7 steps to create a kick-ass Confluence using Refined

Using Refined for Confluence we demonstrate how gaming company Arctic Rim built and delivered a kick-ass Confluence for their organization.

Beginning with Confluence ‘out-of-the-box’, we go through seven steps to reach a Confluence with organized, engaging and easy to navigate to content. Get comfortable as this blog post is more than the standard two to three minute read. What it lacks in speed it makes up for in quality and contains what I hope to be very useful content for Confluence users. If you don’t have time to read through, I’ve left some ‘Action Points’ after each step. You can also follow the seven steps in more detail by watching our recent webinar.

The seven steps:7-steps-to-build-kick-ass-confluence-from-scratch-refined-theme

What exactly is a kick-ass Confluence?

We asked a bunch of our customers what success looks like for them with regards to Confluence? Two important and related themes came from the responses. The first theme was adoption, with success being when Confluence is adopted by users. The second theme was usefulness, and users considering Confluence a useful platform. With these themes in mind, we set out to build a truly “kick-ass” Confluence, or in other words, a Confluence that would deliver on both high adoption and usefulness.

To demonstrate how to achieve this kick-ass Confluence we used a case study of Arctic Rim, a (fake) gaming company. Their goal was to use Confluence as the single point of collaboration for news, project management, information, and documentation. They went through the following steps to build their Arctic Rim Confluence site using Refined.

And yes the result was kick-ass.

Step 1: Start with the Confluence basics

Start by creating your spaces, and any subsequent pages beneath that. Think of spaces as your topic or project homes. Three common types of spaces include team spaces, project spaces and personal spaces. These are the three types Arctic Rim used to begin their Confluence site. Atlassian’s own team suggest creating ‘parent’ pages within in each space so that users then know which where any new pages will live. This is good practice for keeping Confluence organized, and using our content layout macro Arctic Rim we were able to make these ‘parent pages’ and space homes visually pleasing and easy to navigate from. Arctic Rim also made full use of page templates and page macros including our free app for Confluence pages, UI Toolkit.  content-layout-macro-AR-Branded-Confluence-with-Refined

Action Points Step 1:

  • Team space, project space and personal work spaces are three common space types and good starting points.
  • Designate ‘parent pages’ in your space.
  • Use the content layout macro to make the parent pages engaging and easy to navigate from
  • Use page templates, and explore page macros.

Step 2: Structure, hierarchy and consistency

Assign hierarchy to the content on your spaces. In other words, aim to have the content that is more important to the space users at the top and less important content lower down the page. Customizing the space home side navigation bar is an easy way of achieving this. Arctic Rim used Refined for Confluence to customize the side navigation bar by adding a search bar at the top, your news or any macro they wished to show on the space home side bar. Good practice is to save the custom space layout as a template to replicate on other space homes.


Action Points Step 2:

  • Assign content hierarchy and apply to a space layout.
  • Customize the space layout
  • Save a customized space layout as ‘custom template’

Step 3: Organize Spaces

This is probably the most challenging step as it involves you deciding on a well thought out structure for your Confluence. Refined assists in this regard by giving you a means to organize spaces into categories which sit in a top navigation menu. In addition to that you can also have multiple sites that your categories sit in. The best way to explain this step is to return to our Arctic Rim example to understand how they set their structure.

Arctic Rim began with a bunch of spaces which were spread throughout their Confluence. Some of these spaces fitted together under a category. Below for instance, dev-ops space, development space and systems space, all fitted under the one category they labeled as “IT”.

Arctic Rim also wanted a way of separating content about projects from content about personal work. So they decided to have two sites for this reason. Below you can see the structure for their second site, the project collaboration site.

When combined this was the final structure Arctic Rim chose for their Confluence:

Action Points Step 3:

  • Plan your site structure with spaces organized into categories and categories into sites.
  • If you have spaces that relate to one another create a category for them and place them in that category.
  • Expand your structure to sites with good reason. E.g., team site home for personal and team work, and project site home for projects.
  • Visit site builder information for more help on how you can create your site structure

Step 4: Build Site Navigation

This step involves adding your sites, categories and spaces to the Site Builder. From the site builder the administrator can also manage the themes per site and permissions per site and category. By activating manual category permissions (in configuration) admins can define who can access a site or category. Below is a preview of how Arctic Rim build their site navigation for their Team Site in the Site Builder.

Action Points Step 4:

  • Build the site, category, and space navigation from the site builder.
  • Apply a theme, permissions and additional content from the settings cog in the site builder.

Step 5: Add Context (CI and brand)

This is the fun part. With Refined out-of-the-box your site will  look something like the following:before-add-context-brand-corporate-identity-ci-to-confluence

Use the inbuilt theme editor to change the style and colors of your site. Themes can be applied individually to spaces, categories and sites, or you can keep the same global theme across your site like Arctic Rim.

Arctic Rim chose to work the layout of the site home in with the global theme. Using the layout editor, they added a hero image using the navigation highlight module.add-context-brand-corporate-identity-ci-to-confluence

Action Points Step 5:

  • Use the theme editor to match your corporate identity and build your Confluence site style.
  • Work the hero image (image in block one) in with your theme using the navigation highlight module available in the layout editor.
  • For more UX improvements with RefinedTheme visit our list of 24 UX tips.

Step 6: Content Layout

The next step is to work with the layouts of your landing pages (dashboards) including site homes, category homes and space homes (use the content layout macro for space home landing pages). The content hierarchy we pointed to in step two is equally as important here. Use the layout editor sections and content modules to add exactly the content your users are searching for. A protip is to use the navigation modules for content you wish users to navigate to.

Here is an example of how Arctic Rim built their Confluence site home (dashboard) layout:

Here is an example of how Arctic Rim built their product category home layout:Customize-layout-example-Themed-Confluence-with-Refined

Action Points Step 6:

Step 7: Personalize Confluence

Three easy ways to personalize Confluence are to work with view permissions, start sites and text variables.

View permissions mean you can define who sees what content sections, what categories, and what sites (according to groups or individuals). Arctic Rim created a content section on their Team Site home with a navigation link to each team work space. They applied view permissions to each navigation link (in the layout editor) so that teams only saw the link to their own home.  For example, the IT team saw a “Go to IT Team Home” link, and the marketing team saw a “Go to Marketing Home” link.

Start sites are a means to define which user, or users (according to groups) should begin at that site. For example, the IT team could have a start site set at the team site home, meaning when they login to Confluence they will automatically begin at the team site home.

Text variables are a super simple way of personalizing the text. In the titles of content modules it’s possible to add $username or $categoryname etc, so that the name of the user or category automatically displays. Arctic Rim used “Hi $username. Welcome back.” as their team home personalized headline. personalize-confluence-view-permissions-refined-confluence

Action Points Step 7:

  • Use view permissions to define who can see what content on a site, category and layout content sections
  • Set start sites if you want users to login in and begin at a specific site
  • Use text variables to automate personalized text

With these seven steps under your belt Confluence I hope you see high adoption of Confluence and feedback from your users that Confluence is super useful!