Business News Daily receives compensation from some of the companies listed on this page. Advertising Disclosure
BND Hamburger Icon


BND Logo
Search Icon
Updated Oct 31, 2023

How to Build a Wiki for Your Small Business

author image
Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst

Table of Contents

Open row

Picture this: One of your longtime employees — who has built up a wealth of company knowledge over the years — gives their two weeks’ notice. This raises a totally understandable question: How will you impart all their built-up knowledge to the rest of your team? If you have a company wiki, you never have to ask this question in the first place.

A comprehensive company wiki makes the vast majority of your vital knowledge accessible to your whole team. While there are different approaches to building a wiki, this guide will detail two of the most common routes for setting one up. The first is the easiest method and involves user wikis hosted by third-party services and created with customizable interfaces. The second is an advanced method that may require some web-coding knowledge.

What is a wiki?

A wiki is a website that acts as your company’s foremost source of knowledge. Unlike an internal knowledge base, a wiki, by definition, allows for collaborative editing by a group of users, just like Wikipedia. 

Wikis allow you to assign permissions to different team members who can edit pages or add new content. This way, your business seamlessly gathers and organizes knowledge via numerous contributors instead of going through formal chains of approval. 

You’ll organize your wiki’s pages by categories and subcategories. The trademark feature of a wiki is the quick transition to related pages via hyperlinked keywords.

A wiki is different from an employee handbook. Where a handbook outlines policies, values, contracts, legal considerations and contact information, a wiki adds to all of this with company knowledge and how-tos.

Benefits of a wiki

A wiki can improve your business on several levels. The collaborative nature of a wiki can:

  • Bring the team together. A wiki is a collaborative document by nature. It provides inherent opportunities for team members to work together and get to know and trust each other more. Potential subsequent outcomes include boosted company morale, improved team-building and reduced employee turnover.
  • Lead to more efficient onboarding. Instead of manually guiding new team members through all key processes, you can have them use your wiki for self-guided learning. You’ll save time training new employees on company policies and show that you value your team members’ independence. However, be clear that you’re more than happy to answer questions along the way.
  • Centralize important forms. Team members can access vital written information through your wiki. You can store and grant access to files like onboarding guides, document templates, your PTO policy and I-9 forms.
  • Create a single source of truth. The term “single source of truth,” often abbreviated as SSOT, describes the successful storage of all business data in one location. A wiki is an ideal SSOT; business knowledge experts often speak in favor of SSOT creation.

Building your wiki

Many wiki hosting services have their own interfaces for adding pages, info boxes and links. That said, the process for building your company wiki will look approximately the same no matter which hosting service you use. Here’s a step-by-step rundown on how to build your wiki.

1. Choose between self-hosting your wiki or using a service.

If you don’t have much technical know-how, starting a wiki on a wiki-hosting service is likely the best route. Wiki-hosting services host your wiki on their servers and provide the interface for customizing it. These services are sometimes free; they may also offer a paid premium version that unlocks additional features. A select few services run online ads on your wiki page, but these are for public pages.

Depending on your circumstances, an option that may prove cheaper than a wiki-hosting service is to build and host a wiki on your own server via an online hosting service. This route takes more technical and online coding knowledge but can still be easy and manageable.

2. Add supporting infrastructure (only for self-hosting wikis).

Self-hosting your wiki requires setting up supporting infrastructure. 

  • Server: If you opt to self-host your wiki, you’ll need a server to host it. You can use an onsite server your company already owns or rent online server space. Cloud services like A2 Hosting, HostGator and Bluehost are especially well-suited for running wiki software. Since wikis are typically a series of text web pages, they shouldn’t require much space unless you also want to host bigger file types.
  • Web domain: If you plan to make your wiki accessible to the public or available to your employees from anywhere with an internet connection, you’ll need a web domain. Otherwise, users can only access the wiki from your local network or a VPN
  • Web design and development: Editing your self-hosted wiki can be complicated and may involve some web design skills, depending on your software. As such, you may need to hire a web designer or developer as you build your wiki. In general, the common coding language for wiki software and web design software is CSS. This coding language controls the look and layout of your wiki. Fortunately, you can find many premade CSS templates online. You only need to copy the code and paste it into the appropriate place in your software.
  • Wiki markup: The other code you may need to know is wiki markup, which controls your wiki’s content formatting. You’ll use wiki markup language to change the heading type, font, size and other aspects of your wiki instead of a familiar text formatting toolbar.
FYIDid you know
Many tips for building an effective business website also apply to creating an easily navigable wiki.

3. Compare and contrast potential wiki vendors.

These are some of the more popular wiki hosting services.

  • Wikidot: Wikidot is an enterprise wiki-hosting service with features for crafting wikis and other professional websites. There is a free version for making community-driven wikis and paid premium versions ($49.90 to $239.90) for hosting private wikis for your companies. It features up to 30 pages for your site and storage space for hosting documents and other files you can share across your company.
  • Tettra: Tettra, a wiki-hosting and editing program, is designed for users of all tech experience and comfort levels. Team members can edit the wiki, add pages and share documents companywide. Tettra hosts all your content. This is a paid service with different pricing plans depending on the size of your team, starting at $4 per user per month.
  • Fandom: Fandom is best known for hosting public wikis about pop culture fandoms; however, users can create wikis on any subject in an easy-to-use interface for free. This service does not offer an option to make a private wiki; the service runs ads on sites.

Some popular self-hosting programs are listed below.

  • MediaWiki: MediaWiki is an open-source program used by Wikipedia as well as many businesses. Basic knowledge of PHP script and CSS code may be helpful. Even if you’re unfamiliar with coding, MediaWiki’s website offers detailed instructions on installing it on your server and customizing your wiki. It’s free to download and use.
  • TikiWiki: TikiWiki is a content management system (CMS) with a full suite of website programming features. However, by default, it’s a wiki platform with the essential tools to craft your company’s wiki page. This platform has lots of plug-ins available to add HTML and wiki syntax to power your pages. TikiWiki is open-source and free to download.
  • DokuWiki: DokuWiki is an easy-to-install wiki platform that’s also user-friendly. It has a straightforward interface that makes it easy to assign access priorities to team members. DokuWiki is also open source and free.

Once you’ve taken the time to review every potential wiki platform and decide which one best fits your needs, implement your program of choice. For a wiki service, this entails creating an account and setting up monthly payments. Launching a self-hosted wiki typically involves a quick, free download and installation of a desktop software program.

4. Establish community guidelines, roles and access controls.

Wikis are collaborative projects, and no two team members quite think alike. Community guidelines are thus integral to successfully managing a wiki and getting meaningful information from your people. Create protocols for one user editing another’s contributions and provide a style guide to ensure consistency across all content.

From there, designate specific team members as content curators and give everyone only the editing permissions they need. For example, a standard team member might need only contribution permissions, while curators may need editing permissions. This approach to access control reinforces your community guidelines and reminds your employees which tasks they are and aren’t responsible for within your wiki.

5. Add your content — and keep adding more.

At this point, you’re ready to start building your wiki. Create your first set of pages using clear copy organized into logical sections. Establish a general flow of categories and subcategories for your wiki as you add content. An example flow might be HR / Documents / Employee Handbook. 

In addition to categories, build out content tags that define key silos within the category. For example, within your marketing category, these tags could include social media, marketing automation and CRM. This way, you introduce additional navigation opportunities and content groups for your wiki. 

As you add more content to your wiki, look for opportunities to link to your other pages within your text. This practice is known as internal linking, and it creates clear connections among all the knowledge in your wiki. If your wiki is public, internal linking also boosts your wiki pages’ SEO to make them more visible to anyone searching for them.

A wiki for your thoughts

A wiki is a great collaboration tool to keep employees up to speed on your company’s procedures and rules. It’s a destination to point employees toward for basic information that you can clarify further as needed. It’s also a way to retain your most in-depth knowledge as team members move on to new companies or opportunities. With a well-crafted wiki, your company has the resources it needs to continuously operate and innovate in meaningful, effective ways.

Andreas Rivera contributed to this article.

author image
Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Max Freedman has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
Back to top
Desktop background imageMobile background image
In partnership with BDCBND presents the b. newsletter:

Building Better Businesses

Insights on business strategy and culture, right to your inbox.
Part of the network.