Maggie Modersohn | February 2, 2015

This article is a slightly-modified translation of the Web Publishing mit Confluence post from our friends at Braintime. Tip: read Atlassian Confluence and Web Publishing - Part I first.

Build a Corporate Design with Confluence

As you may know, you can adjust the look and feel of Confluence (out-of-the-box) at the site or space level. Generally speaking, you have three ways to implement a corporate design:

  • simple adjustments with built-in themes like Default or Documentation
  • complex modifications using Confluence’s decorator (layout) files
  • simple and complex modifications using add-ons like Brikit Theme Press

Let’s look at these solutions in detail and finally compare each.

Adjust the Theme

Many features in Confluence are relatively easy to design. You can set color schemes, change site and space logos, add stylesheets, and slightly adjust headers and footers. Built-in themes allow you to refine and override standard configurations, set the default layout and roll out themes to departmental spaces.

Themes allow you to personalize the 'look and feel' of Confluence. You can apply a theme to your entire Confluence site or to individual spaces. Choose a specific theme if you want to add new functionality or significantly alter the appearance of Confluence. –Atlassian Documentation

Making changes in this manner works well in some cases; however, you may quickly notice certain limitations. If you want the flexibility to design features like page hierarchy or other ways to fine-tuning your environment, the pure Confluence solution is not for you.

Don’t forget to document your changes. Doing so allows you to easily manage subsequent changes, upgrades and content imports. Documenting also helps you establish test criteria for Confluence upgrades.

Adjust the Decorator

If you want to change navigation, search or login features, you need a deeper understanding of the Confluence layout. Currently, Confluence uses the following framework for page layouts:

Confluence is built on top of the open source SiteMesh library, a web-page layout system. ... To edit the layout of Confluence, you will need to modify these decorator files. A decorator file is a.vmd file and is written in a simple programming language called Velocity. You can learn more from the Velocity User Guide. – Atlassian Documentation

To make these manual adjustments, you'll need technical expertise along with a separate environment for development and testing. Depending on your requirements, the result may be your own Confluence theming plugin which would require constant maintenance. Atlassian advises against manually customizing the layout:

If you are using custom layouts based on defaults from a previous Confluence version, you run the risk of breaking functionality, or worse, missing out on great new features! Atlassian Documentation

Use Brikit Theme Press

Are you unable to meet your corporate-design requirements using Confluence’s built-in themes? Are you reluctant to train someone to understand Confluence’s layout structure?

In that case, Brikit Theme Press may be the right tool for your organization. When Brikit designed this add-on, they had non-technical users in mind. They aim to make the design process easy and intuitive when it comes to layouts, navigation, menus and overall branding.

Transform Confluence to make it easy for anyone to share information and ideas. – Brikit Theme Press

Check out the showcases below, all built using Brikit Theme Press. You may find it difficult to imagine these as Confluence pages.

Confluence can look like this...

Link

or this...

Link

Use Confluence for your website...

Link

or to create a brand-compliant and inviting
intranet, with Confluence and Theme Press.

Link

Brikit Theme Press completes and simplifies the management of Confluence’s look and feel. Here are some very useful features:

  • drag and drop layout elements
  • create and organize page structures and elements based on the WSIWYG principle
  • adjust page and column sizes
  • (de)activate page elements (breadcrumbs, page titles, labels, comments, etc.)
  • administer page layouts, logos, color palettes, icons, fonts, etc. in a simple, central and consistent manner
  • download, copy and adjust themes
  • deploy themes to production

Theme Press also adds the following features to Confluence:

  • drop-down and panel menus
  • macros specific to design and images effects (Rotate Content, Action Button, Open Links in New Window)
  • responsive and adaptive page layouts for mobile devices

You can also control access to layouts, thereby separating authors from designers.

Conclusion

If you want a site with the basic appearance of Confluence's default theme, you can continue to use that theme, making adjustments as needed. Once your requirements shift and increase in complexity, you'll need to gear up.

If you decide to create your own design infrastructure, you'll need to manage it long-term and deal with compatibility issues as you upgrade. Otherwise, you can invest in an external plugin, one that carries the burden for you.

With Brikit Theme Press, your average Confluence user (even those without web development skills) can create and manage great-looking layouts. Technical and non-technical users can help implement and administer your corporate design.