Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sharepoint: The wiki that isn't

Earlier this week, I tweeted that I figured out what bugged me about the wiki in sharepoint: its not a wiki. This brought me a few (quite polite) please explains from the sharepoint community. I quickly highlighted a couple, but since 160 characters isn't really enough for detailed feedback, I thought I'd write a few of the observations down.

1. Creating a new page

Seriously, how hard is it in SP? Every other wiki I've used has a button, command, or other method to create a new page straight off the bat. Not so here. The simplest method - forward linking - is mentioned but not explained on the opening page - you have to follow to the "How to use this wiki" page to find out what this is. Even then, to use this method, you have to edit one of the initial help pages to add a forward link to it. Most first time users (myself included) would hesitate to edit the help pages as the first activity in a new wiki. What if you screw up and delete the help? So thumbs down here.

The other method - the one I would say is the most needed - would be to click on the button/link/widget that says "New page" or "New" or some variation therein. That was my first action - or at least my first attempt at action. because, I couldn't find the new button anywhere - and felt pretty stupid in the process. It turned out I wasn't so stupid, the option to create a blank page from scratch doesn't exist when you enter the wiki. You've got to go to a list view of pages within the wiki - and you've got to know how to get to this view, because there's no magic label that says "List all pages in the wiki and create new ones". Instead, that option is listed under the somewhat obscure title "View all site content". If you're not familiar with the idea that your sharepoint wiki is a seperate (sub)site - and I wasn't - then it wouldn't occur to you that this is your magic button.

Now its perfectly reasonable to argue that this would be addressed in training users on how to use sharepoint, and quite true. But if you want to launch a new wiki to new users geographically dispersed in a hurry (which wikis more often than not are), then this isn't really helpful.

No other wiki I've ever used makes it so hard to get started, and certainly I'm not aware of any other wiki that requires user training for everyone before using it. I'm trying to offer the wiki as a sandbox for new users, but it comes across more as 5000 piece airplane model kit - you have to know quite a bit before you can even start. Or you could just use any other wiki on the market.

So, big fail there.

2. Formatting

Another big feature of most other wikis is the ability to apply heading formats consistently and easily. Most of the wikis I've used, for example, let you create a level 1 heading by preceding it with an exclamation mark. 2 exclamations marks is a level 2 heading. Not only doesn't sharepoint recognise this, but it doesn't provide headings at all! You can either:
  1. Apply ordinary formatting (bold, increase font size, etc.)
  2. Edit the HTML and use heading tags
Option 1 provides no consistency, which for a community edited resource is pretty poor - things are going to look ugly and inconsistent pretty quickly. Option 2 just looks ugly when I've tried it, and I think editing the HTML source is probably a bad idea for casual or novice users, and probably anyone else.

So the inability to provide a consistent look and feel for headings is another fail.

Now, there are a number of other flaws, but they're less to do with SharePoint's wiki in comparison to others, and more to do with its wiki implementation in general - such as the way tables are rendered at creation, and not being able to insert an image from your SP library - so I won't cover those off (yet).

1 comment:

  1. You've summed up pretty much what I think of SP Wiki too.