The Why and How of Using Confluence for Documentation

Confluence is a flexible, wiki-based app used to capture, distribute, and update corporate information. Many companies use it for internal wikis and technical documentation for their customers. Its collaboration features enable anyone to contribute, update, comment, and publish information, democratizing documentation creation across your entire organization. 

Gone are the days when only the marketing or technical teams have exclusive access to online documentation or control of the documentation creation workflow.

There are several features that make using Confluence for technical documentation a fantastic choice. 

Things to know when using Confluence for documentation

The user interface (UI) and content editor in Confluence are similar to other online tools, so any user can create content, pages, and spaces immediately. In addition, apps from the Atlassian Marketplace can help extend native functionality in Confluence, making it a powerful tool to save, store and keep technical product documentation up-to-date. Here are a few more reasons to use Confluence for documentation. 

Start from a pre-built template

Confluence has default page templates for popular content types like meeting notes, workflow procedures, and troubleshooting articles. The 75+ Confluence documentation templates use best practices from documentation experts across the ecosystem, so you know they’re well-aligned with how people work today.   

Control the documentation process

Determine who participates in the documentation process with role-based access controls (RBAC). That way, only authorized users can create or update content and technical staff have final review rights. Give access to appropriate stakeholders to push reviewed content to production and alleviate the workload on the technical documentation team. 

Access it from anywhere

Hybrid and remote work environments can be challenging for IT teams tasked with installing software or apps for certain teams or individuals. Because Confluence is web-based, your IT team can create an account for employees or user groups (like customers) and you’re set. 

Whether you’ve deployed Confluence on-premise or are using Confluence Cloud, it’s accessed through a web browser, so as long as people have an account, they can access it.

Increase visibility into content

Users with the right permissions can see when and how content was updated in Confluence. Technical writers can use this feature to see who did what and when. Rolling back content or fixing mistakes is easier with this back-end view. 

How to use Confluence for documentation

Here are six best practices for using Confluence for documentation. 

1. Create your documentation “home.”

Start by creating a central “space” in Confluence for your documentation. Consider creating separate ones for each intended audience, such as customers, users, employees, etc.  

2. Adjust your Confluence permissions.

Not everyone needs access to do everything with your Confluence documents. Set up permissions based on roles and intended audiences. Generally speaking, you’ll want to create groups corresponding to users’ tasks, like editing, reviewing, approving, and publishing. (An app like Comala Document Management can help.)

3. Create your documentation framework.

A structured page hierarchy that outlines a clear path through the documents prevents your Confluence space from spiraling out of control. It’ll also help you avoid orphaned pages, and keep content relevant and connected.  

While it’s best to set up a general framework for your documentation before you start, you can always tweak it if it’s already set up. Review the framework and see where (and if) existing content fits in. Do this regularly, and you’ll notice a big difference in structure and usage. 

4. Design your documentation.

Good documentation should be easy to read, well laid out, and use subheadings, lists, and images to break up the text. Consider creating a page template for technical documentation in Confluence that everyone can use to save time and effort. 

5. Make your pages more consumable.

Buttons, tabs, links, forms, comments, and tooltips make your pages more readable. The information will be easy to read and understand. Some features (like labels) are built into the tool, while many more sophisticated functions need a third-party app, (We make some!) 

6. Create regular editing processes.

Having your content reviewed before it’s finalized and published is an essential part of the documentation process. (Don’t skip it!)

A well considered review process ensures that your content is technically correct, free from typos and grammatical errors, and follows any style guidelines your organization might use. This step is essential for all content — especially if non-writers contribute. 

Reviewers and editors will catch any errors, typos, and style issues that need to be fixed before you publish your documentation.

How to supercharge Confluence with third-party apps

To better suit your needs, Confluence can be customized using apps from the Atlassian Marketplace. The Marketplace has third-party apps and macros that help you extend and customize your Confluence platform to fit your unique use case. 

Here are a few apps we’ve created that can help with your documentation needs:

  • Comala Document Management: This app adds document management and process controls to your content, like custom approval workflows and electronic approval signatures. It also helps your documentation meet global standards like ISO 9001 and ISO 13485.
  • Confluence Command Line Interface (CLI): This app helps integrate Confluence with your other tools. Go from Confluence to Jira to a database, to a file, to Slack. In addition, automate any recurring tasks from a centralized command line.
  • MultiExcerpt: Use this app to create, update, and share excerpts across pages and spaces. Update multiple pages or spaces at a time while you save time by reproducing and reusing content across your deployment. 
  • Advanced Tables for Confluence: Use this app to create and format beautiful, functional tables to display your most important data. 

Confluence might have started as a knowledge management and collaboration platform, but it’s so much more now. People have developed new ways of using it as their needs changed. Likewise, using Confluence for document management is evolving with each new release and app launch. Whether you’re just getting started with document management or already using Confluence and looking for tips, we can help. Explore Appfire’s powerful document management apps.

Explore the Appfire Workflow & Automation Solution

Last updated: 2023-06-05

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