Confluence Admin 102: Designing a Site

by | Nov 12, 2019

Our last blog covered Confluence Administrators Organizing a Confluence SiteIn this second blog (of a three part blog series), we will discuss some of the different strategies you can deploy to improve your Confluence instance by branding it to match your organization’s look and feel.

At Atlas Authority, we spend a good amount of time customizing our client’s Confluence instances. Often times we encounter a client who’s been using Confluence for just a few months and we find that one of their primary pain points is employee adoption. They struggle to understand why their users aren’t all switching from their legacy tools to Confluence. One of the first things we always recommend is to brand their Confluence instance. Whether they are using Confluence for an intranet or for documentation, we find that matching their company’s branding within their site helps with user adoption. It encourages their employees to use the product more, therefore gaining more value from their investment. In this part of our blog series we will examine some of the strategies you can take as a Confluence Administrator to brand your organization’s Confluence instance and increase user adoption.

Branding Confluence

As a system administrator, you have a few options with how to customize Confluence. You can:

  • Add a site logo
  • Change the color scheme
  • Use themes for advanced layout customizations
  • Change the site layouts

At the very least, we recommend changing the site logo to your company’s logo.

Brand Confluence

This will help users identify that they are on your instance of Confluence. As the product grows in popularity, more and more companies are adopting Confluence. There’s a change your users might be accessing more than one site during the day. Help avoid the confusion and change the site logo. Follow the instructions in this link to learn how to change it.

Change the Color Scheme

If you decide to change the site’s logo, Confluence will automatically detect the colors in that logo and adjust your color scheme for the site. Confluence Administrators can also change the color scheme by following the instructions in this link. You will be able to choose from standard HTML/CSS2 colors or a color palate. It’s important to note that these colors will apply to your Confluence site immediately.

Brand Confluence

Use Themes for advanced layout customizations

Atlassian allows Confluence Administrators to set themes for the entire site, as well as for Spaces. Confluence comes with one theme and then it’s up to you to install any others you would like from the Atlassian Marketplace. Any new Space created will take the site theme first, then it will be possible to customize the Space theme later.

Change Site Layouts

Editing site layouts are another option and can be done with the programming language Velocity. However, Atlas Authority doesn’t recommend this since the cost of manually migrating the changes after every upgrade far outweighs the cost of owning a theming app.

Should you decide to edit the layouts with Velocity, the decorator file on Confluence is a .vmd file. Finding someone with this area of expertise will be important. After you’ve familiarized yourself (or found the right person) with Velocity, the following are your options:

  • Site layouts: These are used to define the controls that surround each page on the site. For example, the header, footer, and dashboard.
  • Content layouts: These control the appearance of content such as pages and blog posts. They do not change the way the pages themselves are displayed but allow you to alter the way the surrounding comments or attachments are displayed.
  • Export layouts: These control the appearance of spaces and pages when they are exported to HTML.

(Refer to Atlassian’s documentation for more information)

It is important to remember that if you choose to change the site layouts, you will need to reapply your changes each time you upgrade Confluence. The more extensive your customizations are, the more difficult it will be to reapply these changes. It is also important to note, when you edit the site layout you’ll be changing the default layout of every space, except those that customize the layout at the space level. For these reasons, we recommend not doing too much or any modifications to the site layout.

If you want to get more granular with your decorations, you can customize the layout inside of each space. Within a space you can:

While this is limited to every space and only accessible to space/site administrators, it could be an option for teams that operate individually or service one customer. If you want to read more about space strategies read our Confluence Space Strategies blog.

Confluence Add Ons

In terms of layout and site design, there are many possibilities on the Atlassian Marketplace. Most of these options include paying for an add-on to accomplish your design requirements. Depending on your end goal, we recommend Linchpin Theme or Refined for Confluence.

Linchpin Theme

Linchpin Theme is part of the Linchpin Intranet Suite. If your main interest is theming and organization of Confluence content, you may want to consider Refined for Confluence. However, if you’re looking to transform Confluence into a robust Intranet then Linchpin Theme, as a part of Linchpin Suite is what we recommend. It has a wide range of functionality that is built on top of tools that interoperate with one another and tie into your theming software. The Linchpin Intranet Suite is comprised of Linchpin Theme as well as the following:

If you use these apps in combination with Linchpin Theme, they will work much better together than if you mix apps from a variety of Marketplace vendors that aren’t designed for interoperability.

Instead of using Velocity, Linchpin allows you to customize the look and feel of your Confluence instance without significant technical expertise. You can choose to edit the theme of Confluence to fit your corporate identity by using their simplified Confluence editor. This allows you to use standard Confluence formatting plus all of the Macros you’re used to having access to.

Brand Confluence

You can do this by editing various elements within Confluence including:

  • Dashboard
  • Header
  • Menu Bar
  • Buttons and links
  • Content
  • Linchpin sidebar
  • Footer
  • And more

If the editor is too simple for you, you can still use CSS and Javascript similar to Confluence’s out-of-the-box capabilities, to edit the theme in a more advanced way. 


Brand Confluence

Overall, the Linchpin Theme add on will allow you to edit your Confluence theme in a way that scales much better than editing Velocity files. It is also significantly more user-friendly for Confluence Admins and should help reduce the stress of Atlassian’s constant upgrades. 

Refined for Confluence

Refined for Confluence is an app made by Refined. It is the most popular theming solution on the marketplace and is part of a series of apps that help users customize Atlassian tools. Refined also has theming apps for Confluence SpacesConfluence mobile, and Jira Service Desk (Cloud and Server).

The Refined for Confluence app enables Confluence Administrators to organize their Confluence site easier. With this app, you can set up your Confluence site to have a more robust top bar navigation.

Brand Confluence

This navigation can be organized into spaces within space categories. In addition to this, you have the ability to organize spaces into sites and then apply permissions. Because of this, the structure allows Confluence Administrators to get more granular with permissions.

Brand Confluence

Another great feature that Refined for Confluence comes with is theming. When you install the app you will get a number of included bundled themes. The themes include Confluence, Color, City, Nature, and Clean.

Brand Confluence

It is up to you if you want to edit these themes or use them as they are. You can also create your own theme and customize it in a more advanced way with your favorite IDE or editor.

The Refined for Confluence app is a great way to organize your Confluence site into spaces, space categories, and apply permissions in a simple way. Depending on your user tier, the Refined for Confluence app comes in slightly cheaper than Linchpin Themes, which makes it a viable option for theming and organizing your site.

Improve Team Collaboration

Of course, the choice will be yours in which path you choose to theme your site. To allow your Confluence site to easily scale to fit your organization’s growth and improve the way your teams collaborate, we highly recommend choosing an app to handle theming and branding of your site. Our partners, Seibert Media and Refined both provide best-in-class options to help you seamlessly brand your site. Need more help? Contact us to discuss Confluence design options or to get a demo of our recommended apps. 

Subscribe to receive our monthly
blog posts in your inbox

Latest Blogs
Financial Companies and the Cloud: 5 Trends

Financial Companies and the Cloud: 5 Trends

Spurred by the pandemic, financial companies have accelerated digital transformation, including cloud computing. Among many benefits, cloud technology helps financial companies meet the evolving needs of consumers and lower infrastructure costs. In the Atlassian world...

read more
Share This