Friday, January 19, 2007

Wiki your web and intranet guidelines

Those of us that develop or promote web or intranet content and development guidelines within our organisation walk a fine line between help and dictatorship.

If you work in a large federated environment like I do (University) it isn't even possible to force people to follow guidelines and it comes down to advocacy and encouragement and making sure the guidelines meet the expectations of those that may use them.

Being seen as a dictator or 'style nazi' is never a good thing.

If you've read previous posts of mine you'll see I'm a big fan of providing good solid guidelines to support best web and intranet best practice in areas such as content, accessibility, usability and front-end coding.

The whole social media and collaboration revolution currently occurring (some useful functionality to organisations some not) has risen the expectations of interacting with users and users being able to openly comment and instigate change when necessary.

My organisation is currently in the process of redeveloping web guidelines into a firmer policy framework to be made up of various areas including stand alone content and accessibility and usability guidelines.

The process we have taken for the development of new guidelines has been to reverse the standard practice from developing them (or getting an external agency to develop them), and then enforcing, to getting the users of the guidelines to determine what is appropriate and what is not (but keeping some top level editorial and management approval).

The process:

  1. Develop base framework for guidelines
  2. Meet with key stakeholders to introduce the standards and the reasoning behind them
  3. Post guidelines into a wiki accessible by all interested parties and potentially the entire organisation
  4. Monitor changes to wiki version
  5. Post initial 'official' version on the intranet based on appropriate material from the wiki
  6. Continue to monitor wiki changes and update official version when appropriate
    changes occur

While I have seen and heard of guidelines remaining in the wiki format I'm not convinced that wikis should be replaced more formal intranet publishing for these areas.

There are several reasons including the lack of consistency of language in a wiki, the possibility that user changes are not ideal for the organisation or meeting the expectation of a professional web/intranet environment and even becoming stuck with competing interests rewriting each others input (yes even in a professional environment).

The wiki is great for collecting a variety of ideas and input from across an organisation but because of the potential problems I still the need for a formal approved version published on the intranet. This may change depending as the maturity of wiki use, and the understanding of how users interact with wikis within an organisation, grows.

Both the wiki and intranet versions should be linked and the relationship explained to users.

So the positives of 'wiking' your web and intranet guidelines:

  1. Raises the level of engagement through the intranet
  2. Identifies hidden pockets of knowledge within the organisation
  3. Develops an innovative way to collect opinion and input on a variety of subjects (people like something new especially if it related to them)
  4. Provides a bottom -up approach for the further development of your website or intranet and other online environments.
It's just early days and at this stage because it the first time outside of dedicated IT teams that have been engaged to use the wiki there hasn't been too changes (which may also mean the initial guidelines are quite acceptable) but as we move to promote the use of the wiki in a variety of situations, and make others aware of the possibilities, I see the use of the wiki increasing across a multitude of areas of my organisation.

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At 1:01 PM, Blogger Comfy said...

This is an inspired idea Nick. Using a wiki to multi-author content, that is then made "official" later. Like it.

At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nick,

This is a great idea, Just wondered if you have a wiki inhouse or whether you can recommend something.

I am sort of familiar with how they work but have never really set anything up like that before.


Tracey, NRC


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