One of my colleagues asked me to help her with setting up a “news functionality” in a communications site. She had the following requirements:
- nice and inviting looking, with images
- easy to add news for two or three publishers
- readers have the option to set an email notification
SharePoint News is excellent of course, but it does not lend itself well to notifications, as we have seen before.
Sending a News digest then? No, because the site owner does not know whom to send it to. The content is not confidential and the site is accessible for all employees. The content is not of interest for all employees, so sending it to “All Employees” is not a good option either. Any other option would need her to maintain users – but she has kept the site open so she does not have to maintain anything more than some publishers.
Same issue with a Power Automate action – although that works better than a notification, she does not know whom to send it to. And asking all interested people to create a workflow themselves would create a ton of support questions. “Low-code” is still “too much code” for someone who is not interested in creating workflows.
BTW, I have used the “Send a customized email when a new file is added” template for some time, which sends a link to a recently published News item.
A list, then?
So I decided to check something else. Whatever happened to the good old Announcement list, that I have used so often in earlier roles? And had I not recently seen a new list template with a large image on display?
I decided to check if one of these could meet all requirements. Besides, it would provide a good reason to play with the new Lists app 🙂
👎 There is no Announcement list template in a Communication site. I knew that the Communication site has fewer options, but I just forgot that this was also not available.
👍 When I started to work from a Custom List, I found that I could add a column to upload a picture. That must be new – I only remember the unpleasant option for “hyperlink or picture” that needs a link and a properly formatted image.
👍 The Custom List now also has a Gallery View option, which I used to create a News view, consisting of
- Image (upload)
- Title (single line of text)
- Body (multiple lines of text)
- Created (system)
👉 You will need to have the picture stored on your PC when you create a news item in this way. This means you can not use those lovely Stock Photo, Search on Web and Organizational Assets options you have when creating a News item, but I guess that for some people this may not be a problem.
👍 Looks nice when added to a page.
👍 When you click on an item from the page, you can read the item in full.
👎 Notifications work as expected, but instead of a thumbnail of the image, you see an unpleasant URL.
Asset Manager list?
So, I decided to investigate that Asset Manager list template that I saw displayed in the new Lists app.
After a few tests, I removed all columns except:
- Device Photo (which I renamed to Image)
- Asset Tag (which in the List settings is called Title and cannot be renamed, single line of text)
- Condition Notes (which is the only Multiple line of text field in the list). I renamed that to “Body” to be in line with the Announcements list.
- I created a News view based on the Asset Gallery View and added that to the page
Well, it looked as if I just recreated that Custom List 🙂 It behaved in exactly the same way as the other one.
Other observations about Lists
When you click “Create an app” from the Site menu, it leads you to the old page with the different list templates. When you click “New List” from the Site Contents page you go to the new List apps creation page. You can also select “New App” which will lead you to the “old” lists.
I hope this will get streamlined over time as it can be a bit confusing.
You will see a bit of the body text if you use “Plain Text” in the body. If you use “Rich Text” or “Enhanced Rich Text”, it will not display. I personally like the Rich Text, as it gives you just a few more options, but I guess you will need to decide what is most important.
When you click on an item from the page, you see a reasonably nice page to read the full news item.
If you click from the list, you get a much more unpleasant view, huddled to the right with a “Show more” link for the body text, even if the text is not that long.
All three options can facilitate creating news items easily, once someone has set up those lists and web parts.
SharePoint News is superior in options for making great pages, and also has more display options for the web part, but the other lists provide better options for notifications, although the notification email is very plain.
When the site owner saw the SharePoint News, and the News digest, she fell in love instantly and decided that maintaining a Distribution List (yikes, but one of the few options to send a News digest quickly to a large audience) for her “core audience” was worth the extra work. The “core audience” can then distribute it to others.
Case completed 🙂