The UX of Confluence 5.5

I’ve been working on a new system for help articles at work.  We decided to try a Confluence Wiki from Atlassian.  I have to say, I have been pleasantly surprised by the excellent UX.  They clearly have poured a decent amount of love into this thing.  Here are some thoughts that come to mind:

Mobile Display
Just on a lark, I looked at a page on my phone.  It was perfect.  I didn’t need to mess with it, it just worked.  Smooth action, good font-size.  Menu looked right.  No bugs.  What more can I ask for?

Extensible
Their whole macro language has a little bit of a learning curve, but has surprising flexibility.  The architecture of templates, blueprints, gadgets and macros gives us the ability to make all kinds of specially formatted widgets.  Again, not immediately obvious or intuitive, but once you get the hang of it, there is very little you can’t accomplish.

Editor
Probably the high point of the system.  It has thought of everything.  Easy keyboard shortcuts, nice markup, macro objects, automatic cut/paste/upload action.  Good affordance for power features without cluttering the UI.  One of the best editors I have seen.  Even better than WordPress (if that is possible).

Plugins
There aren’t nearly as many as WordPress has, but it is a decent collection.  I am using the Ad Hoc Workflow plugin and it does exactly what we need with flexibility for the future.  I’m sure I will use more in the future.

Confluence Questions
They have a product that is called Questions.  It’s pretty much a straight rip-off of StackExchange.  With that said, it’s still great.  If you are going to copy a UI, copy the best.  It works like a charm.  I’m a little confused as to how they handle the pricing for it, specifically how do they define a “user”.  This could make it a little pricey.

Pricing
Speaking of pricing, the lowest level, which gives a read-only view is trivially cheap, like $10-30 bucks.  However, as soon as you go over the 10 user level it costs thousands.  The self-hosted one is a one-time fee, I believe.  They could make this clearer, but I understand they want to make money in the enterprise space too.

Admin
OK, here is some bad news.  The admin section is not good.  There are like a hundred items in the nav and it’s hard to see which one is LIT.  It doesn’t stay on the screen, so you lose your context pretty quick.  They seriously need to think about the information architecture and make an easier way to navigate different admin functions.  It’s out of control.

Documentation
There actually is alot, but I find it often more confusing than helpful.  They have separate docs for every version.  That must be exhausting for them to maintain.  This is why SaaS is such a good model.  I don’t envy their docs department.  Asking them to make it better is easy, but I know it’s easier said than done.

Summary
I love it for a documentation site.  I think it’s the best tool I have seen for it.  Lot’s of little nice touches.  Not perfect, but very well done.

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