The cutlery drawer and the page.

Cutlery drawerTo the left you see my cutlery drawer. Normally it is out of view and only visible when I open the drawer. All items are arranged by type.
This gives me a good overview of the amount and types of knives, spoons and forks available, and if I have to do some washing up before the next meal :-).

Table settingOn the right you see my set table for one. Depending on the time of day and the exact menu, I have arranged the relevant knives, forks and spoons into an established pattern around the plate. I can add wine glasses, tea cups or milk mugs, napkins, finger bowls and what not to make it useful for that particular meal, as well as nice-looking.

And the relationship with SharePoint is…?

In my SharePoint jobs I have often found that people mix up the words “site”, “page” and “library” when they ask me for a place to store (and/or show) documents. I can easily explain what a site is, but it has taken me some time to come up with explaining the difference between document library and page for someone not experienced in SharePoint. So like my last post, I tried to come up with a household example.

Let us compare a document library with my cutlery drawer.  It is a place where you store all content items that are in document format; they take up minimal space, you have a good overview of what is there and there are some special features that can be applied to all items in there. It does not look extremely pretty, but it does its job.
A document library is a place to store and manage content.

A  page would then be comparable with my table setting. Here you combine the relevant documents with other content in a way that will make it easy and pleasant for your audience to consume that content. You may want to add an intro text, a picture, the name of the contact person, a list of related information etc.
A page is therefore functionality to display content and context.

Do I always have to set the table?

Whether you have to set the table at all is depending on your audience. If it is just me, I do not set the table; I put food on my plate and grab the relevant silverware straight from the drawer.
If your audience is your own small team or department, there is no urgent need to make pretty pages; you can save time by using the document library as it is. On the other hand, setting up a page can make the experience nicer. As long as you realize you have a choice. The page is optional – but you will always need your document library.

But if you have a large audience, and/or you want to lure people to your content, help them with understanding your content, or impress them, it is much better to use a page. That way you can show exactly the documents they need, in the best possible view, and you can add context and make it look attractive.

For a more functional explanation of the differences, please read Veronique Palmer’s recent post on the difference between lists, libraries and pages.

What do you think?

Is this an explanation that you would use, or do you have a better one? In both cases, please let me know!
(And other household-comparisons are still welcome too)

11 thoughts on “The cutlery drawer and the page.

  1. Zafir Behlic March 17, 2013 / 7:28 pm

    This is so true. And a very useful analogy when having to explain it to site owners. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Malene Friborg September 17, 2013 / 2:29 pm

    Thanks – very helpful explanation. Will probably use it for our new site administrators.

  3. samanthamag July 8, 2014 / 9:53 pm

    Thank you! I’ve been watching SharePoint videos and the words started to all blur together. Thanks for the analogy!

  4. ktranamber May 19, 2015 / 11:28 pm

    I love using analogy for end-users. The page analogy will be helpful. I usually explain that LIBRARY = FILE CABINET, do you need everything in one library/cabinet for easy searching or independent due to permission, example of locked cabinet. The tab hanging folders can be converted into column attribute to categorize. SITE = OFFICE, who has the key/permission to enter. Glad I’m not the only one with analogies.

    • Ellen van Aken May 23, 2015 / 3:05 pm

      I like your analogies too – thanks for sharing!

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