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Designing Sites and Portals


In both the site and portal objects, you have the power to configure all the details that will shape the look and feel of your site or portal.

While sites and portals share many of the same page structure and branding options, there are some instances where a certain setting is only available in one object and not the other.

To learn more about portal-specific design best practices, see Portal Best Practices and Portals design guidance.


Pages are the interfaces that display to your portal users. You can add up to ten pages to a site or portal. This section outlines the guidelines you should follow when adding pages to give your users the best user experience.

Use an appropriate number of pages to optimize navigation

Make sure that each of your pages has a distinct purpose and that users are easily able to find what they need. Your page titles help guide users towards important information, so think critically about what's the most important information to convey.

Configuring eight or fewer pages will usually offer the best experience for users. If exceeding eight pages, take time to consider whether the number of pages makes sense for your users.

To reduce the number of pages, consider using secondary navigation patterns like sidebars and tabs. This is especially helpful when multiple pages fall under the same category or the pages are best organized in a hierarchy.

For mobile-first sites that are only accessed on Appian Mobile, don't use more than five pages.

Organize pages based on how often they are used

Prioritize the pages according to the needs of your users. Put the most commonly used pages first, and less commonly used pages last.

Use clear, concise page names

Users can more easily scan and find information when the page names are clear and concise. Using concise pages names also prevents the names from being truncated, since they are more likely to fit on the screen.

For sites, use the best page width for the page content

When adding a site page, choose the page width that best matches the interface content.

For example, actions that have only a few fields will benefit from a narrow page width. Otherwise, the form may look stretched. Likewise, a dense interface or report can benefit from a wide page width or, if users have extra wide monitors, a full page width.

See Page Width for more information.

Note that you cannot configure the page width in portal pages.

Header bar

A header bar allows you to configure additional branding to help users easily recognize your sites and portals. Additionally, it provides navigation options to help users find what they are looking for.

Note that the header bar is automatically responsive. When the pages don't fit on the screen, they move from the header bar to a menu using the easily recognizable icon.

responsive menu in a site

When accessed on a mobile browser, sites and portals automatically use this menu for page titles.

portal navigation menu

The below table summarizes the key differences between header bars in sites and portals.

Sites Portals
Header bar always enabled. Header bar always enabled for portals with more than one page; optional for portals with only one page.
Choose between "Helium" and "Mercury" styles. "Mercury" style only.
Header bar includes:
- A configurable logo.
- Page titles. For single page sites that use "Mercury," the page title does not display.
- A navigation menu. The site display name can optionally display in the navigation menu.
- A user menu.
Header bar includes:
- A configurable logo.
- Page titles. For single page portals, the page title does not display.
- Portal display name (optional).


Header bar style is not only an aesthetic consideration but also a practical one. The "Helium" and "Mercury" styles are designed for different use cases.

Both of these style options are available in the site object, while portals only use the "Mercury" style.

Note that Appian Mobile does not use the header bar styles. Choosing "Mercury" or "Helium" will not cause any changes in Appian Mobile.


Things to know about the Helium style:

  • Only available for sites (default option).
  • The logo is on the right side.
  • Each page name has an icon above it. These icons should reflect the purpose of the page.
  • Page names always display, even if the site has only one page.
  • The selected highlight color highlights the entire page tab.


Site with "Helium" style and one page.


Site with "Helium" style and multiple pages.


Things to know about the Mercury style:

  • Available in both sites and portals (the only option for portals).
  • The logo is on the left side.
  • Page names display on their own, with no icons. However, keep in mind that icons always display in Appian Mobile. You should always choose an icon that reflects the purpose of the page
  • Page names only display if there is more than one page.
  • The selected highlight color underlines the page name.

Use this style for sites when you have a single page and you don't want the page name to be shown in the header bar.


Site with "Mercury" style and one page


Site with "Mercury" style and multiple pages

For a single-page portal, adding a header bar allows you to quickly brand your portal with a company logo and custom color scheme to enhance the visual appeal of your portal and make it recognizable to users.


It can also provide additional pages of navigation which allows for richer user experiences in portals that support multiple actions.


Header bar color

Based on the configured header bar color, a dark gray or white color is automatically applied to the text and icons in the header bar. Avoid a medium-brightness header bar color which may not provide sufficient contrast with the text or icon color.


Don't choose a header bar color that makes the text and icons difficult to read.

Selected highlight color

The selected highlight color should be distinguishable enough from the header bar color so that users can easily tell which tab is highlighted.

For a clean, monochromatic look using the Helium header bar style, configure a selected highlight color that is a darker or lighter shade of the header bar color.


This site with the Helium header bar style uses a dark blue background with a lighter blue highlight to create a monochromatic look.

For a streamlined, easy to navigate look using the Mercury header bar style, configure a selected highlight color that contrasts well with the header bar background color so that users can easily tell which tab they're on.


This site with the Mercury header bar style uses a light blue background with a gold highlight to create user-friendly contrast.

Show display name

You can choose whether or not to show the display name in the header bar. You can configure this in the site or portal object.


Color scheme

For sites, you can either create a custom color scheme by selecting hex codes for each field or you can use one of our predefined dark color schemes which will automatically set values for the header bar, selected highlight, accent, and loading bar colors.

For portals, you can create a custom color scheme using hex codes for the header bar, selected highlight, accent, and loading bar colors.

Accent color

A configurable accent color is used to highlight key UI elements such as "Primary" style buttons, links, and section headings.

Avoid accent colors that are:

  • Too close to the standard, black text color
  • Too close to the red destructive button and error message color
  • Too low in contrast against the white page background. The accent color should have a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1. Use a contrast checker to ensure your selected color meets the requirement.


If you're using a predefined dark color scheme, make sure that your accent color looks good everywhere that it will be used throughout your site.


A faded version of the accent color is used as a hover style on certain components, such as dropdown menus and grids with row highlight. For better accessibility, test your accent color while hovering on dropdown menus and grids with row highlight to ensure they have adequate color contrast. The contrast ratio between the cell color and the text should be 4.5:1.

Loading bar color

The loading bar, which appears above the header bar, gives users an idea of how long it will take the system to load a page or process an action. Select a loading bar color with sufficient contrast against the header bar color to ensure that users notice it.


The loading bar color should stand out from the header bar color so that users notice it

Dark color schemes (sites)

Each dark color scheme comes with predefined colors for the header bar color, selected highlight color, accent color, and loading bar color.

There are three predefined dark color schemes that you can choose from: "Charcoal", "Navy", and "Plum".


A site header bar using the "Charcoal" color scheme.


A site header bar using the "Navy" color scheme.


A site header bar using the "Plum" color scheme.

If you select one of these color schemes, make sure that your site pages are using the same color scheme.

To do this:

  1. In the interface for your site page, use a header content layout with the backgroundColor parameter set to the same color scheme used for your site: "Charcoal", "Navy", "Plum".
  2. Put the page's contents into Card Layouts with the style parameter of each Card Layout set to the same color scheme used for your site.

In order to create a consistent style and user experience across your site, avoid creating sites with a mix of dark and non-dark color scheme pages.

The following interface elements cannot use dark color schemes:

  • Record lists.
  • Related action modals.
  • The news tab in records.
  • The related actions tabs in records.

These elements use the default white background. For sites including any of these elements, use the default background on all site pages.


The logo configuration allows you to brand your site or portal to make it instantly recognizable to users. Use a site logo with a transparent background and sufficient contrast against the header bar color.



Border shapes

You can configure the shapes of inputs and buttons at the site or portal level.

You can configure the shape of box layouts and card layouts at the component level. These shape configurations can't be applied site-wide.

Input Shape

You can select an input shape to match your branding and experience. The input shape is applied to all inputs, pickers, and selection fields on every page of a site or portal.

There are two options for input shape: squared and semi-rounded. Squared is the default selection.

The input shape does not apply to the following interface elements:

  • Layouts
  • Display fields
  • Actions
  • Grids
  • Charts
  • Browsers
  • Record banners


This dashboard shows both rounded inputs and rounded cards displayed in a site. Use rounded cards and rounded inputs together for a professional and consistent user experience.

Button Shape

You can select a button shape to match the branding and style of your site or portal. The button shape is applied to all buttons on every page of a site or portal, including record view and record actions.

There are three options for button shape: squared, semi-rounded, and rounded. Squared is the default selection.


This dashboard shows rounded buttons displayed in a site.