My second SharePoint intranet

This project was started in 2015 and launched in 2016.

The situation

The old intranet was built on SharePoint 2007 (on-prem) and bursting at the seams. Each business had their own site collection, with many subsites underneath. Each site collection could only hold 2 GB (!) so it was a constant struggle to keep within those limits.
I was the functional owner of a number of site collections and most of my posts from that time deal with keeping the storage space within its limits. So I shaved off versions, migrated stuff to archive collections or even shared drives, optimized presentations and what not, in order to keep the ever growing collections within limits.

The different business were quite autonomous in their approach, so some site collections had been nicely reworked with SharePoint Designer, and some had lots of workflows. There was an attempt to have common procedures, but this was all voluntary and not mandated.

All business and ICT folks who were involved with content, support and system maintenance really wanted a new intranet!

The project

After many years of project proposals we finally got approval to start creating a new intranet, based on SharePoint Online. This was not so much because the budget holders thought they needed an improved intranet, but because support for SP2007 would stop and the business wanted to move more applications to the cloud.

A Microsoft partner was found and off we went! At the beginning I was not really involved, which frustrated me. At a certain moment I just inserted myself into the weekly progress meetings and started asking questions and giving advice. After all, I had more direct contact with users of the current intranet than anyone else in the project, so I thought my input could be useful. Some weeks passed and I was considered one of the project team 😁

Mistake #1: Majority of budget went to News

We spent the majority of budget on creating a custom News function, which would be targeted and personalizable. It consisted of one page per news item in a special page format, a (too large) number of tags, and a publishing flow. Especially the targeting and personalization took up most of the work, as it had to be build and was rather complex.

When we launched, it was not fully ready but most of it worked. Improvements were on the roadmap.

The project team then attended a Microsoft event and heard that Microsoft would launch SharePoint News a few months later. We collectively cried a bit πŸ˜‚

Mistake #2: Agile development, Waterfall operations

This project would be a pilot for introducing Agile methodology into the organization. We got trained and it went actually quite well. I like having many short improvement cycles, it suits my working style. When I was creating “Business solutions” at my former employer, I also worked like that, knowing that ideas and requirements would change as my customers learned more about the capabilities of SharePoint as we progressed.
(I know there’s more to Agile but this stood out for me)

At launch, the intranet was a Minimal Viable Product. We had a roadmap to improve it over the next months. Only…due to cost savings the improvement budget was cancelled, which was a big disappointment and not a good way to deal with Agile. It turned out that an MVP is a good, but vulnerable, concept.

Additionally, no budget was provided (let alone left) to provide adequate documentation, as that is “not Agile”. That did not sit too well with the operations manager who had to provide the support, but we thought we could manage, as both an important developer and myself were in-house. I wrote about this mistake as well. (TLDR: the developer left shortly after launch…)

Mistake #3: Custom design

The idea was to make the intranet look like the corporate website. I do not always like this, as the purposes and audiences are completely different and one generally changes the website design more frequently, leaving the intranet with an “old” look-and-feel. I have ranted about this earlier. 😁

It meant that, for communication sites, we had

  • a non-standard font size, rather large
  • a Promoted Links tile that had slightly different behaviour (dimensions, hover-over) than regular, causing tons of confusion with people who looked on Microsoft Support or YouTube for instructions
  • 65% white space, which drove people nuts because they had to scroll a lot to see the content they had to work with daily
Example of a page with customizations.

We had custom page templates to allow these features.

For team sites, we had custom content types, created to make a difference in stages of a document, as well as hidden tags to help Search. These were also organization-based. Then we changed the organization. Do I need to tell you about the consequences? Fortunately, not many people were aware of the custom content types, most people just used the default and never looked back…

In my post about my first intranet I already mentioned the joy of customizing SharePoint, so I will not do that here. Let’s keep things cheerful! πŸ₯³

Mistake #4: Migration mistakes

The project team initially decided that we would only centrally migrate content that was no older than 2 years. Older content could be migrated by the owner if they thought it was necessary. However, the business insisted that everything should be migrated, as it was too much work to filter out the relevant content and “we had enough storage space now”. So even very old files that I could no longer open in our SP2007 environment were migrated, and still could not be opened. What a waste!

Additionally, the “migration factory” (as the migration team called itself) often forgot to include the new page templates and/or to remove the old page templates. This led to frustrated users who could not use the new templates, and to frustrated support people as people kept using the old templates so we did not get the uniform look-and-feel that we wanted. It was up to Support to adjust all mistakes as these would generally show later.
Permissions were migrated as they were, and not (as we preferred) on the site level only (to allow the business owners to review any more detailed permissions).

Of course we also have some successes to report:

Success #1: Modern SharePoint environment

Apart from all the other SharePoint mod cons, we finally managed to make every site stand-alone; the subsites (sometimes 7 layers deep) were gone, and we had STORAGE SPACE! πŸ₯³

Success #2: Central governance

The organization had given a more central role for ICT. This meant that all site collections were now managed by one ICT team, rather than by the various businesses and ICT. This allowed us to finally have one central governance, for instance:

  • Central creation and deletion of sites
  • Naming convention for sites, so each site had a unique identifier. We used a number, which I thought was rather unpleasant as it gives you no clue what the site is about, but with about 25,000 (!) sites it was the easiest system
  • Custom role for the site owner, so they could not do everything (esp. in design)
  • Central review and reporting on the site collections

Success #3: Mandatory Site owner e-learning

I have always been in favour of a sort of “site owner exam” and it fitted within our more strict governance, so I created a training and a test in e-learning format.
Remind me to share the test in a Form one of these days, so you get an idea of what we wanted people to know. An earlier post about our training setup.

Success #4: Launch video!

The communications department created a rather nice teaser video to celebrate the launch. The original version lives on a corrupted USB-stick, but I managed to find an old Teams recording showing it. Please play at 2 x speed to see it properly. The sound has been lost during the process, there was a simple music soundtrack behind it.
Now you understand why I am partial towards intranets called “Connect”! 😊

My very first SharePoint intranet

During my career I have helped to create and implement 3 SharePoint-based intranets:

  1. Custom-built > SharePoint 2003 (on prem)
  2. SharePoint 2007 (on prem) > SharePoint Online
  3. Other platform > SharePoint Online

I have made mistakes and created things I am proud of, and I thought I’d share it for your amusement and possibly learning.

Let’s start with the first one, this was in 2005.

Our custom-built intranet was just beginning to take off, and when we moved to SharePoint 2003 we did not want to lose momentum. So our goal was that everything worked as much as possible as the current system. This may not have been the best idea, but we had even worse ideas. 😁

Mistake #1: Too much customization

I have described most of this in my post “The Curse of Customization” because we customized everything, and that included adjusting texts in the back end and removing the Folder capabilities from Document Libraries and replacing that with a mandatory column called Category, which was totally cool but most annoying when you quickly wanted to add a new category.

Mistake #2: Too complex usage statistics

Another idea that seemed great at the time was custom-built usage statistics. The standard SharePoint info was (and is) meagre, and we wanted to be able to break down usage at various organizational and business levels, just like we had with our old intranet.

How that turned out, you can read in “KISS: Keep Intranet Statistics Simple

Mistake #3: Outsourcing support

This was not our decision of course, but a company decision. For our intranet this was rather devastating, as you can read in my post “Ouch-sourcing“.

Of course there were also things that went well!

Success #1: Do More with SharePoint: our Business Solutions

Although in the beginning people were a bit hesitant to use the new intranet, we quickly created a process to help them make the most of it. We turned into a “Business Solutions team” that improved problematic business processes, based on a business case. Our calculation method to determine priority for us, and benefits for the business, has been described in this post. And yes, this method was approved by our finance team.

One of the most successful cases was a pre-SAP automation of the CRM-process of part of the organization, where different teams analysed every complaint and determined whether they needed to re-imburse the customer or that someone else was responsible for the complaint and any damage. See “CRM in a Team site

You can find more examples here: https://mydigitalworkplace.wordpress.com/tag/business-example/ (you may need to scroll down a little)

This was REALLY fun to do, we all learned so much about SharePoint and the business was happy with better and cheaper processes. Sadly, my later employers were not really interested in this setup. πŸ˜₯

Succes #2: Good score in Digital Workplace Group’s Benchmarking tables

We became members of the Digital Workplace Groep (then: Intranet Benchmarking Forum) and we quickly rose to the top of the league for most categories except Usability and Design. More information on the Benchmarking process: https://digitalworkplacegroup.com/benchmarking/ 

The homepage above the fold; you can see some more here

Succes #3: The oldest intranet promotion video in my collection!

Although I can not imagine that we were really the first organization that created an intranet launch video, our video is the oldest in my collection that I am aware of. Enjoy!

Can the document library web part look like Stream?

OneDrive and SharePoint will be the storage location for video in Office365. I have already shown earlier how to display your videos on SharePoint pages.

I was curious to learn what you can do with the document library web part for this purpose, knowing that the recommended Highlighted Content web part lacks some functionality compared to the Stream web part. I also liked the Card view for the Document Library, so I wanted to check what it can do. Not just because I like playing around with these things, but also so you, Office365 support person, does not have to do it yourself! You are already busy enough.
So the question is:

Can the Document Library web part show videos in a way that is closer to the Stream web part?

What are we aiming for?

As a reminder, this is a Stream web part for multiple videos. You see thumbnail, title, # views and #likes.

Stream (Classic) web part displaying “All of Stream”

And this is the web part for Highlighted Content, displaying Stream (on SharePoint) videos. You see thumbnail, title, uploader, date.

Highlighted Content, most recent. This displays videos in SharePoint.

So, how do we go about when we want to tweak the Document Library web part? This is the basic display, using a card view – more about that later. You see the thumbnail, name (with extension), Modified by and Modified date. Almost the same as the Highlighted Content, but less compact.

So, can we tweak the Document Library web part to be more like Stream? And if yes, how?

1. Add Title column to the All Documents view

The Document Library web part displays the file name, with an extension. If this does not bother your audience, you can skip this item.
If you want to display the title, you need to add the Title column to your All documents view. In most cases you will need to manually add the titles to your videos. This is work, but it will give you the opportunity to use a better title than the file name.
Do not remove the Name (linked to document with edit menu) column because you may need it to make individual adjustments.
Please note the Title column does not show in bold. This makes it slightly harder to notice than the Name column.

2. Create a Tiles view

In your document library you will need a view in Tiles mode before you can create Cards. So, first of all, save your standard All Documents list view again as “Page View” and then save it again as Tiles. This will be the view to add to the page, after some configuration.

If you want to display other columns in your Page view, please add them now.

The view to add to the web page (after tweaking).

3. Use different views

You now have the following views:

  • All Documents for maintenance, adding columns etc.,
  • Page View to display on your page.

Make sure you know what’s what and do not delete either. You can create other views if needed.

4. Configure Cards

You can only configure Cards in the document library itself, not on the web page. So go to your document library, open the Page View and select “Format current view” from the bottom of the view menu. (see screenshot above)

Then click on “Edit card” and the Card view will pop up with options to change it.

You can create and edit the Card view in the document library.

You can select which columns to show, and decide if you want people’s pics or not.
You can also decide if you want to show the column names. They can provide extra information, but take up vertical space, so it is up to you to see what works best.

Document card designer. The … allow you to move an item up or down

Below an example without the column names and the Modified By (as this is often not relevant), but with an extra choice column called “Topic”.

Example of configured card.

5. Showing the number of Views πŸ˜’

I know you want to see what the end product looks like on a page, but we are not there yet!
I have tried to find a way to easily show Views and Likes, as they are shown together with every Stream video.

Unfortunately I could not make the Views visible on the Card. The number of views are not stored in a column.
The only way you can see how many hits this video has had is in the document library itself. Select a video (1), click the “document details” icon (2) and you can see the number of views in the popup. (3) πŸ˜’

You can not make this visible on the page, not even when you have enabled the command bar.

You need to go to the library to see the number of views.

6. Showing the number of Likes πŸ˜’

Another thing I want to show is the number of likes. I know there is a Rating option in document libraries, so I checked out this post from Gregory Zelfond to see how I enable that again.

I did not see the Rating option in my document library and in the video Greg confirms my suspicion that this is only available in Team sites. But my Intranet site is a Communication site, obviously, and it makes much more sense to me to have a rating option in a large-audience Communication site than in a limited-access Team site!

So, just for the sake of it, I replicated my video library in a Team site and enabled the Ratings.

With Likes it looks like this:

Video library in a Team site – likes

And with Star ratings it looks like this:

Video library in a Team site – with Star ratings

Well, that looks cool, huh?

It does, BUT you can not click on the heart or the stars to give your feedback – you can only do that in the list view in the document library itself…

Another disappointment!

7. Showing the number of Comments πŸ˜’

This is not available on the Stream (Classic) web part, but you can see it in the Stream (Classic) portal and on every video page.

You can see number of views, likes and comments on the My Videos page in Stream (Classic)

I checked if there is a column that shows comments, to add to the Card. Indeed, in the View configuration there is a column called Comment count but it does not get added to the View when you select it.
(Number of) Comments are only visible when you open the video.

Comment count column – but it does not show up when you add it to the view.

8. Configuring the page

Now it is time to add the web part to the page. I used the following setup for the web part:

  • One column with the Document Library web part
  • Page View
  • Hide the command bar
  • Show “See all” button
Web part configuration

And this is the best I could do (in a Team site)

Document Library web part in a Team site, non-clickable likes.

Conclusion:

The Document Library web part is a little more flexible than the Highlighted Content web part, so you can vary in what you show on your SharePoint page. It takes some work to make it ready (you need to create and configure an extra view at least).
It does not show exactly like the Stream web part, so if you are looking for views, likes and comments we will have to wait until Microsoft comes up with a web part more like Stream.

There will be a SharePoint video collections page for Teams, that may do the trick. I have not seen that yet. More information here, please scroll to “In development – Release June 2022” for the announcement.

In any case I enjoyed myself with all the investigative work!

Alternatives for the Stream web part on your SharePoint page

So, the other day I switched the link of my Stream tile and I found out I needed to plan for a migration project of videos currently residing in Stream. Now my one-person-tenant does not have a lot of important videos anyway, let alone that they need to be migrated, but I can image that it would be an unpleasant surprise for anyone maintaining an Office365 tenant.

As I currently have some time on my hands, I have already thought about the approach of this migration project and shared that in my most recent post.

Part of your migration project will also be to replace all Stream web parts on SharePoint pages with other video player web parts. Let’s find out how things work, shall we?

Stream web part

I expect this web part to be disabled together with Stream. But you may want to know what it can look like when you look for Stream web parts to be changed.

By default, once you add this web part, the web part will show “All of Stream” with all videos you have access to. You can Sort by “Trending” (default), “Upload date”, “Views” or “Likes”. You can also filter on a word.

The default settings when you add the Stream web part

When you publish the page, you will see an array of cards, with thumbnails, titles, views and likes. On the top right you will see “View more in Stream”, which takes you to the Stream (Classic) landing page.

The default Stream web part on a published page.

When you click on a video, it will open on the same page, in a large format.

You can also use a single video as a source. In that case you will need to add the URL and you can decide the starting point of the video. This looks like the screenshot below:

Stream web part with Stream (Classic) video.

Please note there is not much to see before you hit the Play button. Only when you play will you see indications in the corners of the video that this is a Stream web part with a video living in Stream. (Especially the Stream logo bottom right). See my previous post, scroll to the bottom for screenshots.

You can also use a Channel as a source. After adding the URL you can Sort by the same options as above. This will look like the All of Stream web part, but then just a selection.

Do you see a larger web part with the text “Microsoft Stream” in bottom right? Then you do not have to do anything; this will be a video living in SharePoint or OneDrive, embedded in a File Viewer web part.

File viewer web part with SharePoint video – please note that it mentions Microsoft Stream at the bottom!

Alternative web parts

When you select web parts, search for “Video” and these options pop up:

Potential video web parts

I have not done anything with Viva Connections yet, so I will skip that one. YouTube is also out of scope – we are dealing with videos that live on SharePoint.

I have used a SharePoint page with one column, to keep things comparable.

As it turns out, videos on Stream (on SharePoint) have a different opening behaviour compared to Stream (Classic): Clicking on a thumbnail will open the document in SharePoint (or OneDrive), so you will no longer be on your page.
When you click the x top right after playing, you will open the library where the video resides, not go back to the page.
Perhaps there will be a “video portal” web part one day, or there might be a PowerShell script to change the behaviour, but I am currently not aware of that.

Update June 28, 2022: From mid-July 2022 you will be able to play videos in the Hero web part inline, so without leaving the page. Nice!

πŸ‘ File Viewer

File Viewer is excellent when you want to show just one video.

  • Easy to pick the video from the site.
  • Has a nice large display on the page (depending on the column width of course).
Published page with the File Viewer web part with one video

πŸ‘Ž Hero

The Hero web part can be used for multiple videos, but it has downsides:

  • You need to manually add each link.
  • Displays thumbnail, but not a nice card.
  • You can only add 5 per web part, so you have to manually add multiple web parts if you want to display more.
Published page with Hero web part and 5 videos.

πŸ‘ Highlighted content

This is a good alternative for the “All of Stream” or “Channel”.

  • The actual sorting is displayed on top of the web part. (“Most recent videos”)
  • You can show a library, or use a filter. I filtered for content type Video and all videos in the site are shown.
  • You can filter (on word) and sort (Most recent, Most viewed, Trending, Managed property).
  • You have various display options – screenshot below is “Grid”, but you can also use List, Carousel, Compact and Filmstrip. This Grid, Carousel and Filmstrip show cards.
  • You can select how many items you want to display.
Highlighted content – configuration

The final page looks nice, with the cards and the play button. There are no views or likes displayed.

Published page with Highlighted Content web part

If you are looking to build a portal-like site, you can check out this blog by Chris Hoard, aka Microsoft365Pro. He also uses the Highlighted Content web parts.

πŸ‘Ž Link

The Link web part can be used to embed just one video. I do not think it has any advantages over the File Viewer.

  • You need to find the video, then copy and paste the link.
  • It shows only a small thumbnail.
  • You need to remember to remove the ugly link before you publish.
  • There is very little information except the title and that is in file format (.mp4)
Configuration of the link – remember to remove the ugly URL before you publish
Published page with the link web part

πŸ‘ Quick Links

This is another good option for multiple videos, especially if they are not living in the same site/library. I have already sung the praise of this web part before.

  • You can easily pick the videos to display. You need to be careful with linking outside of your site due to permissions, though.
  • You can select different display options – I have used Grid because it shows the thumbnail, but you can also use Compact, Filmstrip (shows thumbnail as well), Button, List and Tiles.
  • The video shows the title only, but with the length of the video in the corner.
Quick links web part – configuration
Published page with Quick Links webpart

πŸ‘Ž Saved for later

This web part is useless as it displays only your own saved items and these include News items, documents etc.

πŸ‘ Document library

This is not mentioned in the video web parts but an option when you have a dedicated video library. It will show a more elaborate card, that you can tweak, but needs some work, so I would use the Highlighted Content if that looks good enough for your purpose.

  • First you will have to change the default view from List to Tiles. Save the view.
  • Click on the Views dropdown and select “Format current View” from the menu.
  • Select the “Document Card Designer” radio button and then “Edit card”
Going to the Document Card Designer from the Tiles view

You can now select the columns you want to show in the card, and if you want to show the column name.

The Document Card Designer with the default card.

Only you can determine whether this is worth the extra work.

Conclusion

None of these web parts show or play the video exactly as the Stream web part does, but in many cases the following web parts will be good alternatives:

  • For just one video, e.g. on a page with an explanatory text, or as a side column with a News post, I would suggest you use the File Viewer web part.
  • If you want to quickly display all (or most) videos from a site, the Highlighted Content is your best friend, but the Document Library web part with some modifications can work, too.
  • If you want to pick videos from a site or different sites, the Quick Links may be a good option.

Hope this was helpful and please let me know if you have any questions or tips for others in the same boat!

4 ways to manage comments on SharePoint news and pages

Whenever I published a SharePoint news post, I have always been happy when people took the trouble to read my posts at all, let alone push the πŸ‘ button or even spent time on a reply.

But when we introduced the publishers to these feedback options a few people were hesitant. When we told them they would get an email for feedback some were relieved that they would not miss comments, some were even more hesitant because it meant “more email to take care of”.

Nonetheless, we strongly advise publishers to allow interactions for news posts. It means more two-way communication and that is a good thing.
For static pages, which are available all the time, we leave it to the publisher. It may be better to mention the responsible person or provide an email address for questions about a page on processes within the organization, for instance.

So, how can you manage comments and likes?

1. Best option: as is

When you publish a page, comments and likes are on by default. When someone likes or comments, the post’s creator (this is not necessarily the author mentioned on the page) will immediately receive an email for each interaction. (The Microsoft info says it is batched, and I remember it worked like that, but during the creation of this post all likes and comments turned into individual emails.)
This email may end up in “Other” if you have enabled the Focused Inbox.

Whether this floods you with emails, is dependent on many things: how frequently you post, the type of info you post, the size of the organization, and how interactive the audience is, for instance.

This is the email for a comment.

When do you NOT receive an email?

  • When you like or comment on posts you have created yourself
  • When you are an external publisher, i.e. you have no (email) account on the tenant where you publish
  • When you are mentioned as the author, without being the person who created the post. The person in “Created By” will receive the email instead.

2. Collect all feedback mails in one folder by using Outlook Rules

If you receive (too) many feedback mails, and/or you do not like to have all these mails scattered around your inbox, you can use Rules to collect all these in a separate folder.

Make sure you create a folder first and then set up the rules, based on ‘subject includes”

The subject lines for the various posts are

  • [Person] liked [Title of post]
  • [Person) left a comment on [Title of post]
  • [Person) replied to a comment on [Title of post]

You can also do this in PowerAutomate, of course, but Rules are easier.

My Rule to move comments to a special folder in Outlook on the web

You can also use this when you are often posting news on someone else’s behalf; you can forward comments to them using a Rule. In that case use “Forward to” as the action.

Remember to look into this folder on a regular basis, and to reply to comments where needed. This is important as the phrase “left a comment” is also used for comments on shared documents and Lists!

An alternative option for Likes

It is possible to see all Likes in the Pages library, so you could also choose to make that visible in the library, look there on a regular basis, and move the emails to the Deleted Items with a Rule. After all, you are not expected to react on Likes.
You can make it visible in the Pages library as follows:

  • Open the Site Pages library (Gear wheel > Site contents > Site Pages)
  • Click “Add column”> “Show/hide columns”
  • Select “Like count” (at the bottom) and click “Apply” top left.
    You can also do this by editing the View, but that is more work.
Add the Like Count by using Add Column

3. When appropriate: Turn off comments for one news post or page

When you click “Add > News post” from the web part, you will see the Comments option on the bottom of the page. When you toggle the switch before publishing, nobody will be able to add comments.

Toggle the switch and people will no longer be able to add comments

People can still like your post, however, and this will send an email to the creator’s mailbox.
This will also happen when there is no author mentioned or when the mentioned author is not the creator. The creator will receive the email.

There is still a “Like” button, and this will send you an email when clicked.

So, turning off comments on your posts or pages can save you some emails, but you will still receive an email for each like, so you could also use the “autodelete” option by using a Rule.

4. Not advised – turn off all notifications across SharePoint pages/news

I would not advise to do this, but for completeness’ sake I can inform you that there is an option on the SharePoint landing page to remove ALL likes and comments across SharePoint news and pages for all your SharePoint sites.
I honestly can not think of any good business case to do this (except for the Likes, see 2.), so if you have a reason to recommend it, please share in the comments!

There are two ways go reach the page with the settings:

  1. Click “Notification settings” at the bottom of every email notification for news and pages.
  2. Click the gear wheel on the SharePoint landing page, and select “Email notification settings”
Here you can turn off all news/pages notifications

You can toggle the notifications on and off.

Please note this does not stop the comments on documents. If you click “Notification settings” at the bottom of a “document comment email” you will be taken to your OneDrive notification settings, where you can turns some notifications off. But why would you?

Conclusion

If you are a news and/or page publisher, and you receive too many notification emails because your colleagues respond frequently, first congratulate yourself with being a publisher that can set people in motion! πŸ™‚
After giving yourself this constructive feedback, check if 2 or 3 are suitable options to reduce the noise a little.

If you have any experiences with managing comments within your organization, would you please share them in the comments?

Writing SharePoint news posts (our way)

A few months ago I helped create and introduce a SharePoint intranet for “my” health care organization. The majority of the new intranet consists of SharePoint Pages and News, default functionality. As this provides our publishers with tons of options for layout, colour schemes, styles, fonts and what not, we had to take a few measures to keep a somewhat consistent look-and-feel.
Additionally, many publishers wanted some guidelines as they were a tad overwhelmed with choice.

I mentioned before that our Communications function is not too fanatical in enforcing the corporate style guide on people – everyone can select their own Office365 theme, for instance. But some consistency is needed, of course.

What a difference with my (multinational) employer before! There we spent the majority of our intranet redevelopment budget on creating a complicated News setup, which was at that time not available in SharePoint, with fixed page templates and colour schemes, fonts, whitespace and what not.
Did I ever tell you that, after launch of this beast, the team attended a SharePoint conference and learned that Microsoft would be introducing SharePoint News? Out of the box? FOR FREE?
You can imagine what we felt when we heard that πŸ™‚

Please find below an overview of our attempts to keep things consistent. Feel free to translate these to your own organization or clients, and please let me know if you use any other guidelines for this purpose.

1. Structure what can be structured

  • All “formal organizational units” have their own site for publishing pages and news posts.
    Although I know you should not structure your intranet according to the organizational setup, there were hardly any other ways to structure it by without running into other issues, such as ownership. Trust me, we tried πŸ™‚
  • All organizational sites are grouped into one Hub site.
    This allows for one navigation and colour scheme, and roll-up of news.
  • All hub sites have the Blue theme.
    This matches best with our style guide. I offered to change the main blue colour into the actual style guide colour, but that was not necessary.
The standard Blue theme matched well
  • Every hub site has the same site icon.
    This way it is always clear if a site belongs to the intranet.
  • The news web parts on all sites are configured to display title, summary and date only.
    Adding too many data provides a cluttered look. It also uses a little more vertical space.
Left colum: with author, date and views, right column: date only.
  • Headers are compact, footers simple.

2. Provide guidelines for what is flexible

As we use the standard functionality, we had to create some guidelines for writing and design to try and keep the pages and posts consistent and in line with our standards, and to limit the options for publishers. Those guidelines were brought up in training sessions for all potential publishers (and whoever was interested), and are available as reference material.

  • Use a short and catchy title, one line max.
    The title shows what interesting information your text contains, attracts attention, is informative, distinctive and piques curiousity. There are internal trainings for writing catchy titles!
  • Use active text.
    Do not use verbs such as ‘will’, ‘can’, ‘be’, ‘may’, or ‘become’.
  • Do not underline your text.
    Readers may think it is a hyperlink.
  • Avoid abbreviations where possible.
    If you must use one, first write it out completely and add the abbreviation behind it in parentheses. For example: “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)”
  • When you add a document, give the document a clear title, without date or version.
    The date and other information can be viewed from the document library it lives in. And in case you need to edit the information, you do not need to edit the title.
  • Keep your page or news item as short as possible.
    When you really need a long text, please break up your text with headings and use anchors to allow the reader to jump to the desired part immediately.
  • Use capitals sparingly.
    There is a paragraph in the style guide for the use of capitals. (I am a Big Fan of Capitals, but the style guide is not :))
  • Use “One column” or the “One-third right” layout for news posts
    The first one suits straightforward posts, the other is better when you want to add a photo, button, etc.
    For static pages, publishers can use another layout.
The preferred page layout for news when you want more than just text
  • Use our “Image bank” (Organizational assets) or Stock Images for images where possible.
    The photo’s in the image bank are suitable for the organization, and, like the Stock Images, have no copyright issues.
  • When using an introduction text, use standard size, bold, black or “theme dark alternate” blue.
    That blue is well readable and matches best with our corporate colours.
The preferred blue colour
  • For headings, use standard size bold, standard size italics OR heading 2 or 3.
    You can use black or “theme dark alternate” blue, as long as you use the same colour of the introduction text.
  • Add the Publish date on your news posts.
    By default this is off, so this is easy to forget. Perhaps a new page template may help. If anyone knows how to turn this on by default, please let me know!
Show the published date is off by default. 😦
  • Enable comments for news and short-time pages.
    This allows for discussion within the organization.
    You can disable comments for static pages.
Comments are on by default

You probably recognize some of these as standard writing guidelines, but it never hurts to repeat, as not all publishers are experienced writers.

Please note publishers can deviate from these guidelines, e.g. if they have a post or page about a special topic that needs to stand out.

What have we missed? What do you use?

Please let me know which other guidelines you are using to make your vanilla SharePoint news a little consistent.

SharePoint News I might have written πŸ˜‰

When we heard about the functionality “News you might have missed” we could not wait until we found the script to turn that off. As our intranet news sites are all open, and there are more open sites with news, we expected an avalanche of news, while our colleagues are already complaining that they get too much information.

So, disabled it was!

Not so in my own tenant. I have not learned PowerShell yet – it looks easy enough but I need to find out WHERE to insert the command – so I have not disabled the functionality. And as I am the only person in my tenant, I did not really think about it.

A few weeks ago I started posting lots of News, for my tests with the behaviour of images.

To my surprise and amusement I recently received an email titled “News you might have missed”!!!

It contained a number of posts I have created myself…

The email, you see my name everywhere πŸ™‚

Well, in any case I now know what this email looks like! It is slightly different from a regular Newsletter.

This is a regular Newsletter email.

What are your experiences with this functionality? Have you turned it off? If you have not, do people really like it? Please let me know!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Troubleshooting images in SharePoint news

In recent blogs I showed what can go wrong with images in SharePoint news. So, here’s the recap for everyone who is publishing and sharing SharePoint news and everyone who is supporting them. It will save you time trying to find the cause and solution!

These are the issues, their cause and solution:

  1. No header image visible (News post, News web part and SharePoint landing page)
  2. Header image shows a placeholder image (News post, News web part and SharePoint landing page)
  3. No image visible on Yammer when promoted

1. No header image visible

Does your News post look like this?

This is an example of a news post template with no image
This is the same post, but then on the SharePoint landing page

You (or the publisher) may have selected the “plain” template, this does not have a header.

If this is by design, no action is needed.

If an image is desired, edit the post, click the pencil top right next to the title (1) and select a different template than “Plain” (2). You can now add a header image.

You can easily switch the template to add a header image

2. Header image shows a placeholder image

Does your News post look like this?

The news image is a generic grey image

A News post with a generic grey image on the left can have two causes:

  1. Intended readers have no access to the image.
    The image lives in a place (OneDrive, Document library, Site Assets library) that is not accessible for the intended readers. See my earlier post.
    The issue will be reported by someone who does not have access. The image is visible for the publisher and anyone else who has access.
  2. The image has been deleted or moved after publishing.
    It can take some time before this is noticed, especially by the publisher. The image sticks in the browser cache, so the post will look OK to them. But someone “new” to the post will notice immediately that there is no image.
    In my experiments, the post itself will quickly lose its image and show a grey header, on the News web part it will take some more time, and on the SharePoint landing page it may take even longer!
    In the screenshot below the image is still visible on the SharePoint landing page. (All screenshots have been taken at the same time)
    The SharePoint search index may also have a role in this.
While the image has been deleted, it stays visible for some time on the SharePoint landing page

This can be quite hard to troubleshoot if the publisher does not remember where this image came from. Due to the “stickiness” of the image the issue may only be noticed few days after deletion, which may be quite some time after publishing!

And before you say: “Why bother, the news is outdated after a few months anyway?” remember that this also goes for pages!

You can try the following:

  1. If the publisher remembers the site where it lives, (whether it is the OneDrive or another site) you may want to check the Recycle Bin to see if a deleted image is the problem. Restoring it will solve the issue.
  2. If the publisher remembers the site where it lives, check the permissions to validate the assumption. But rather than changing the permissions for one image, suggest the publisher to download and upload the image, and re-add it to the post.
    It means duplication, but now the image is within control of the publisher.
  3. If the publisher does not remember, things are more difficult.
    It is very unlikely that the Site Assets library or folder of the News site itself will have different permissions from the rest of the site. Nonetheless, to exclude that option, check if there is a folder with the name of the news item in the Site Assets library, and then check permissions of the folder and the image. If yes, inherit the permissions of the site or library again, as unique permissions for a News image are not good practice.
  4. Search for the image. “Images” is now a search vertical. It helps if you know the name!
  5. If this is not the case, there is not much you can do. I tried the F12 “underwater screen” to see if I could find a URL that shows the location of the image (like …my.sharepoint.com/… or the name of the site) but until now I have been unsuccessful. If anyone knows, please let me know!
    You’d better suggest to use another image.

So, this would suggest that using Web Search or Upload is the best source of News images, since you are in control. On the other hand, it means duplication of files which may lead to a lot of clutter all over your tenant.
This may also be your trigger to finally create an Organizational Assets library :).
Agree with the owner that images are not deleted, but hidden in a dedicated view when they are no longer in use, and wait a year or so before deletion. This will keep the images visible on News and pages, but discourage further use.

3. No image visible on Yammer when promoted

While it is very easy to “promote” (share) a SharePoint news post to Yammer, not all news posts show their image when shared.

Does your Yammer post look like this? (I am using “new Yammer”, but not “native Yammer”)

Promoted News item with image, but image does not show on Yammer

That is because the post has been created in an older (not Group-enabled) SharePoint team site. (and not in a modern Group-enabled Team site or Communication site)
There is not much you can do about it except confirm, and inform the publisher that this is how things work. This post explains it in more detail.

Does your Yammer post look like this?

This post has an image placeholder

If the promoted News post only shows an image placeholder, it has been shared from a modern site (Communication or Team) but here the image source is the issue. In my earlier post I found that when you use certain image sources there will be no image on Yammer.
In that case, please suggest to your publisher to use an image from one of the following sources and repost to Yammer:

  • Recent (but beware of copyright issues!)
  • Web Search
  • Upload
  • Organizational Assets
  • From a link to an image in an Assets library (not a regular Document Library!)

Hope this saves you time experimenting!

It is information I wrote before but now turned around into a guide for support folks to help their puzzled users! Hope it is helpful.

Intranet promotion videos #11

I thought it was time for a few new intranet videos. The below are all from Vimeo, which has turned out to be a better source than YouTube. The only drawback is that you will need an account (free) with Vimeo and log in in order to see some videos. This is a recent measure.

So, create an account, log on and enjoy!

1. New intranet for a global construction/engineering company (teaser)

“A Digital Headquarters to bring employees from all geographies together”. This intranet for a global engineering company (mostly agricultural from the website) is named after the CEO (who is also the name-giver for the company) which is a nice touch. Many employees feature in this teaser.
Sadly you can’t see much of the actual intranet, but it is supposed to be social and connecting, and not just functional en efficient. I also get a little irritated these days by all that corporate talk and big intentions, but I am sure that’s just me!

Uploaded January 2022.

2. Updated intranet for an Australian child care organization (demo)

After a rather bombastic musical intro, you see a decent functional SharePoint intranet with all the usual trimmings. The demo takes you through all the menu items. It has a focus on documents and links rather than news. (Nice search options in the central Document library, by the way).

There’s also some community elements.

The site title shows this is a demo site, so I hope that they have had the time to add some images to the link tiles, and to update the icons for the Office applications in the real site πŸ™‚

Uploaded September 2021.

3. Canadian university/college (teaser)

“The more you engage the better it will be”. Quite a cryptic promise, especially because there is no explanation of how that would work.” There is also no preview of the intranet, which is disappointing.

This teaser is one big promise for a new intranet called College Connect, and as you may know, one of the intranets I worked on/for has been called Connect, so I have always been partial to the name. πŸ™‚

Uploaded February 2021.

4. Intranet for a Swedish university (demo)

An interesting SharePoint intranet with a few non-standard items, I think: breadcrumbs on pages, selection of news sources (different than following sites) and My Menu.
I like the yellow dots that signify central sites. Technically it is just the site icon, but I like the concept to separate content in subtle ways, while keeping the design consistent.

There’s also some attention for general SharePoint stuff: search, save for later, navigation and the SharePoint mobile app.

Tip: if you think the speaker talks a bit slowly, you can speed up by clicking on the gearwheel at the bottom of the video and adjusting the speed.

Uploaded January 2022.

5. New intranet for a US online fashion store (teaser)

Nice colourful teaser for this fashion store. It has relevant info and a social component, and even “integration with Slack and workspaces”. I do not think this is a SharePoint intranet πŸ™‚

Uploaded September 2021.

That’s all for today, folks!

Photo byΒ Terje SollieΒ fromΒ Pexels

Sharing SharePoint news to Yammer

Last week I wrote about “promoting” SharePoint news items to Yammer. Only when the header image lives in the Site Assets library, the image is displayed on Yammer.
(According to Susan Hanley, it is also displayed when the image is from Organizational Assets)

While I was doing the experiments, the following questions popped up:

  • Does this work in the same way for News posted in Team sites?
  • Is there any difference when you use a different browser?
  • Do news items display better in the Yammer apps?

Let’s find out, shall we?

1. Promoting news from a Team site

Until now, I have only shared news from Communication sites. For the sake of completeness, I recreated all news items from my earlier post in an existing Team site in my tenant.

During Promoting to Yammer, the preview does not show the image, nor does it show on Yammer. This was the case for all options.

You may also notice that the display is slightly different than when you promote from a Communications site: there is no space on the left hand side for an image.

No preview when you promote a news item to Yammer.
None of the options display an image

Now this Team site was created in January 2018 and is not a modern, group-enabled site so I tried it again with a freshly created Team site. Experiments are marked with T2. I have no “recent” option as this was a brand new site.

The preview shows an image in most cases, and on Yammer the behaviour is the same as for the Communication site as mentioned in my preceding post.

One of the previews
A new, group-enabled Team site behaves like a Communication site in this respect

Conclusion: Very modern (group-enabled) Team sites work like a Communications site when showing images on Yammer, but if you have a slightly older Team site, your News header images may not be displayed. You may want to keep this in mind when troubleshooting!

2. Do different browsers show the same result?

I generally work in Microsoft Edge, but when I opened the Yammer page in Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, there was no difference. I also tried Safari on my iPad, same results.
So this is not browser-dependent.

3. Yammer iOS apps

The experience in iOS was rather disappointing – no images are visible on iPad or iPhone, and for the Communication site, it showed just the link to the page. Not nice!

News from a Communication site. Only the link, not even the title!
New Team site – even the “Upload” option does not show an image

Conclusion

There’s quite a number of factors that influence the visibility of images on Yammer. Location of image, site type, site age, web or app, so there can be various reasons why the image from your News item is not displayed when shared on Yammer!

(I feel like creating a troubleshooting guide…)