“Users don’t want documentation, they want answers”. This well known phrase should guide every author and designer involved in creating documentation. Taking this into account, we took a close look at our own documentation to improve the way our users find what they are looking for. The content and structure are without doubt the most important parts of any documentation. But what about the layout, user-interface and typography? If your product is not simple enough to fit the whole manual “onto one page”:http://37signals.com/svn/posts/1566-lesson-from-the-flip-do-less-and-you-get-to-print-less, you might have to think about these aspects as well.
We believe the following points are essential for a great online documentation experience:
* Content and structure
* Easy to navigate and search
* Unintrusive and easy to read typography
* Callouts for important information or hints
* The ability to display common information across the documentation
Thanks to our documentation team, we have been doing well with the content and structure. The ability to customise the layout of Confluence allowed us to display a tree navigation to help navigate through the content. A custom header and footer display details about the product version and license information. However, since the documentation uses the default Confluence theme, it has been rather painful to maintain these customisations.
h2. Introducing the Confluence Documentation Theme
CONFDEV.jpg
The new Documentation Theme for Confluence aims to satisfy our documentation requirements from above. The typography has been changed to make the content easier to skim and read. The page tree is now built into the theme’s sidebar and can be disabled if you prefer to replace it with your own custom navigation. The sidebar can be adjusted in size or completely collapsed.
The content of the sidebar as well as the header and footer sections of the page are completely customisable and support wiki markup. The panels, you might call them callouts or simply boxes, have been re-designed to better highlight important information. You will find little tweaks and style improvements throughout the whole theme.
Panel Styles.png
**Theme Features Overview:**
* Adjustable sidebar navigation
* Custom page header and footer across all content
* Wiki markup support in sidebar, header and footer
* New panel styles
* Dozens of small improvements
Go and “download the theme”:https://plugins.atlassian.com/plugin/details/16393 in our “plugin exchange”:https://plugins.atlassian.com today. We hope you will like the theme as much as our very own tech-writers do.
**Update:** Sarah Maddox (one of our technical writers) did a “great write-up”:http://ffeathers.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/new-documentation-theme-for-confluence-wiki/ of the theme and it’s features on her own blog.
Please note that the theme is currently **only compatible with Confluence 3.1**.

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