Why Use a Wiki to Deliver Content?
In today’s fast-paced information-based world, content is expensive to develop and maintain, and information about products, services, and processes changes rapidly. More and more, some companies are looking for ways not only to produce traditional content deliverables such as online help systems and PDF files, but also to produce content in a format that can be quickly and easily maintained in real time after it is released. Some companies also want the ability for different groups, such as customers, technical support, and technical sales, that use different content authoring tools, to contribute to efforts that maintain, enhance, and extend product documentation using a simple, universal content authoring tool.
For example, content published in an online help system or in a PDF file may describe how to perform a process at the time a software product releases. However, a few weeks or months later, a user in technical support, a technical sales representative, or a customer may discover an error in the information or identify new information that should accompany the procedure.
In a traditional online help or PDF content delivery model, the change to the procedure would likely not be incorporated into the published documentation set until the next scheduled product release. However, if the content has been published on a Wiki, a user with appropriate permissions can access the page on the Wiki that contains the content using a standard Web browser, quickly edit the page to include other new information about the procedure, and then publish the updated information to users immediately.
ePublisher is the only tool available today that allows content authors to create content with their preferred content authoring tools and deliver the same content in online help systems and PDFs directly to a Wiki. With ePublisher, content that resides in many different content authoring tools and with many different content authors can quickly be generated and deployed to one or more Wikis and shared with users. Users can then use Wiki functionality to comment on the content and edit, enhance, and extend the content.
For example, documentation teams that author in DITA-XML, training teams that author in Adobe FrameMaker, and technical support and product management teams that author in Microsoft Word can all use ePublisher to take their existing source documents and generate and deploy content to a Wiki.
Wiki technology provides the following benefits to content authors:
Content authors, including technical writers, customers, and other technical users, such as users in technical support, product management, or post-sales services, can update incorrect information or add new information just-in-time.
Content authors can easily see updates and additions other content authors and users have made to documentation.
Content authors can use the edits and updates made on Wiki pages to identify changes that should be incorporated back into their source documents and included in future releases.
Wiki technology provides the following benefits to users:
Viewing content on Wiki pages is easy. Users use a standard Web browser to view Wiki pages.
Searching and navigating content on a Wiki is intuitive to most users.
Wiki content can direct users to additional content through the use of hyperlinks.
Some Wikis track the pages users visit and display an interactive “breadcrumb” trail so users can easily return to previously viewed pages as needed.
Users can use a familiar Google-like search and then click on links in the search results to access the page they want.
Adding comments and editing content on a Wiki is easy.
Most Wikis allow users to add comments and edit content by simply clicking on a button and then typing in their comments and edits much like in a regular word processor.
Several Wikis offer What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) formatting and editing controls similar to the controls provided in popular word processing applications. If users do need to use specific Wiki markup language, most are easy to learn, and users can master the basics in minutes.
Deploying your content to a Wiki may be appropriate for you under the following conditions:
Your content changes frequently
Your content authors often learn critical information after content has been published
You do not have enough time to document every concept, procedure, option, and use case before you have to publish your content
You have groups of internal or external users who can contribute additional information that can improve, enhance, or extend the content
You have user communities with practioners (users who use the product in the real world every day) who can contribute their knowledge and share best practices and real-world usage scenarios
Your users are used to searching the web to obtain the most recent information about a product or procedure
You need to reduce content production and deployment bottlenecks and get new and updated content to users faster
You want to reduce or remove departmental boundaries around who can view, edit, and update content
You want a centralized point for collecting changes to content
You want to link the version of your documentation that you ship with a product to a more recent version maintained online and updated in real time