A test of character(s) in SharePoint News Description

The other day I received a comment on my post about the Description field. The writer wanted to know how many characters of the Description you can expect to be visible on the web part in their specific page layout. To be honest, I have no clue so I thought I’d do some tests so you do not have to!

Test set-up

a. Texts

For testing purposes, I am using this text of 270 characters:

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz1abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz2abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz3
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz4abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz5abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz6 abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz7abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz8abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz9 abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0

These are portions of 27 characters. The last number shown will show quickly approximately how many characters are displayed and if there is a difference between various web part and page layouts.Β 
The full Description (255 characters) will show the 9 and the letter l (from Letitia) as the last letter.
I will repeat this for the longest and shortest Description with 26 i’s and 26 w’s plus the number, as I expect the i is the narrowest and the w the widest letter, and it may make a difference. I found this when doing a similar test for the site navigation.

I also thought about varying typeface and font, but the Description text is a system text so a different typeface or font will make no difference, unless you have a custom font set up in your tenant.

b. Page layout

I have used one and the same page with the same News web part, and changed the Section and Web Part layouts for the experiments.

There are 5 options for the Section layout, but I will use 4 (one, two three columns and the one-third right) as these have all different widths.

There are 6 options to display the News web part, but as the Hub News, Carousel and Tiles do not show the Description (check out my post about the Carousel), I will only test with Top Story, List and Side-by-side.

I will first test with Author, Views and Publish date visible, and then remove this info for the items with the longest and shortest description.

The first experiments are done with this ON, later I will test with these OFF

c. Computer and screen settings

My browser is Edge, zoom 100%. I have a small Edge side bar to the right.

My computer settings are: Scale 125 % and Display resolution 1920 x 1080

Now, there are lots of screenshots to wade through, so if you are impatient, please jump to the Conclusions and Recommendations.

Results

1. One column

Top story: 73 characters

Screenshot of SharePoint News - One column, Top Story web part
Top story

List: 111

List layout, here the Description text is much longer

Side-by-side: 51

Side-by-side, there is less space than in the List or Top Story so fewer characters are visible

2. Two columns

Top story: 33

Top Story

List: 51

The List option has less space, so fewer characters than in the single column

Side-by-side: 51

Side-by-side behaves the same as the List in this setup

3. Three columns

Top Story: 46. This is more than with the two columns but please notice that the Description is now below the image, instead of to the right.

Top Story. Please note the text is now under the image instead of next to it.

List: 31

List – quite narrow so only a small part of the Description is visible

Side-by-side: 31

Side-by-side-just like the List

4. One-third right

I have added the News web part to the left hand column.
Top Story: 47

Top Story

List: 60

List

Side by side: 81

Side-by-side shows more characters than the List in this layout, as the image is smaller

Well, that is interesting!

5. Hiding the Author, Publishing date and Views in the web part

I have the Author, Publishing date and number of views visible in the above experiments. So, as the next step, let’s take the two extremes and see what happens if I hide those options.

One column – List (111 characters shown in the first experiment): 255 characters. That is the full Description.

One column with List view, and no publishing details, shows the full Description

Three columns – List: (was 31): Now 96 characters

Three columns – List view now shows more characters than with publishing details.

So, that does make a difference! Assuming you want to show as much of the Description as possible, you may think whether removing the publishing info is an option. (Please note making one of these visible has the same effect as making two or all visible – it means fewer characters of the Description text)

6. Which letters does your Description text contain?

I also expect that you will see more or fewer characters depending on your actual text. I have been testing with the alphabet, that is an equal distribution of letters. Let’s see what happens if we repeat the extremes with Description text containing only i’s (narrow) or w’s (wide).

One column – List:

The Description with w’s has fewer characters than the alphabet one, and much fewer than the one with i’s:

w: 77

i: 219

alphabet: 111

One column, List view, there is a big difference in number of characters shown

Three columns – List:

Similar as above, w < alphabet < i

w: 21

i: 64

alphabet: 31

And also in the Three columns – List view the differences are obvious

Interestingly, it appears that the actual letters in your text determine how many you will see in the Description!

Conclusions

  • Although the Description text in SharePoint News can contain 255 characters, you will rarely see the full text on your News web part
  • The influencing factors appear to be: Column width, Web part layout, visibility of publishing details, actual words used
  • Different Section layouts, meaning differences in column width, affect the number of Characters shown
  • Different News web part layouts show a different amount of Description text
  • In smaller column widths, the List layout behaves similar to the Side-by-side layout
  • Displaying the publishing details, such as Author, Date and Views, goes at the expense of the number of Description text characters
  • The actual letters you use will influence the number of characters shown, with wide letters (such as m and w) showing fewer characters than narrow letters (such as i and l)
  • From earlier tests I also know that making your window smaller, or increase the zoom of your browser, will result in fewer characters
  • The available space in the column appears to be the driving factor, not a number of characters. We have seen that before in my tests with the Site Navigation, but also when checking the number of characters in the title of a News post

Recommendations

Relax!

My first recommendation would be to relax, as there are many factors influencing this behaviour and there is not that much you can do. And when your readers use a 150% zoom in their browser or check their News mainly from their smartphone, it is completely out of your control.

But there are a few things you can do to make sure your readers see as much from your carefully crafted Description as possible:

  • Use the One-column layout, with the List view, and remove the publishing details if that works for your purpose
  • Keep descriptions as short as possible. Your readers will be grateful if they have to read less anyway
  • Use front-loading, i.e. make sure that the most important words are in the beginning of your title
  • Do not use your company name if it is not essential
    I often see the company name in front of everything, but News is for your own audience mostly.

Do you have any other tips?


Photo by zai23.guitars399789 on Vecteezy.com

An unusual intranet demonstration video

Recently I was invited by Intranet Management (Italy) to talk about my video collection. I decided to choose “The Intranet Demo video” as my topic. This video type may be not as spectacular as some of the teaser videos in my collection, but the Intranet Demo video (where someone shows what the new intranet looks like, what content you can find and how to use it) is much more valuable, in my opinion.

Some reasons to create a Demo video for your new intranet

There are more benefits to the Demo Video. Not only does it create awareness (as does a teaser) for the new intranet, but it will also help people with actually using the intranet. When someone shows them how to work with the new intranet, it may help to lower the threshold to try it. Remember, not everyone is as computer literate as yourself!
A good demo can therefore save the training departments (often HR, Communications and/or IT) some support time and effort. And its lifespan is much longer than that of the teaser, because it can also be used to introduce new employees to the intranet.
A teaser is fun, and often very entertaining, but it is obsolete once the intranet has been launched. The teaser certainly has its uses, but as I have been at the IT-side of things, I think the Demo is more value for money.

If you have time or budget for only one intranet launch video, make it a Demo!

Do you really have to create a Demo video?

Someone asked whether an intranet should not be so intuitive that a demo is not needed?
Well, a new intranet may be intuitive for some people, but you can not expect it to be intuitive for all. Some people simply need more help, or are coming in as a new employee who has been used to a different intranet platform. And especially when you have changed the design, layout, navigation and/or the platform all colleagues may benefit from an instruction on what has changed, and why and how. And where they can find their relevant content.

The Demo video is just ONE adoption tool

I think a Demo video should not be the only way to increase trial and adoption of your intranet. For some colleagues having a demo that explains the whereabouts of important content and the benefits of completing your profile will be sufficient, others will still need more help. This also depends on your organization: when I was working for multinational marketing & production companies, most people were pretty computer literate. In my last job however, which was in a mental health care organization, colleagues were “working with people, not with computers”. Some of them panicked when they had to store documents on their OneDrive instead of on the Downloads drive. So we had to spend more time and effort making things easy for them.

So, you will always need more tools: webinars or other online sessions as well as classroom training or personal help.

Or is it really the only one…🀯?

The other day I found an extraordinary demo video for the intranet of a software company. Their company goal is to help other organizations with changing/improving on their software systems, therefore giving IT time back as they no longer have to spend lots of time on maintaining legacy systems. Their motto is: Set IT Free. I like that!

Well, apparently that also goes for their own intranet. I was amused to see their intranet tagline:

“Here you will find internal information that should help you to work as independently as possible”

Am I the only one who reads this as: “This is it – you’re on your own!”?

The video is below – What do you think?

Please share your Demo video

I have seen many nice Demo videos, but have not seen the perfect one yet.
Have you created a Demo video when your intranet was (re)launched? Please let me know where it can be seen…or upload it to YouTube or Vimeo.

4 more things to know as a SharePoint News reader

After the recent updates for publishing SharePoint News and creating a Digest, I also wanted to create an update for readers. This post follows on my post β€œ10 things to know as a SharePoint News reader“. We keep on learning!

1. There are various places where you can find your saved-for-later posts.

When you do not have the time to read a news post right now, or when you want to keep it for later, you can save it for later. Click the icon. But where to find those saved items, when you are finally in bus or train or on your sofa? There are at least 5 places where you can find it:

Click the “tab” icon to save a news post for later
  • Microsoft365 Homepage
  • SharePoint Homepage
  • SharePoint mobile app
  • and more!

You can read all about it in this post: Where do you find news posts saved for later?

2. You can filter for News posts in the Search results

Type in a search word in the box on top (make sure you are in the correct “scope”: all M365, this site, this hub, this library).

On the results page you will see a number of “verticals”, or content types, such as Files, Sites and News. You will easily recognize the News posts in the overview by their icon: a folded newspaper, but you can also click on the News tab and see only News.

Clicking on the News “vertical” will show you just the News posts from the search results

3. Please warn the author when you see a post with a greyish thumbnail and no header image

It will probably look like this:

If a News item looks like this, there’s something wrong.

The header image may be deleted, moved or you do not have access to it.
This can also be a Linked Post that has been deleted. The image will disappear after a few days. This will be the case when, after clicking on the post, you get a message “Hmmm…can’t reach this page”. See my post “SharePoint Holmes and the Missing Message“.
You may want to warn the author that there is no thumbnail visible and ask them to check.

A grey image is always an error. If they have deliberately not used an image, the post will look different on the News page:

If a News post looks like this, the publisher has chosen to use the Plain template (without image)

4. You can unsubscribe from News you may have missed

“News you may have missed” is an email that shows you News that may be interesting for you, based on the Microsoft Graph, but that you have not read yet. This is a controversial functionality and I wrote about it earlier. This is an organizational setting that we could not turn off fast enough in my last role 😁, but in case you do not like it and your Microsoft365 administrator has not disabled it, you can do so yourself.

Go to the SharePoint landing page, click the gear wheel top right and select “Email notification settings”. On the next page, uncheck the button at the bottom of the list. It should look like the screenshot below. You setting will be saved automatically.

Turn this button off if you do not want to receive the “News you may have missed” emails

Please let me know if you know more “gotcha’s” for SharePoint News readers!

7 more things to know about the SharePoint News digest

This is an update on my earlier post “10 things to know about the SP News digest” as we have learned many new things about this functionality in the mean time.
I expect that many senders of News digests will also be News publishers and sometimes even Site Owners, so you may also want to read my recent post “10 more things to know about creating SharePoint News” .

1. You must have Contributor or Edit access in a site to be able to create and send a newsletter

A News digest is a page in your Pages Library, and you need permissions to create a page, add an image to the Assets Library etc.

If you are a reader in a site, you will not see the “Create a News digest” option. I wrote about this in “SharePoint Holmes and the Lost Link“.

Screenshot of SharePoint News where person has read access only - they will see the "See all" link on the homepage but when they click it they will not get an option to create a News Digest.
This person only has Read permissions and can therefore not create a News digest.

2. Do not panic when you do not see the “See All” button

There may be a glitch with the web part settings, such as described in my post “SharePoint Holmes and the Disappearing Digest Link

  • The Site owner has used the Hub layout for News (I could not reproduce this anymore, so this may have been a bug that has been fixed)
  • The Site Owner has deselected “Show title and commands” in the web part
Screenshot of News web part where the "Show title and commands" button is turned OFF.
If “Show title and commands” are OFF, you will not see the “See All” link, regardless of the number of posts.
Screenshot of SharePoint News with the "Show title and commands" button OFF, this means you will not see the "See all" link to create a News Digest.
No “See all” after publishing a News web part with the “Show title and commands” OFF.

And then there is the “number of posts” issue. This is the explanation from Microsoft: If you don’t see the See all link, it could be that you don’t have enough news posts published for the option to be available. See all shows only when the number of news posts you have published is greater than the number of posts set to show in the Number of news posts to show option of the News web part. For example, if you have only 2 news posts published, and you set the option to display 4, you won’t have a See all link in the news section.

3. Make it a habit to use the Description field for a good summary of the post

Your audience will appreciate a Newsletter that provides them with useful info and does not waste their time. A good summary in the Description can help, as this will help them determine if title and summary are sufficient information, or if they want to read the full post. The Description from the News page will also be displayed in the Digest.
If you do not publish News posts yourself, you may want to teach your publishers about the use of the Description field.

In the example below, item 1 has a short summary that tells you exactly what Project Peony is about, item 2 blabs on about the project itself and tells you nothing about the purpose.

Screenshot of two identical SharePoint News posts, one with a good summary in the Description that tells you immediately about the post, one with the default description which is not as informative.
Item 1 has an optimized Description, with a nice summary, while Item 2 has the default first lines of the body text.

Read more about the Description field in my post: “7 things to know about the Description field in SharePoint pages and news“.

4. You can send one Digest from various news sites

Suppose you normally publish in and send a Digest from the Intranet site. Now you want to send one Digest from your Intranet News posts, with one or more items from one or more different sites. This can be done by adding a link to news that lives in another site, or even on the internet, or by including all News from one or more other sites permanently.

You have three options, see the screenshots below. You can find more elaborate info in my post “Combining SharePoint News from different sites“.

  • Add a News Link (to one News post from another location) is best for a one-off News post
  • Use News posts from one or more other sites if you want to permanently include News from one or more other sites in your News
  • Use News posts from all sites in the Hub if your site is a Hub site
Screenshot of SharePoint News with the place where you can find the "Add News Link" option.
For a one-time addition of a post from another location, you can use the Add News link option.
Screenshot of SharePoint News web part settings where News from two additional sites has been added to the News from this site.
If you want to show all News from one or more sites, you can add more sources permanently.
Screenshot of SharePoint News web part, where the site is a Hub site so you can select to show News from all sites in the Hub.
If the site is a Hub Site, you can show News from all sites in the Hub

Please remember that links in the Digest will go to the original posts when clicked from the site or the Digest. Make sure that everyone has access to all sites featuring in the Digest!

5. πŸ₯³πŸ₯³πŸ₯³There ARE options to format the Digest email! πŸ₯³πŸ₯³πŸ₯³

Microsoft is still in the “promise” phase for any formatting options, but Veronique Palmer has found a way to format it from the Outlook Desktop app – now that is neat! I tried it with Outlook-on-the-web and you can do a few things there as well!

In short, you can reformat while you forward the digest. This is a good way to change the colour scheme and perhaps add different logo’s (I could not make that work but that may be just me or a limitation of Outlook-on-the-web)

So, this is the Digest email that I receive in Outlook on-the-web.

Screenshot of the original News digest email
The original Digest email, it is a bit boring and has a lot of Microsoft branding

When I forward it (and perhaps change the sender from myself to an organizational mailbox such as “Communications” to make it more formal) I can edit the header. In this case I removed the Microsoft and SharePoint logo’s, edited the text and added a background colour.

Screenshot of formatted SharePoint News digest email, without the logo's and Microsoft references, with a different header colour and some edited texts.
I can do some formatting, even in Outlook for the web!

This is the reformatted email after sending:

Screenshot of reformatted news digest email. It looks a bit more colourful than the original.
The reformatted email. It looks a bit less bland!

6. The Digest will always be sent from your personal email address

SharePoint is personal, and any Digest will be sent from your email address. (Unless your Communications Department has a separate Microsoft365 license, but I think that is not good practice).
If you want to send a Digest on behalf of the Communications Department for instance, please first send the Digest to the Communications Department mailbox. From there, you can forward it to the intended audience.
This procedure will allow you to:

  • Shorten the title.
    By default the Digest title will be “[Creator] shared [Digest Title] with you”. By forwarding you can shorten that to just the Digest title.
  • Add the audience to the BCC field.
    This will keep the damage of any “Reply All” actions limited. There is no option to send as CC or BCC from SharePoint.
  • Format the email, see item 5!
  • Treat all emails from the Communications Department consistently (e.g. filing, archiving, etc.)
Screenshot from the Digest creating process. There is only a "To" field in the Digest, no CC or BCC.
There is only a TO field in the Digest, and it will always be sent from the person who creates the Digest.

But make sure to remove any earlier sending info!

Screenshot of News digest email when it is received and being forwarded. At this stage you should edit the title to make it more compact, and remove the sending info from SharePoint to the first mailbox.
When forwarding, please edit the title (1) and remove the sending into from the mail (2).

7. Be aware that not everyone may receive your News digest

That may be because of a problem with your email server, it may end up in Junk Mail, it may be an accident and some readers may have intentionally blocked you because they do not want to receive “more organizational stuff to read”.
I have listed a number of possible reasons and troubleshooting in this post: “Why does my SharePoint News digest not reach my colleagues?

If you are starting with a regular newsletter, I would suggest you inform your audience about the reason and value, and show them how to check their Junk Mail or Archive. It can also be helpful to run a survey now and then, so you can finetune your Digest.

What have I missed?

So, have you found any other “things to know” about the SharePoint News Digest? Please let me know!

The 7 from the image is sourced from https://www.freepnglogos.com/images/number-7-36599.html

Combining SharePoint News from different sites

Sharing News posts from different sites in your site can help you create a good News experience for your audience, as you can share other people’s News without having to publish it yourself. It will also help other publishers by increasing their audience.

We used this extensively in my last role. Communications picked up interesting News posts from other parts in the organization to share that on the intranet Homepage. Reversely, local News publishers sometimes added corporate News posts to their own News.

It is easy to do but there are some things you may want to know.

1. There are three ways to add news posts from other sites to your News

a. One-time only: use the Add News Link

This way you will add one post to your News feed. The item will be displayed on the News web part as if it has been published in your site, it will have the name of your site on top of it.
This link will create a new page in your Site Pages Library, but upon clicking the title or image from the News web part, you will be taken to the original post in the original site. So, you are NOT making a copy, just a reference.

How to do this:

Go to the News web part, click New and select “News link” instead of News post

Screenshot of SharePoint site Homepage with the option to add a News Link.
How to add a link to another News post – use the highlighted option

Enter the link to the News post in the popup. The popup will automatically populate with image, title and description from the News post. You can adjust this where needed. Click “Post” at the bottom of the popup to publish.

You will see the current Page Details and can adjust them when needed.

After you click Post, the post will be added to your News web part as if it has been created by yourself.

Screenshot of SharePoint page with News web part after adding a News link to another news post.
The linked post is added like a regular News item

In the Site Pages Library, a new page will be added that contains only the Page Details, but not the complete item. That still lives in the original site.

Screenshot of page created in the Site Pages Library with just the Page Details.
In the Site Pages library you will get a new page with just the Page Details.

You can imagine that this works well for the occasional post that you want to add. Keep in mind that, when the original publisher deletes the post, your linked news item will give an error message. You may want to check out my post “SharePoint Holmes and the Missing Message” for the details.

TIP: This is a good way to republish an older post from your site. By adding the News Link it will show up as a new item, on top of the feed. This is much easier than fixing the position in the web part which is rather cumbersome.

b. Permanent: Add one or more News sources

In the News web part, by default the News from “this site” will show, but you can select other sites to show their News.

Go to the page with the News web part and click the Edit button. In the web part settings, you can choose “Select sites” and then check the sites you want to add to your News web part. Generally the sites you use frequently will be visible, but you can also search for them.

When you have selected the site you will immediately see their News mingled with your own, depending on Publish date.

Screenshot of how you select the sites that will be part of your News web part.
Upon selecting the sites you will see their News posts mixed with your own. They will have the name of their original site on top.

Unlike the “News Link” options, posts will show the name of their original site above the title, and no reference page will be created in your Site Pages Library.

Screenshot of the News of the Intranet site homepage, with News of two other sites added as other sources.
This is the News feed of the Intranet site and two others

c. Permanent: all sites in the Hub

In case you have a number of sites that belong together, e.g. together they form the Intranet or the global HR information, you can create a Hub site to bring them all together with navigation, design, search, News etc.
Gregory Zelfond has a good explanation in this post, so please give that a read if Hubs are new to you: How to create Hub sites in SharePoint online.

In this case, I have turned the Intranet site into a Hub site and associated 2 other sites with it. You see that each News post has the name of the site where it lives, on top. Again, no reference page is created.
(By the way, you also see that the post I used in my earlier blog now has lost its image, a clear sign that something is wrong!)

Screenshot of how to show the News of all sites from the Hub.
When you have created a Hub site and associated sites with the Hub, you will get the option to include all Hub sites in the News web part.

Screenshot of SharePoint news web part, with News from the 3 sites that are in the Hub.
You see the most recent News from the three sites that are part of the Hub.

2. You can add Team sites to the mix

All three options above can be done with both Team sites and Communication sites. In the screenshot below, I added a Team site to the Hub and the News post I created is incorporated.

Screenshot of SharePoint news web part, including a News post from a Team site.
Top left is the latest News post from a Team Site, that I associated with the Hub.

3. Mind permissions!

Make sure that any posts or sites that you include in your News web part or News Digest, is accessible for your audience. You may want to check with the site owners about the site’s permissions.

This is especially the case with Team sites which are likely to have more strict permissions than an organization-wide Communication site. Team sites may contain updates from important projects, that you may want to share, but make sure everyone can read them, otherwise you will have to create your own post.

4. You can create a digest from combined News

Regardless of where the News lives, you can turn all News posts that are in your web part into a News digest. In the screenshot below I left out the ERP item, where the original has been deleted, but you see that all others can be included in the News digest. But…please verify that everyone has access to all sites! (see 3.)

Screenshot of the News Digest creation page - all articles in your site can be included in your Digest.
All posts in your site can be included in your News Digest

5. You can add a News web part to more pages than one

You will most likely have the News web part on the Home page of your site, and you want that to be as interesting as possible.
But you can create as many News web parts in your site as you want or need, and configure them separately using option 1b. This allows you to keep track of other posts and pick out any interesting ones.

EXAMPLE 1: Suppose you are a multi-national organization, and each country has a News site for that country. You can create an extra (hidden) page with a Web part, select all the country sites as your Source, so you can keep track of what is going on in each country. You can then use the info from that web part to add News to your own site, or send a News Digest about what is happening in the various countries.
EXAMPLE 2: You can combine the News of different Project sites to keep track of their News (assuming you have permissions) and then make a selection as a Project Update digest.

These are just examples to give you an idea about “keeping track of News” without having to add it to your Homepage.

Below you will see a screenshot of how I added an extra page in the Intranet site, where I added News from two completely different sites than used earlier.

Screenshot of a different page in the Intranet site, with a News page that uses completely different sites than the News source.
A new page in the Intranet site with completely different News items. This can come in useful to keep track of other News.

Do you have any tips or experiences to add about Combining News? Please let me know!

SharePoint Holmes and the Missing Message

SharePoint News is easy to create and manage, but that does not mean things can not “go wrong”. This is often due to unexpected or unknown behaviour. So, you can imagine that our hero SharePoint Holmes likes the functionality! 😁

The situation

I received an issue in our support system from a News reader who saw an interesting News post on a SharePoint site. However, when he clicked on it, he got an error message. He had refreshed the page, closed SharePoint and reopened, and even logged out and back in, but he could not open it.  
(What a model employee, by the way, doing the most obvious troubleshooting actions before logging an issue. I have seen many people get into a complete panic when they get an error message, while a simple “did you turn it off and on again” could have solved the problem)

But how could that be? He saw the item, it had recently been posted in the site! 

An obvious case for SharePoint Holmes. I grabbed my problem-solving cap and set to work.

The investigation

I logged in as admin into the site and checked his permissions. This was a site accessible for all employees. Good.

Then I looked with him at the site’s homepage. The red-lined item was the problem post.

Screenshot of SharePoint site home page, with News posts. It all looks good, but there is one News post that gives an error upon clicking.
The site in question. Everything looks normal, but the red-lined post gives an error message.

When he clicked the post, this was the error message. Do you see what SharePoint Holmes sees?

Screenshot from Error message saying:
"Hmmm… can't reach this pageIt looks like the webpage at https://ellenvanaken.sharepoint.com/sites/Communicationsite/SitePages/Changes-in-the-ERP-system.aspx might be having issues or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.
ERR_INVALID_RESPONSE"
This is the error message.

Right, the site above says “Intranet” while the error message refers to a link in “Communicationsite”.

I got the same error message upon clicking the News post, (confirming once more this was NOT a permissions issue), and checked the URL of the site where the item had been posted. There was “Intranet” in the URL of the site with the issue, but the error message was for an item in a “Communicationsite”.

πŸ’‘ Aha, this looked like a News post that had been created with the “News Link” option. This is an easy way to share News from one site to another. Instead of creating your own post, you can click on Add > News Link and add the URL in a popup. SharePoint will then add thumbnail, title and description, and you can keep that as is, or edit when needed. When someone clicks on the post, they will be redirected to the post in the site where it was created, in this case the “Communicationsite”.

Screenshot from SharePoint site with News web part showing what happens when you click the Add  button under News. You will get two options: News post (to create a news item from scratch) or News Link (to link to another news post in SharePoint or internet)
An easy way to share News from other sites or even the internet

First I checked whether my hypothesis was correct. I opened the Site Pages Library in the Intranet site and looked for the post. When I opened it it looked indeed like a “News Link” page: a page with the link and the Page Details, nothing more.
πŸ’‘ Normally the image from the Source site would also be shown, but in this case it was missing, and this was a reason to suspect that the original News post had been deleted.

Screenshot of the page that you get when you add a Link to a News Post. In this case there is no image, which is a clue for SharePoint Holmes.
This is what you get when you add News as a link to another site (or the internet). Normally you would also see the image, but this time it is empty, another clue.

I then opened the “Communicationsite” and checked the Site Pages Library (just to be on the safe side) and when I could not see the post, I went to the Recycle Bin. And yes, there it was.

Screenshot of the Recycle Bin of the site where the News item was posted
The News post from the link has been deleted in the site where it has been posted. Links to this post will now be inaccessible.

I contacted the person who had deleted the News post and enquired about the deletion. It turned out that the deletion was done accidentally in haste, and only a short time ago, as the image was still visible. (After a few days, the image will disappear as it is no longer stored in a Site Assets Library)

The solution

In this case, the “deleter” restored the post in the Communication site and that action restored access to the News post in the Intranet site.

Of course, it will not always be as straightforward. Sometimes it can be necessary to delete a post because it is outdated and potentially harmful to keep.

It may make sense to agree on a form of Life Cycle Management for News posts within your organization, and only delete something when a post is older than 1 year, for instance, if it does not need to be deleted earlier. You may want to read “Writing SharePoint News posts – our way” for more agreements you can make with your fellow News publishers.

As News Publishers will not be able to see easily where their News items are being shared, you will never be able to completely prevent issues like the above. But it will help to inform your News Publishers about this potential issue when using the “News Link” option.

Tip: you can check if your News post has been used in another site as follows:

  • Copy the title of the post and enter this in the Microsoft365 homepage Search box (so you search all through Microsoft365)
  • Alternatively, use some keywords from the title that are less common
  • Click the News tab in the Search results
  • Check if there are more entries than yours
  • If you want to delete the item you may want to warn the Publishers who have added your News post to their site.

This will not really help if someone has posted it to a restricted site that you have no access to, or when they have changed the title, but it is an option to reduce any “damage”.

Screenshot of two News posts with the same name, indicating that one is a link to another. The News Search vertical will help filter out the News posts.
Another News post that has been added as News Link: two posts with the same name in Search, in different sites.

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role was solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I had a standard response, but sometimes I needed to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Colourful intranet videos in a grey time of year

As this time of year is grey and boring, in any case in my Northern part of the world, I thought I’d brighten things up with some extravagant intranet promotion videos, where the design appears to be more important than the content. 😁

You can find them all by searching on “z-ott” (which is my code for Over The Top) in my collection but I have made a selection in this post.

Screenshot of the tags and search part of my video collection.
You can look for the tag “z-ott” in the filter, but it is easier to search for it.

Make sure to log in to Vimeo so you can see the ones that are “not rated yet” as well! More on this phenomenon in a later post.

1. The Cube, from Singapore government

This video is 10 years old but has not aged a bit. The quest through the jungle and the old cellar is still a nice metaphor for finding information within a large organization. They need an intranet!

There is another, related, video from this organization in my collection.

2. Velux One, from a manufacturer of special windows

There were a number of similar videos around some 7 years ago, but only this one and the one from a British insurance company have survived on public media. (But please let me know if I am mistaken)

They all feature a rather hysterical voice-over, cats, a saurus of some kind, and lots of funny statistics.

3. The Loop, from a healthcare organization

The birth of a new intranet, taken literally!

4. Leroy Merlin, European DIY retailer

It is a bit long, but very interesting. It is a video game between a regular person and someone with “intranet glasses”. I have never seen this for a real intranet, it would be interesting though if you could see the serial number or available stock on screen while you walk the store. Is someone working on this?

5. Fred, from a German producer of medical products and medicines.

There is a LOT going on in this delightful teaser video. There’s Roy Liechtenstein, Andy Warhol, Superman, other references to comics, accompanied by American jazz age background music. The video is available in English, German, French and Spanish.

In my collection you will also find another one from this company, with even more arts & culture!

This is only a selection so please make sure you watch all of them!

Photo of video camera by Max Bender on Unsplash

SharePoint Holmes and the Lost Link (to the News digest)

Another occasion where SharePoint Holmes saved the day.

The situation

“I need to send out a News digest today for my colleague and she showed me how to do it, but it does not work for me” I heard on the other side of the Teams call. “It is our Christmas Newsletter and my colleague is already out for the holidays”.

Of course one calls the support desk rather than another colleague when this happens 😊. And as I was quite busy in the end-of-year period, I thought I’d call in SharePoint Holmes. Usually this was a quiet time for him and I expected that an interaction was welcome. Especially a “it does not work for me” as that can be really anything. So on went my sleuthing hat!

The investigation

We shared screens. She opened the site where the News was published, and showed me the items that needed to go into the Christmas digest.

I noticed there was a “See All” link top right, so apparently the web part was configured correctly, and more than 5 items were published. That was not the problem.

Screenshot of a SharePoint News web part, displaying news posts.
The News web part that is the source for the news digest . There is a “See All” link top right.

She clicked on “See All” and the next page opened.

Hmmm, there were no “Manage Posts” and “Email a News digest” links. A page refresh did not help. That was strange.

Screenshot of SharePoint page where you normally create a news digest from. The link to do that is missing.
The page where you normally see “Manage posts” and “Email a news digest”. But not here.

I looked at one of my own sites and compared it to hers.
I asked her to go back to the Homepage. There were no options to add News or something else. (as in the first screenshot in this post)
I asked her to click on the Gear Wheel. That showed only a very small menu.

Screenshot of the Site Settings for this person. Only two menu items, so this person has very limited permissions on this site and can therefore not create a News digest.
The site settings only has a few options. I expect this person is a Visitor and has too few permissions.

Ah, I got it. Permissions!

The solution

In my admin role, I checked permissions for the site in question. And as I expected, she was a Site Visitor, not a member.

You can only create a News digest when you have permissions to add a new Page to the Site Pages library, and add images to the Assets library. It is in the Microsoft support, by the way, but I only learned that later.

Due to the absence of any other Site Owners, I made her a Member and sent a note to the Site Owner that I had given her more permissions in order to create a News digest. I hoped the Site Owner would remember that for next time…
I stayed in the meeting and looked while she created the News Digest. After a page refresh the permissions were OK and she knew what to do.

SharePoint Holmes saved Christmas! 🌲😁

Happy holidays for all my blog readers. All the best for 2023!

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role was solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I had a standard response, but sometimes I needed to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Why does my SharePoint News digest not reach my colleagues?

Since a few weeks I am also on Mastodon (@ellenvanaken@mastodon.social) and there I happened upon this question from @almostwitty:

“Does anyone know how to manage the SharePoint “News you might have missed” feature? Some people aren’t getting them and I have no idea why…”

I thought that was a great question, so I started investigating, including the regular News Digest option as well, since issues can occur there too.
I focused on technical/functional reasons, reading “not getting them” as “not receiving them in their mailbox” rather than not understanding what they are about. (But there’s an explanation on how it works from Microsoft in this post as well!)

There are three levels where email newsletters can go wrong: organizational (because of settings or email issues), sender or recipient issues or actions.
In the case of organizational issues, most likely the whole organization, or a specific part of it (e.g. a specific email domain or location), will not have receive the digest.
In case of individuals who have not received it, the issue is harder to identify and solve.

A. Regular News Digest

This is a newsletter with a hand-picked selection of news, sent by a site owner (sender) to an email list or group of colleagues (recipients). You may want to check my earlier post “10 things to know about the SharePoint News digest”
Always think carefully before you decide to send a News digest – not everyone likes to receive “even more stuff to read” from their organization!

In the following cases someone or more people may not receive it:

1. Organization: There has been an email glitch in your organizations Outlook/Exchange

Check with your Microsoft365 admins if this is the case. The glitch can affect all your organization, or parts of it, e.g. with a different email address.

2. Sender: You have exceeded the Outlook sending limitations

Check the sending limitations here. E.g. you have sent your newsletter to more than 500 people, of you have sent too many emails in one day. The limits appear to be lower for people who have been in the organization shortly and have no reliable reputation yet.
Solutions may be to send the newsletter in smaller batches, to use organization-wide groups instead of individuals (any group that is in your Company Directory), or to send the newsletter from a different email address. (e.g. a department mailbox rather than your personal email)

3. Sender: you have more than 256 characters in your subject line

See all Exchange Online limitations (link below) under “Messaging limitations”.
A more complete, but more complicated overview of all Exchange Online limits here.

Please create a shorter subject line.

4. Sender: your digest mail is seen as Junk Mail

This has happened to me when I first sent some digests, because I sent it to a lot of people who had never had any interaction with me.

Please inform colleagues that you are starting an email newsletter, monitor delivery of your first digest, train your colleagues how to add senders of in-company newsletters to their safe senders and ask them to check their Junk Email folder on a regular basis.
It can also help to send the digest not from your personal email, but from an organizational account, e.g. Communications, or Department XYZ.

5. Recipient: Has deliberately blocked your email address, reported earlier newsletters as Junk and/or has set a Rule to send your mails to the Deleted Items

While option 4 is more or less an accident, this one is a deliberate action. There is no “Unsubscribe” option for SharePoint News digests, so every employee who is not happy to receive and read your mail will find ways to avoid it. Your digest will probably be in their Junk Email or Deleted Items.

It may be good to inform colleagues about the benefits of the News digests. Additionally you could train them how to add senders of in-company newsletters to their safe senders and to to check their Junk Email folder on a regular basis.

6. Recipient has accidentally deleted or archived the mail

Sometimes I do that too – I delete something by simply pressing the wrong button, swiping the wrong way, etc. Sometimes it is because I am interrupted while reading email, sometimes I decide too fast that this is not interesting, it can be anything really, and nothing personal! 😊

The email may be in the Deleted Items or in the Archive.

7. Recipient’s mailbox is full

Especially when your organization has many F3-licenses, it may happen that their mailbox (only 2 GB) is full and can no longer receive emails, even though the News digest is a small email in size. Check out the Quirks of the F3 license.

There’s not much you can do there. The recipient will have received one or more warnings to clean up their mailbox.

B. News you might have missed:

This is an automated digest of items that you have access to, may be relevant for you (according to the Microsoft Graph) but have not read yet. More info from Microsoft.

In this case, there are only organizational or recipient issues. People may not receive this for the following reasons:

8. Organization: it has been disabled on organizational level

Microsoft provides information on how to do that. You may want to discuss with the Microsoft365 admins (and others involved) to turn it on again, because there may have been a good reason to disable the functionality.

9. Organization: There has been an email glitch in your organizations Outlook/Exchange

(Similar to 1.) Check with your Microsoft365 admins if this is the case. The glitch can affect all your organization, or parts of it, e.g. with a different email address.

10. Recipient: There is no news that they have missed

They may have read all there is to read. That may be because they have been a colleague for only a short time and does not have access to many sites yet.

11. Recipients have turned off their subscription in the email or on their SharePoint page

This is ON by default. At the bottom of the email there is a link called “Notification settings” that takes you to a page in the SharePoint homepage where you can disable this digest.

Screenshot of the bottom of the "News you may have missed" email, with the link to change your notification settings.
You can disable this automated digest here.

You can also do this from the SharePoint home page by clicking the gear wheel > Email notification settings.

Screenshot of the SharePoint landing page and the menu under the gear wheel. With "Email notification settings" you can turn the digest off.
On the SharePoint landing page you can also turn off this digest.

In both cases, you will go to the below page where you can toggle off the button at the bottom.

Screenshot of the Notification settings page where you can determine if you want to receive "News you might have missed" or not.
If you do not want to receive “News you might have missed” you can set this button to “Off”

12. Recipient: Has deliberately blocked noreply@sharepointonline.com, reported earlier digests as Junk and/or has set a Rule to send mails from this sender to the Deleted Items

(Similar to 5.) This is a deliberate action. The digest will probably be in their Junk Email or Deleted Items.

You may want to inform users that blocking noreply@sharepointonline.com is not a good idea, as they will also not receive other mails about their SharePoint sites and documents. (e.g. auto-deletion of Teams recordings) Creating awareness about this email may be good idea, as is teaching them how to disable the “News you might have missed” email instead, as explained in 11, if they really do not want it.

13. Recipient has accidentally deleted or archived the mail

(Similar to 6.)

The email may be in the Deleted Items or in the Archive. Again, creating awareness about this email may be a good idea, and you may also want to teach them how to disable it properly if they do not want to receive it.

14. Recipient’s mailbox is full

(Similar to 7). The mailbox of F3-licensed users (only 2 GB) may be full and can no longer receive emails, even though this is a small email in size. Check out the Quirks of the F3 license.

There’s not much you can do there. The recipient will have received one or more warnings to clean up their mailbox.

Conclusion

There are many reasons why someone does not receive a SharePoint News digest or a “News you might have missed” digest. The reasons can be on organization, sender and recipient level, and may be deliberate or accidental. That makes it hard to troubleshoot, but I hope I given you a few ideas to start with. Good luck!

Please let me know if I have forgotten any!

10 more things to know about creating SharePoint News

Decorative image - a self-created concoction of the SharePoint logo, a Newspaper icon and the number 10.

Some time ago I wrote a post: 15 things to know about creating SharePoint News

By now it is 16 things, because posts with numbers are cursed, as my fellow bloggers will know 😁

In the mean time I have learned a few more things, so it is time for an update.

1. The news publishers in your organization may appreciate guidelines

With all the options SharePoint has to offer, in web parts, columns, fonts and font colours, you may want to provide your News publishers with a few writing and design guidelines. This will help create some consistency across your intranet.
I have shared my last organization’s guidelines in an earlier post: Writing SharePoint news posts (our way). This post was pretty popular so I guess it fills a need.

2. Be aware of when to use which image source

I have tried every option and made an overview in this post: Images in SharePoint news and pages.

In short:

  • Using an image from Web Search and Upload will create a new folder and file in your Site Assets library. All other options do not.
  • You have most control using Upload or Site, as you will know where the image is stored and you will be able to re-use it easily
  • Stock Images and Organizational Assets are the best options when you care about respecting intellectual property, assuming someone is in charge of maintenance of Organizational Assets

3. In some cases the header image is not visible

I have written about troubleshooting images. These are a few common causes:

  • The “Plain” page template (no image) is used
  • Readers have no permission to view the picture, for instance because it lives in someone’s OneDrive
  • The image has been moved or deleted
  • On Yammer, in some cases when the post has been promoted to Yammer – see point 4.
Screenshot of SharePoint news web parts with a post with header image that was deleted, and a post in Plain template, with no header image by default.
Example of a News web part with a news post with a deleted header image (top) and one using a Plain template (with no header image)

4. Promoting a post to Yammer may not show it as nice as you expect

How your News post looks on Yammer is depending on

5. The Description field can be used for several purposes

The Description is a field that you can find in the Page Details. It is easily overlooked, and you do not have to use it, but it can be quite powerful.

  • Create a summary of your post. This will be displayed under the title of the post and will show your readers quickly what the post is about. You will have to make an effort, as by default the first part of the body text will be displayed.
    The Description will also be shown in the Newsletter and in Search results.
  • Hide key words that will be used in Search results. It is best if you add these keywords as far to the bottom of the description as possible, to avoid it showing up in the news overviews.

Read more about it: 7 things to know about the Description field (by now it is 8…sigh 😊)

Screenshot of two examples of a SharePoint News post: one with the default Description (= the first part of the body text), one with a short summary of the post, which shows you quickly what the post is about.
Example of a summary: To the left, a custom summary of the post. To the right: The default description: the first paragraph which trails off.

6. You can add a publication date on the post or page itself

The publication date of a News article will be visible on the News web part, (if you have that enabled), but when you open a News post you do not see the publishing date. You may want to add the date from the web part settings in the header (1), then toggle on the “show published date” button (2) and then the date will be shown underneath the title and author (3). I have not found a way to enable this by default. Please let me know if there is an easy way to make this the standard.
Adding the publication date is a good practice for intranet pages with a longer lifespan.

Screenshot of SharePoint news post in the making, with the option to add the Published date to the post itself, underneath title and author.
The web part settings is where you can make the publication date visible. By default it is off, unfortunately.
Screenshot of SharePoint news page with the News web part. The publication date is shown, but this date is by default not replicated on the news article itself.
You can show the publication date in the News web part, as shown here, but this does not show on the News post by default.
Screenshot of SharePoint News article, published, with the publication date underneath title and author. This is useful for both news and intranet pages.
This is the publication date on the published post.

7. You can manage comments on your posts and pages

Your readers can respond to posts by clicking the Like button or adding a comment. Notifications will be sent via email to you. If this gets a little overwhelming or distracting, my post 4 ways to manage comments on SharePoint news or pages may help you.

8. If you are publishing “on behalf of” an Author, here’s some ways to redirect comments to them

By default, Likes and Comments are sent to the person who has published the post. There is no standard option to redirect them to the person who is the intellectual owner (as opposed to the publisher) of the post.
I have come up with a few workarounds in this post: Diverting SharePoint news comments to the Author.

9. In some cases you will NOT see “See All” on the News web part

Sometimes the “See all” link, which you will need to see more news items and in order to create a Newsletter, is not visible:

  • When you have less than 5 published News posts
  • When you use the Hub News display
  • When you have hidden the “Title and Commands” in the web part settings.

You can read more about it in my post SharePoint Holmes and the Disappearing Digest link.

Screenshot of SharePoint news web part settings, where you can toggle off the "Show title and command" bar. This will take away the word News, but also some other useful things.
If you toggle the “Show title and commands” off, the items News, See all and Add in the top bar will not be visible on the page.

10. The Carousel display still has usability limitations

Even Microsoft, who are big on inclusive design, have not managed to come up with a good Carousel. It also does not display any indication of the content of the article apart from the title. You can read my rant in this post: Can you get a text preview in a SharePoint News Carousel?

Screenshot of a SharePoint news Carousel.
An example of a Carousel.

As SharePoint is evolving, we keep finding out more and more things about it, so please stay tuned and keep asking me questions, so SharePoint Holmes and I can investigate!

Number “10” by publicdomainpictures.net