Wikipedia, as much of the knowledge on a page is going to only be seen by a very specific target group and if it's difficult for them to update it, they won't and credibility of the tool will suffer.

But Wiki's are not the only area in my opinion where users interface intuition level are low, have you used web-based email or social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace recently? I suspect many tolerate them because the service they offer overrides the pain of having to use it.

Anyway, I really don't mind being proven wrong so if anyone would like to direct me to a cool UI'ed Wiki then I would be most interested and feedback here.

Posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2007 4:33 PM | Back to top


Comments on this post: Are Wiki's ready for the Enterprise?

# re: Are Wiki's ready for the Enterprise?
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Thank you for this article. I happen to agree with your point about usability. Also, most wiki's on the market today are very similar with much of the focus on the editor. WYSIWYG is very important but the usability of the rest of the wiki is also critical for adoption in the enterprise. I am part of a company that develops an enterprise wiki which has the features and functions you would expect but we also focus on customizing the look and feel to meet specific needs in the enterprise. We call it 'Tailor Made Software' because our platform allows the creation of 'Micro Apps' or small situational applications tailor made for each of our customers. We found success in this approach because we are able to reduce the learning curve by making the wiki application fit a specific business need.
Left by Andrew Hairetis on Nov 21, 2007 12:37 PM

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