Wiki or Online Help
Wiki vs Online Help. Which is Right For You?
Are you wondering whether a wiki is right for you? Are you unsure about the difference between online help and wikis? I’m not surprised – they are very similar in lots of ways. But the differences could be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing the right solution for your business.
Here, I’m going to look at the key things wikis and online help tools have in common, and then I’ll go over some of the differences. Hopefully, it will help you make a decision.
What Do Wikis and Online Help Have in Common?
Let’s start by looking at what wikis and online help have in common:
- They are a collection of web pages
- They provide informative content (usually)
- They use links to guide readers to related information
- They can include media, such as video clips, images, etc.
- They have a search feature to help users find information.
And How Do They Differ?
What are the main differences between a wiki authoring tool, such as Confluence, and online help tools like Flare and Paligo?
- Wikis are designed for collaboration. The pages can be edited on the fly, and the changes usually take effect immediately.
- It is more likely that non-writers will contribute to wiki content, so there are usually less features and they are simpler. A WYSIWYG editor is often all that is available.
- Wiki pages tend to be longer than topics in online help systems.
- May require plug-ins to provide certain features.
- Design of output can be limited without plug-ins.
- Print output can be basic.
- Wiki CMSs like Confluence have built-in version control and can connect to JIRA.
- Online help is usually created and then published as a finished product. Its content does not change until the next release of the documentation.
- Online help is usually written by technical writers.
- Help authoring tools often have a wider range of advanced writing features. These go way beyond a WYSIWYG editor and allow authors to reuse content more effectively (saving time and money).
- Online help tools usually have a wealth of built-in features and don’t require additional plug-ins.
- Single sourcing. Many help tools can create stylish PDFs, online help, and other outputs.
- Most help authoring tools don’t have version control built-in. Flare has a sister product called Central. Paligo, however, is a full CCMS, and so does have version-control, user permissions etc.
Which is Right for Your Business?
The key things you need to consider are:
- Who is going to write your content?
If you’re using experienced technical writers, there are benefits to using a help authoring tool, as the more advanced features are usually provided out-of-the-box. Tech writers will know how to use the advanced features to save time and money.
But if you are expecting engineers, developers, and others to contribute to the content, you’re probably better off using a wiki, with a simple editor. However, just to throw a spanner in the mix – Paligo, the online CMS authoring tool, now supports markup, so that makes it easier for non-tech writers to write content too.
- Cost. How much is it going to cost you to buy the product licences? Will you need to buy additional plug-ins (often the case with wikis)? You should also think about the cost of updating the content. If the wiki only has a basic text editor, writers will need to copy and paste content when it needs to be reused. That’s fine, but it takes longer. And when it comes to updating that content, it will need a lot of manual work rather than the ‘one change is applied everywhere’ approach that’s possible with many help tools.
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- Who is going to write your content?
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