15 things to know about creating SharePoint News

SPNews-headerLast week we distributed our first SharePoint News digest!  One of our project teams wants to keep their audience informed with a Newsletter, and we decided to give the standard SharePoint News option a try.

The process of creating and publishing a News article is pretty straightforward, but my Communications colleague had a ton of questions which were not always readily documented.

So here are a few real-life things that your Communications colleague may want to know:

1. You can add max. 110 characters in the title, but will they all be shown?

A different number of characters will be displayed in any of the other places where the article is shown:

  • SharePoint homepage and News overview: 48
  • SharePoint site, 2 side-by-side: 43
  • SharePoint app: 59
  • News Digest email: 110

Please note this is based on my screen with my test text. The “i” is a very thin letter and you will get more in the same space if you only use that one (for instance 100 on the SharePoint homepage and overview)  the “m” and “w” are wide letters and you will get fewer in that space (for instance 27 on the SharePoint homepage and overview.) So…it all depends…on your title!
And then I am not even talking about the body text!
These things can drive you nuts if you are trying to provide guidance! 🙂

SPNews-sphomepage
27 m’s, 100 i’s and 48 letters of my test text on the SharePoint landing page.
SpNews-homepagesidebyside
25 m’s, enough i’s to give you a headache 🙂 , en 43 test letters on the News web part.
SPNews-Mobile
37 m’s, 110 i’s and 59 letters of test text in the SharePoint app (iOS)

2. When you have no background image, the title is black. With a background image, even a light one, the title goes white.

Seriously, I would never notice these things but my colleague did! It is a tad annoying as I think black would provide more contrast in many cases.

SPNews-Blackletterswhennoimage
The regular header has black letters
SPNews-whitelettersiwhtpicture
I have selected the whitest background I could find, but it still appears greyish and with white letters…

3 a. Every News article is a site page and lives in the Site Pages library.

In my organization we use SharePoint sites mainly for document management (well, until I came along 🙂 ).  Every site has a homepage and that’s it. So working with the Site Pages library was a new thing for my colleagues.
Unfortunately all News article pages live in the same Site Pages library, including your site’s homepage and any other page not related to News. Make sure you do not accidentally delete those while cleaning up old News articles.

3 b. A News digest (Newsletter) is another page in that Site Pages library.

If you create a News digest, you create another page in that library. That makes it easy to make it available for everyone who is not in the distribution list for your News digest, but it can make it difficult to know what is what.
Microsoft suggests to add the date to the title, to identify it better, but…

4. There IS a way to know if a certain page is a News article or another page.

A big applause to Elio Struyf who figured this out first, as far as I know.
In your Site Pages library, click on “Add Column” and then “Show/hide columns” at the bottom of the popup.

SPNews-PromotedState1
How to add the column that shows whether something is a News Article or not.

Then select the “Promoted State” column to add to the view. Be aware that this column is only available on the page itself; NOT via the Library Settings. (trust me, I tried 🙂 ) And also remember to click “Apply”!

SPNews=Promotedstate2
It is the “Promoted State” column that enables you to see the difference between News Article and another page.
SPNews-PromotedState3
“Promoted State” can be 0, 1 or 2

Promoted State: (Thanks to Susan Hanley)

  • 0 = News digest or regular page
  • 1 = News article page, not yet published
  • 2 = News article page, published or unpublished

Please note that the default view (Grouped by Author) does not keep the column, so if you edit the view or log out it disappears. If you really want to make it “stick”, use it in a non-grouped view. Here’s an interesting thread about this topic.

5. You can unpublish an article.

This will keep the article in the Site Pages library, but will remove it from any views. Deleting the page has the same effect, but the article will be gone, of course.

You can unpublish as follows: Go to the Site Pages library, hover over the article and click the 3 vertical dots. Click “More” from the popup and then “Unpublish”. You can publish it again.

Please note this is not available everywhere – it may have to do with the site/web part type. I could not find it in some older posts in different site types, for instance.

SPNews-Unpublish

6. The Version tells you whether a News article is published or unpublished.

I have been looking all over the place to find how to see the difference between a published and an unpublished News article, and guess what? It is the Version, which has a x.0 for a published article and a x.1 for an unpublished article.
Thank you, Susan Hanley!

7. The author mentioned is the person mentioned in Author Byline or Created By (if Author Byline is empty).

My Communications colleague helped the project team out with their first efforts, but she did not want to appear as the author. We tried to leave the header empty, the project manager edited the item, but everywhere her name showed up.

However, Marc Anderson came to the rescue here. If we replace the name of my colleague in the article header (this is called the Author Byline) by the project manager’s name, HIS name will appear in all places. As I have only one user in my tenant I can not show it in a screenshot, but I have tested it at work and yes, that is the solution.

SPNews-authorbyline
The Author Byline (yellow mark) is the author name that will be displayed.

8. News articles are shown sorted on First Published date.

This can be different from the Created date! Thanks to Christopher Webb for pointing that out. As we published the articles as soon as they were written, we had not noticed.
It makes therefore no difference for the order of appearance if you change the article after a few days. It does not suddenly show on top.

The order of appearance/moving for the side-by-side webpart is top left > top right > bottom left > bottom right > off page.
(WordPress, I would appreciate an “insert table” option!)

9. You can change the order of appearance on the News web part manually.

This will be useful if you want to keep one (or more) important News article visible for some time, without it being pushed off the page by more recent articles.
Edit the page and click “Edit webpart” next to the News web part. Scroll down in the menu on the right-hand side and click on “Select news to organize”.

SPNews-changeorder
By default this webpart (side-by-side) orders automatically, but you can change that.

Drag and drop the News Article(s) you want to keep in the same place, to the desired  place(s) and click the x top right. Remember to remove it when it has outlived its purpose, as it will stay there otherwise. And please note that this order goes for this web part only!

SPNews-reorder webpart
You can drag and drop any item you want to “pin” in a fixed position to the right and move it up or down there. You see that the 3rd item is already appearing in 1st place.
SPNews-afterreorder
After pinning the 3rd item into the 1st position, new articles appear in 2nd place. This item will be in place until you remove it manually.

10. All images that you upload will be added to the Site Assets library.

You will get a folder for Site Pages and then one folder per page.
In most cases you will end up with one folder per page with one image. What a waste of folders and clicks!

SPNews-site assets
Your Site Pages library has a dedicated folder in the Site Assets

SPNews-siteassets2
Every News article has a dedicated folder, often with only one image 😦

11. Images should ideally be 16:9 with a good focal point that is not too close to the edges.

Another “vague” specification that is a big change from the “images should be square, in .jpg or .gif format, max. 1600 pixels wide and max. 2 GB in size” spec that we used to work with before Modern SharePoint came along.  In real life it means that you generally get a decent result without being able to predict it. Keep in mind that the header image is wide and low, but in other places the images are displayed as a “normal landscape image”‘.

A deep bow for two ladies who have figured out picture behaviour extensively, so you do not have to:

Beth Hall: How SharePoint handles images.
It is a long and thorough post, and a little bit beyond me at times, but my Communications colleague, who is an expert photographer and editor, understood it very well.

Tracy van der Schyff: Creating banners for your online SharePoint pages.

12. If you delete a News article, the associated folder and images will stay in the Site Assets library.

Not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but just so you are aware!

13. Changing the title of the News article after publication will not change the URL, the name of the Site page or the name of the image folder.

So this means links will keep working, which is good. On the other hand, you will lose track of that new title once the item has disappeared from the overviews and from the mind.

14. The News web part is not very stable.

When I was creating screenshots for item 7, I kept getting an empty web part when returning from the web part menu. Reverting to an earlier version helped now and then, but as soon as I hit the “Edit” or “Select news to organize” buttons, an empty page glared at me. I removed the web part and added it again, which helped, but it may be wise to not touch it too often! Microsoft help for the News web part.
John Sanders of Microsoft has kindly offered to look into that!

15. Edits take some time to update.

When you edit and republish an article after publication, the changes will be immediately visible in the article, the News web part and the overview in the site that the News lives in.
On the SharePoint landing page, the all-News overview page and the mobile app the changes take some time (in my test about an hour) to show up. This is probably due to the lag time in Search indexing.

What’s next?

I really enjoyed this project with my Communications colleague and the project manager. I appreciated their inquisitiveness and it was fun to research all their questions, find new blogs and support pages, see User Voice items, etc.

And…creating the News digest also generated some questions and insights. That will be my next blog as this one is quite long already!

Image by kconcha at pixabay.com

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