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Wiki vs knowledge base compared: which is right for me?
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Wiki vs knowledge base compared: which is right for me?

A headshot of Elaine Keep
Elaine Keep
13th March, 2024
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A headshot of Elaine Keep
Elaine Keep
13th March, 2024
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What is a wiki?
What is a knowledge base?
What is the difference between a knowledge base and a wiki?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Wiki or knowledge base: What's right for you?
In summary: When to use a wiki
In summary: When to use a knowledge base
Want to get started with knowledge sharing?

We discuss the benefits and drawbacks of wikis and knowledge bases to help you make the right choice for your team.

We live in an information-rich world and, nowadays, organising and sharing this intelligence is one of our biggest challenges.

A wiki or a knowledge base could be the answer to getting internal teams and customers the critical information they need, when they need it. But what is a knowledge base and what is a wiki? We’re here to provide some much-needed clarity and help you discover which is right for you.

What is a wiki?

First up, a wiki is a website or online space that can be edited by anyone with access, meaning people can work collaboratively to create an encyclopedia of knowledge on a topic with a history log to show what’s been changed and who made the changes. You can use one to add everything related to your business, from articles, employee handbooks, guides and big ideas, and allow employees to add suggestions, plans, documents, and resources.

What is a knowledge base?

A knowledge base is an online repository of authoritative and curated information about a product or service that can be accessed by internal teams or external users such as customers or prospects. Sometimes referred to as a library or help centre, it’s a place to find definitive answers in the form of video, text, image, or audio-based information.

A knowledge base might contain guides, instructions, and training resources such as FAQs, glossaries, how-to guides and tutorials, release notes, bug fixes, feature enhancements, product updates, case studies, news, and code and technical specifications.

Learn more: How to create a knowledge base.

What is the difference between a knowledge base and a wiki?

While wikis allow multiple contributors to create content freely without centralised control, a knowledge base is authoritative, curated, and managed. It is made thanks to dedicated content producers who offer reliability and organisation.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

There are benefits and drawbacks to both wikis and knowledge bases, and one might be more suitable for your needs than the other. If you want to quickly understand which solution is right for you, scroll down.


Advantages of a wiki

  • Simple to learn: A wiki’s simple 'edit and save' functionality allows users to add information without getting bogged down in formatting details.

  • Collaborative: One of the main advantages of a wiki is that it is not controlled and, therefore, does not need to be managed and updated by one person or team. If you need some control, wikis can be 'semi-protected' or fully protected, where only certain people can access change pages.

  • Keeps users connected: Because a wiki can be edited, employees who work together on wiki pages and topics can learn from each other and connect.

  • Provides rich information: Many people can collaborate to share their learnings, opinions, and supporting information, making the results richer and potentially more useful.

  • Responsive: As the workload is spread, changes are made fast.

  • Version history: A tracked history means information is preserved, and changes can be undone if required.

Disadvantages of a wiki

  • Potentially unreliable: Because a wiki is collaborative, it can not always be trusted as a resource. Anyone with access can edit the content, meaning false or unhelpful information can be added through foul play or misunderstanding.

  • Can be seen as untrustworthy: While editors can reference sources, users may not have confidence that the information is legitimate.

  • Not always created with end users in mind: All customers or prospects may not understand a wiki. Jargon and technical terms may be included without further explanation.

  • Reverting changes is complicated: While a rollback feature allows changes to be corrected or reversed, this requires a central authority. Depending on the volume of changes, this could be a considerably time-consuming job.

  • Confusing to navigate: A wiki can be really hard to navigate, and some topics may not have enough coverage.

Advantages of a knowledge base

  • Easily accessible: Documentation can be accessed with ease for customers and employees. According to Forrester, about 70% of consumers prefer the self-service option to resolve issues rather than calling or sending an email, so providing this information is vital.

  • Reduces wastage: A knowledge base may improve many business areas and decrease service costs. A knowledge base can reduce the support and account manager workload. With fast, easy access to information, customers are less likely to contact support or account managers. At the same time, employees don't waste time looking for information, enhancing productivity.

  • Encourages sales: Users can also find answers. If someone is considering your service or product, content in a knowledge base may help them gather information that leads to a sale.

  • Improves knowledge retention: If employee churn is an issue in your business, a knowledge base can help you save and document relevant information before key employees leave the business.

  • Provides faster support: Support time can be reduced by making the first port of call to check the knowledge base.

  • Improves employee onboarding: When employees join your business, they too can get up to speed faster by exploring the knowledge base as part of their onboarding journey and accessing all the documentation in one place.

Disadvantages of a knowledge base

  • May be overwhelming: Because there is so much information, a knowledge base can be extensive and consequently overwhelming, with hundreds of videos, documents, and images. By creating a knowledge base in the right way, this can be avoided.

  • Must be constantly maintained: It requires ongoing maintenance, pruning, checking, and updating to ensure each item performs as intended, which requires dedication to making systematic updates.

  • Requires planning and organisation: The knowledge base may need to be divided into a customer-facing knowledge base and an internal one, as some items may not be suitable for external viewing.

  • Users may need training: Getting information by asking someone is more straightforward than reading or absorbing documentation. As such, users must be trained to use the knowledge base in the first instance.

  • Regular assessment needed: Analytics and reporting must also be undertaken to ensure that maintaining the knowledge base delivers an ROI.

Wiki or knowledge base: What's right for you?

The choice of whether to implement a wiki or a knowledge base depends on the goals of your business. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you need the speed of a wiki for fast updates, or would you prefer consistent, branded, and rich content from a knowledge base?

  • Would you prefer to risk having collaborative content that may not be quite right with less effort or knowing that your information is always perfect but that means you must dedicate time and resources to this?

  • Does the way users will work with your system or product change often? Do they need to share code changes, hacks, or tops? If so, a wiki may help them.

  • Have you had issues with inconsistent communication before? A knowledge base may be helpful.

  • Do you have an extensive network of people invested in your business as a community? If your customers are more like fans, you should allow the freedom of an open wiki rather than the strict approach of a knowledge base.

  • Do you have lots of resources, or plan to use your resources wisely? If you have guides, videos, and extra information, putting it to work as a knowledge base may be a smart choice.

In summary: When to use a wiki

It's best to use a wiki when fostering collaboration is crucial to your projects. Do you have to spend a lot of time brainstorming ideas, planning, or capturing spontaneous insights? A wiki is suitable for dynamic content creation with many contributors and could make this process even more engaging.

Before you take this step, evaluate who in your company needs to view and author content, and where that content needs to be exposed. A knowledge base with the ability to edit documents could be a useful method as opposed to a wiki that may be hard to migrate later.

In summary: When to use a knowledge base

We suggest employing a knowledge base for sharing authoritative information, such as product documentation, technical information, and sales-focused content, where accuracy and reliability are paramount. You will need a dedicated team or individual to manage the content and will be confident that the loss of speed compared to a wiki is worth it for the richer experience available with a knowledge base.

Want to get started with knowledge sharing?

Confluence is perfect for teams looking to make collaboration effortless. A Confluence knowledge base features include real-time editing, a single source of truth of organisational information, and a powerful search engine, which makes it easy for users to find what they're looking for.

Apps that help you do more in Confluence

Minimise context switching by making your Confluence setup more powerful. How much time could you save?
Written by
A headshot of Elaine Keep
Elaine Keep
Content Writer
Elaine has established herself as a respected authority in the HR industry and uses her experience gained as the head of marketing in the employee rewards and recognition software sector to inform her reporting.
Knowledge Management
Work Management