Look at my buttons

As most of you know by now, I am a technical writer at Atlassian. Each member of our technical writing team is responsible for documenting specific products. At the moment, these are mine:

  • Confluence is kind of: “Here I am – look at my buttons!”
  • Crowd is the strong silent type: “I’m working away in the background, taking care of stuff for you. You won’t see me until you need me.”
  • FishEye‘s effortless charm hides a manic cleverness: “Here’s looking at you babe.
  • Crucible offers with a nonchalant air: “Do you want to talk about it?

When it comes to wikis, a good-looking GUI is really important. That’s GUI, not ‘guy’ – though a handsome man never goes amiss. You need to get intimate with your wiki. Every click should give a frisson of satisfaction. Every new page should look awesome on first save. It’s like a good first date. You want to want to come back for more. Delayed gratification is not what you’re after. Otherwise, you’d write the code yourself, in all those xxxML varieties, right?

So I’m really pleased that Confluence 2.6 is here. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s my first big release since I joined Atlassian. So I’m kind of fond of it. It comes with a new theme, more pictures dotted about, and a friendly style. Some people think it’s ugly, but I’m ready to go to bat on that one. Button
Another button I had a lot of fun devising a new format for the release notes, with much input from other Atlassians. That’s the way things work in the company. You put up an idea, and everyone throws comments at it. After a bit, the final result emerges. Take a look at the new format of the release notes, and let us know what you think.
Why would a pretty GUI and a sense of achievement be good things to offer users of a wiki? Well, people will be comfortable using the wiki, feel proud of what they’ve created and develop a sense of ownership of the site and its content. Above all, they will come back for more. I’m thinking I might wander along to wikipatterns and add a new pattern, based on this paragraph. I’ll call the pattern something like ‘UI Delight’.
Some people have made Confluence their own by metagrobolising the look and feel. Yet another button Here are some pretty cool sites powered by Confluence: Toxipedia, CustomWare and thesarvo.

Are other wikis sexier than Confluence? And how about Microsoft’s SharePoint – is it pretty or friendly? Let me know what you think…


About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 30 September 2007, in atlassian, Confluence, SharePoint, technical writing, wiki and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Marshall Sutton

    As a SharePoint administrator, I can say unequivocably that SharePoint is fairly pretty out of the box, with plenty of opportunity to make it very pretty, if you are willing to put in the work. But SharePoint is not at all friendly. Editing 10k+ lines of CSS scattered across 20+ files with an arbitrary naming and organizational scheme is not my idea of a good time.

    It can be a great tool, but it takes a lot of work to get it there. It’s ‘wiki’ feature is there and usable, but mostly just a way to check off a box on a decision maker’s form. It lacks the power of a ‘true’ wiki.

  2. Hi Marshall
    That’s really interesting. Have you had a chance to play with SharePoint 2007 yet, and have you noticed a big difference? I’ve had a bit of experience as a power user of SharePoint 2003, and found it fun but a bit limited. I’ve not yet used the wiki.
    Cheers, Sarah

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