When you’re seeking out information on a topic online and you head to Google, in most cases the top result you see will be from Wikipedia. The massive Wiki has become the go-to source for knowledge of all types online.
But Wikipedia is just one example of a larger category of websites: wikis. What are wikis, and how can you host one of your own? We explain everything you need to know about wiki hosting plans below.
What Is a Wiki?
A wiki is a popular type of website that enables open collaboration from users. The main thing that sets it apart from other websites is that anyone with an interest in the topic at hand and relevant knowledge can go in and add or change information on the page.
In addition, the structure of wikis centers interlinking between related topics. This both encourages visitors of one page to move to related pages to gain additional knowledge, while also making it easier for people to learn contextual information that improves their understanding of the topic at hand.
As many fans of Wikipedia, the most dominant of all online wikis, are well aware, the wiki format can inspire meandering and varied—but fruitful—explorations of knowledge. There’s even a term for this kind of exploratory knowledge gathering: the wiki rabbit hole, likening the experience to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland moving from one interesting experience to the next.
Wikis are therefore great tools for sharing, organizing, and gaining knowledge through many types of resources. And for learning from the minds of many who can bring a diversity of experiences and knowledge to the format.
Why Should You Start a Wiki?
If you’re at the stage of trying to decide what kind of website to start, you should know that a wiki isn’t right for all possible websites.
For example, if you’re building a business website, you want to keep control over what information goes on each page. And while providing helpful information may be part of your business website strategy, it wouldn’t be the central focus—getting people to buy your products or services is.
Wikis aren’t for every use case, but for the particular situations where they do make sense, they can be a great choice. If you want a website that matches these four main attributes, then a wiki may be for you.
1. Wikis are collaborative.
This could potentially be the main benefit or the biggest reason not to start a wiki, depending on the type of website you’re building. Whether you want strangers who share your passion to be able to add their knowledge of the subject your website is centered on, or if you want to allow employees or colleagues to weigh in on the business information provided, a wiki allows for that.
If a colleague has a great idea for improving one of the business processes you describe on a wiki page, they can chime in in a format where everyone can see their contribution and build upon it. Or if a visitor that shares your love of your favorite TV show or author remembers a key point not initially included on a character’s page, they can add it to make the description more thorough.
If your goal is a site that collects as much relevant knowledge as possible from multiple sources, then a wiki makes a lot of sense.
2. Wikis enable wide accessibility.
A wiki can be easily accessed by anyone with internet access on any device they have.
For businesses or organizations that want a centralized location where everyone can access all the company’s important information, a wiki provides that benefit. You can keep all your documentation, including the comments and responses other people have shared, in one place where anyone can get to it at the moment they need it.
Wiki platforms provide accessibility both in terms of making it possible for everyone relevant to weigh in on the topics covered, and when it comes to where and how people can view the information included.
3. Wikis are an intuitive way to collect and organize information.
Part of the success of sites like Wikipedia is that they organize information in a way that makes it easy to get the exact information you’re looking for. Wikis break information up into individual pages that each have a clear focus.
Instead of packing all the information about a TV show into one page, for instance, you have separate pages about each character, each episode, each actor, and each of the main themes in the show.
While the information is divided into one page for each topic, the related pages are also interlinked to make it easy to find additional relevant information as you go. As an example, if a character’s page mentions that they’ve married another character, it would include links to the spouse’s character page and the episode the marriage happens in.
All of this makes it easy for anyone visiting the wiki to quickly find answers to the particular question they have, and any related information they decide to seek out as well.
4. Wikis are easy to set up.
With the available wiki software, building out a wiki from scratch is fairly easy and intuitive, even for someone new to the whole process. And installing the wiki software on your web server is simple if you choose a Wiki hosting plan (more on that in a bit). You will want to spend a little time planning out the kind of information you want your wiki to cover and how to organize it, but getting a wiki up and available to other users isn’t all that hard.
6 Main Types of Wiki Software
Once you’ve decided to create a wiki for your website, you have two main choices to make: which wiki software to go with, and which wiki web hosting to choose.
For the first question, you have a number of different options. These are the most popular wiki software solutions to consider.
MediaWiki is the most popular and well known of the wiki software options, as it’s the software behind Wikipedia. It’s a free and open source software that’s powerful enough to host a wiki of virtually any size. It’s relatively easy to use and extremely scalable, with hundreds of configurations and extensions available.
Mediawiki is best for wikis that you intend to make publically available to anyone interested. It doesn’t provide good features for restricting access to a particular group of people.
If you’re building a wiki for business purposes or to enable collaboration between members of a specific organization and you want your wiki to have a level of privacy, then Mediawiki probably isn’t the best choice for you. For any publically available wikis though, it’s a popular choice.
Tiki is another open source, free wiki software that’s been downloaded over a million times. It’s primarily developed for businesses to help enable collaboration between employees and departments.
Tiki’s wiki features make it possible to create and edit a virtually unlimited number of pages, but unlike MediaWiki, it lets the wiki creator set permissions for specific pages and lock pages to keep others from editing. It also tracks the version history for each page and allows you to restore a page to a past version.
For businesses or organizations wanting a wiki they can control access to, Tiki is a good choice.
PmWiki is another popular wiki software that provides useful features for businesses, while remaining free to use. It’s a fairly basic version of wiki software, providing the most essential functions you need for a business wiki.
You can easily change the appearance of your PmWiki site using skins—either ones you design yourself, or pre-made options that are available. As with Tiki, PmWiki lets you control which users have editing access to specific pages of your wiki site using password protection.
If you’re looking for a good software to build a simple business wiki, PmWiki is a solid option.
WikkaWiki is a lightweight wiki software that provides similar functionality to many of the other wiki engines mentioned on this list.
WikkaWiki makes editing wiki pages simple for a variety of users, and like the other business-friendly wiki options, allows the wiki creator and administrators to control which users have access to specific pages both for viewing and editing. It also allows you to track and view a page’s revision history and restore prior versions as needed.
Dokuwiki is a free and open source wiki software that boasts a simple design. The core features are basic and intuitive, but the software is also extensively customizable using available configurations and plugins. Dokuwiki is a popular choice for business use cases, including collaborative corporate workspaces and project management.
As with many of the other options, Dokuwiki has access control features that allow wiki creators to limit who can view and edit particular pages, as well as specific sections of pages. And they provide revision tracking and management.
Matterwiki is a simple, easy-to-use wiki software made specifically for small businesses. All wiki articles are stored under a specific topic for intuitive organization. The software also tracks revisions, as well as who made each change.
The editor is easy for employees at all levels of knowledge to use, so for small teams that want a simple interface for their wiki, Matterwiki is a good option to consider.
What are Wiki Hosting Services?
Wiki hosting is any web hosting plan that has the specific features and compatibility to work with wiki software. All websites need web hosting in order to be published to the web and accessible to visitors, and there are a wide range of web hosting options available when it comes to choosing a plan for your website.
Application web hosting plans are specifically designed to work effectively with the particular type of application you used to build or run on your website. Wiki hosting is a type of application web hosting that promises support for wiki websites, whatever type of wiki software you choose to go with.
What to Look for in a Wiki Hosting Plan
If you’ve picked out your wiki software and are ready to choose a wiki hosting plan to launch your website, there are a few specific features to look out for:
One of the benefits of going with wiki hosting services, rather than a more general web hosting plan is that adding your wiki software to your web hosting account will be a breeze. Look for wiki hosting plans that provide one-click installation for your wiki software.
Most wiki hosting plans should work with any of the top wiki software options, but to be safe, check and make sure that the web hosting plan you consider works with the specific wiki software you’ve selected. HostGator wiki hosting supports many of the wikis we mentioned above, including MediaWiki hosting, Tiki hosting, PmWiki hosting, and WikkaWiki hosting
This is especially important if your wiki will be publically available on the entire web, but also matters for private business wikis as well. Bandwidth will affect how much information (especially media and images) you can include on your wiki, and how many visitors the wiki can handle. If you expect a lot of people to access and use your wiki, then select a web hosting plan that can handle a lot of traffic.
Whether your wiki will be for the broader public or just for a select few, you want it to be reliably accessible. Uptime is the term that describes how much time a web hosting provider keeps its websites up and available. The best web hosting companies promise at least 99% uptime, but a select few go further and offer 99.9% uptime with a money-back guarantee.
While building a wiki is relatively easy, with any type of website there’s always the chance you’ll face occasional technical snafus or issues you need help with. Find a wiki hosting company that provides 24/7 customer support so you can always trust there will be help available at the moment you need it.
Find the Right Wiki Hosting Plan for You
Building a wiki can offer a range of great benefits. It helps you connect and collaborate with other people, and enables a number of people to build upon each other’s knowledge.
Whether your wiki provides information about a hobby or piece of culture you love, or helps your company manage projects and organize documents more effectively, it’s the right tool for a number of jobs.
To make sure your wiki site is available to everyone that needs it, reliably and consistently, make sure you choose a wiki hosting plan that’s up to the task.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.