SharePoint best practice 9/25: Make your SharePoint intranet beautiful
SharePoint straight ‘out of the box’ isn’t necessarily unpleasant to look at – it’s blue and has neat boxes – but it’s not ideal.
By investing some of your budget in branding and design you can make your SharePoint much more attractive. Having a great design really lifts the user experience, and is key for building trust and engagement. Getting the design right will help levels of adoption, and ensure brand consistency.
Great design lifts the user experience
If you expect your employees to be using the intranet every day then you really want them to have a great user experience. Of course nobody comes to an intranet just because it is aesthetically pleasing, but it can have a significant effect on people’s perceptions of how effective and authoritative it is. Design does influence the user experience. Strong design is also important to:
- establish consistency across different online environments, including alignment with external website
- reflect brand values of the company and also the “brand” or purpose of the intranet
- emphasise a new SharePoint platform, recognisably different from the old
- provide a backbone to ensure the intranet is easy to use and also accessible, including to users who are physically and visually impaired
Image courtesy of Coca-Cola Enterprises,
from the Best practices for SharePoint intranets report
Start with clear understanding
Before you implement any design, it’s worth understanding both the overall brand and purpose of the intranet, and SharePoint’s strengths as a technology.
Whether your site is more about communication or collaboration will influence the visual design.
SharePoint has its own way of managing the delivery of sites, that is more complex and technical than many web content management systems. Like all technologies, the best outcomes are gained by understanding the product well, building on the strengths and avoiding the weaknesses.
Get the right designer
Visual designs must be designed with SharePoint in mind, so they fit with the technology platform, and don’t introduce bottlenecks and performance issues. (There is little value in a beautiful design that costs a million dollars to implement.)
Therefore it is worth getting a designer who has some experience of SharePoint. It also helps if you can get the designers and technologists working on the project together.
Typical website and intranet design processes involved getting a designer to produce a Photoshop file or HTML template, and then “throwing it over the wall” to the developers. This works poorly for SharePoint, so get both groups in the same room from the outset.
Managing the effort
In SharePoint even fairly small changes to the basic template can have a large apparent effect. These include changing the top banner, updating the colours, and tweaking the standard layout elements.
Obsessively tweaking the smallest design elements can be hugely costly and time-consuming in SharePoint, and can impact on upgrade options. So be clear about when to stop spending time on getting the perfect design.
This is an excerpt from our recent Best practices for SharePoint intranets report. Obtain the report to read more about the SharePoint dream team you need, along with 24 other best practices.
You can also tune in to our free webinar on 7th February 2013: SharePoint 2013 for intranets and the digital workplace.