How can a wiki be made more user-friendly?

27 Jul 2010 - 10:40am
4 years ago
3 replies
877 reads
Elizabeth P
2007

Has anyone done a heuristic or usability tests on a wiki?

I am working on a study now to identify areas for improvement.

I am using standard usability heuristics, with a few more points of my own choosing to add more to the web 2.0 aspect.

A few things that keep cropping up are:

  • Wikis have their own standards ("main page" instead of "home" and tabs for actions instead of links, I've no idea why), but these, I believe would be barriers to non-wiki users (the target user in my case is not necessarily familiar with collaborative websites).
  • Another problem is the generic "edit": sometimes there's too much distance between the target and the link, so here maybe it's best to use more explicit text even if it looks messier, e.g. "Edit page", "Edit title", "Edit description".
  • Also, some mix the language used, for example: "Page" (noun), "Discussion" (noun), "View history" (imperative), instead of all nouns or all imperatives e.g.  "View page", "Discuss page", "View history" etc.

 

I'm also including ideas about motivation and engagement, the kind of thing Joshua Porter describes in  his book on designing for long-term partipation, though this is more content-related.

Should anyone have any other "wiki heuristics" or thoughts, I'd be interested in hearing them.

Regards,

Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

Comments

27 Jul 2010 - 6:05pm
Mathew Sanders
2009

Naoko Komura works with improving usability of the Wikimedia product (which runs Wikipedia etc.) you can view a project wiki here: http://usability.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page some recent usability evaluations uncovered some of the themes you've mentioned, and as I understand Naoko's team is making improvements to Wikipedia as fast as resources allow. 
After the 2009 Wikimania conference I did a quick redesign of the main article template that looked at some minor changes to the surface layer: http://mathewsanders.com/touchpoints/redesigning-wikipedia-1/ 
The interesting thing about wiki usability is the diverse range of behaviors and engagement between the people who use them, for example people might just be casual viewers (who may not even be aware that they can contribute to editing) to first time contributers, to more experienced editors. 
The mark up language will always be a barrier to people who are less technically confident, and for larger more established wikis (like Wikipedia) there are barriers around understanding what can be quite complex processes and policies that may be in place around the addition or change of content. 

From my observations of wikis used for internal team documentation and collaboration I've noticed a problem around people not being sure how to start or to consistently structure content - with a desire to have a complete entry rather than create smaller 'stubs'. And also the culture of ownership (for example last week I saw an email from a staff member to the last editor of a wiki page pointing out a spelling mistake instead of changing it themselves.)   

On 28 July 2010 07:27, Elizabeth P wrote:
Has anyone done a heuristic or usability tests on a wiki?

I am working on a study now to identify areas for improvement.

I am using standard usability heuristics, with a few more points of my own choosing to add more to the web 2.0 aspect.

A few things that keep cropping up are:

* *Wikis have their own standards *("main page" instead of "home" and tabs
 for actions instead of links, I've no idea why), but these, I believe
 would be barriers to non-wiki users (the target user in my case is not
 necessarily familiar with collaborative websites).
* Another problem is the *generic "edit"*: sometimes there's too much
 distance between the target and the link, so here maybe it's best to use
 more explicit text even if it looks messier, e.g. "Edit page", "Edit
 title", "Edit description".
* Also, some *mix the language* used, for example: "Page" (noun),
 "Discussion" (noun), "View history" (imperative), instead of all nouns or
 all imperatives e.g.  "View page", "Discuss page", "View history" etc.

 

I'm also including ideas about motivation and engagement, the kind of thing Joshua Porter describes in  his book on designing for long-term partipation, though this is more content-related.

Should anyone have any other "wiki heuristics" or thoughts, I'd be interested in hearing them.

Regards,

Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

(((Please leave all content below th
28 Jul 2010 - 8:12am
Dimiter Simov
2006

You may want to consider WYSIWYG availability.

I am working on a project in which we are using TWiki to keep track of requirements. Many of my colleagues refuse to write because they cannot learn the syntax.

(As a matter of fact, one of the reasons we chose TWiki was its WYSIWYG editor. Unfortunately, it does not work.)

1 Aug 2010 - 5:31pm
Elizabeth P
2007

Thanks for that guys. Love the prototypes, Matthew.

The structuring of content does get messy and confusing, it's true.

The wysiwyg editor I think is absolutely necessary, in part to help with the structuring, but also to reduce the fear of editing and crossing into the unknown. An editor that looks like a new email page, something the user is familiar with, really helps bridge the gap.

Will be interesting to see how wikipedia evolves!

 

 

 

 

 

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