My View on Views

ViewDon’t you like a nice view? So, next time you have configured a page with a web part in default view, consider if this really the best possible way to display your content for your audience. Can you make better use of the sorting, grouping, filtering and other capabilities to make your content easier to digest for your users?

Here are a few situations that may help you take a decision:

How collaborative is your site?
If you want to display read-only content for a large audience, do not show edit options. Although edit links, item names and buttons are security-trimmed, having no edit options will allow you to design and view the page exactly like your audience sees it.

But if you have a site where you share documents with your team, make sure there are plenty of edit options on every page to stimulate online collaboration.

What is your content?
If you have a project team or your department working on various documents, it is wise to show the latest document on top. (Sort by Modified, descending). That will show everyone what has happened in the site recently.

But if your content is manuals or instructions, and fairly static, you may want to sort on title, either alphabetically or numerically. Please keep in mind SharePoint is a little weird with sorting numbers in text – please use 01, 02, …10  to avoid sorting your stuff as 1, 10, 11…etc.
And do you really need to add “Manual” or “Policy” in every document name? 🙂

How many people contribute to your site?
If just one or two people are editing in your site, the Created By or Modified By columns will display the same names over and over again. That does not add much value. Another column may give your audience more information. You can also leave out that column and make your page appear less cluttered.

But if you have many people working in your site, the Created By and/or Modified By, as well as the date, ARE important.  In highly collaborative sites, the Modified and Modified By may be the best option.
For issues however, the Created By and Created give more information. And you may want to sort issues on Due Date – Ascending, displaying the items with the earliest dates first.

How much space is available?
When your list or library is the main content on the page the center web part zone will be the best place to display it. You will have enough horizontal space to add a few meaningful columns.
But when the main real estate of the page is taken up by an explanatory text, and the official policies are listed as “additional information” in the right column, you only have room to display a title…so keep that short and sweet!

Example of explanatory text and a small sidebar for related information.  The text is my own invention and not an existing policy!
Example of explanatory text and a small sidebar for related information.
The text is my own invention and not an existing policy!

If you have limitations on vertical space, you may want to display your information grouped and collapsed, with a filter and/or an item limit.
I often use “Last 5 or 10 documents” on a homepage, where I use Modified Descending combined with Item Limit = 5 or 10.

Who has to do it?
For Tasks lists, Issue lists or if you need to manage the life cycle of your content, a view with Assigned To, Created By or Modified By = [Me] is essential. It allows you to see (and act on) the items that you are responsible for.

I sometimes use a “My” view to hide content. It is not security, and it is not water-tight, but it helps to make content less visible for others.

Need to know how much or how many?
Displaying Totals can be very useful.  I often use a Count to check if all documents have copied over successfully from one location to another, or to see how many tasks or issues are awaiting my attention. I have also used the Sum to show or how much money was generated by a project.
Avoid using them on a grouped list, because Totals take up a lot of vertical space and can make your content appear very cluttered. And annoyingly, SharePoint can not do a Sum on Calculated Columns.

Notice how much space the "Sum" (or "Count") takes on a grouped view!
Notice how much space the “Sum” (or “Count”) takes on a grouped view!

It is worth spending time on this.
In many of the solutions I have created, I have discussed the Views in much detail with the owners and end users. Some want to read and act on the relevant information quickly, without having to open each individual item. Some may need a “first glance”insight” overview. Some may need a very specific filter for data analysis. For different audiences and purposes you can use different views. I think Views are one of the best features of SharePoint!

In CRM in a Team Site, we had a.o.:

  • “All open Incidents” with a “Sum” on the homepage to show immediately how much money was involved with complaints.
  • “My Incidents” for everyone that was involved in reviewing or approving incidents. It was based on “Assigned to me”.
  • “Incidents per Transport Company”, allowing the process owner to see the performance of each transporter.
  • “Still Open after 14 days”, helping to reduce turnaround time, etc.
  • “Credit Note in progress” overview, showing all incidents for which a Credit Note had to be issued. This helped Sales and Back Office people when they had contact with customers.

You will get the idea. Discussing and creating/fine tuning Views can be a lot of work, but it will also make your content so much better to find and understand, your process so much easier, and your users so much happier!

If you need more technical/functional information on SharePoint Views, please download this ebook by Chris Poteet.

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at

One thought on “My View on Views

  1. Chris Poteet May 3, 2013 / 3:17 pm

    Thanks Ellen for mentioning my e-book. This is also a great post.

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