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.

Intranet promotion video’s #12

The latest choice of intranet and digital workplace launch videos!

I recently searched on YouTube, but nice videos are hard to find there. There are many school projects (“what is the difference between internet and intranet?”), recorded meetings, game videos and commercial videos for intranet platforms. Vimeo is apparently more of a catalogue for video creators, and has tons more of the video type I am looking for.

However, please be aware that recently upladed videos on Vimeo need to be “rated” and this will give you a warning. Creating a (free) Vimeo account and logging in solves that issue, so in case you do not see a preview, please make sure to log in!

We have a lot of “people” video’s today!

1. Another intranet with a person name: Lucy

I always like videos with the name of a person. In my most recent overview, there was an intranet called Charlie, named after the founder. This one, for a health care service center based in the Dominican Republic, is called Lucy and that stands for “Linking Us ContinuouslY”.

The VP of Human Resources and the local Marketing Manager show News, training courses, colleagues, work procedures, well, everything you need to make your work life easier.

Uploaded February 2022.


2. Intranet for electricity supplier (in Spanish)

This is an older intranet, you can see it from the design but also from the date of the week menu πŸ™‚

This electricity company from Peru has a homepage with a news carousel. It also has a Photo gallery, Calendar, HR information etc. Strangely enough, the buttons open small popups, and they appear to lead to pdf’s. Hmm.

Uploaded March 2022.


3. Personal welcome to the intranet for temps

I quite like this idea. When you start temporary work for this Australian recruiter, you will get this “personal” welcome video and introduction to the intranet from the General Manager and Founder herself. She explains the importance of the platform, what you can expect, and invites new “hires” to give feedback.

Uploaded February 2022.


4. Another intranet called Connect!

You may remember that I used to work for an organization which named its new intranet “Connect”. Since then I have seen a ton of intranets with that name. Perhaps I should dedicate a post to intranets called Connect! πŸ™‚
This one is for a stairlift company which was founded in the Netherlands, apparently. It is now an international organization. The VP Commercial introduces the new intranet and invites everyone to participate and share their stories. Because “the more you put into it, the more you get out”. This is interesting, as most organizations who did an intranet relaunch boasted that they removed tons of old content clutter and are only relaunching with the bare minimum of necessary information.

Uploaded March 2022.


5. Intranet for a beauty and cosmetics company (in Portuguese)

This intranet, for a Brazilian beauty and cosmetics organization (not sure if it is cosmetic surgery or mainly injectables and fillers – is there a word for that?) looks just as beautiful as their website and their models. πŸ™‚ Nice purple colour, nice icons, large photographs, modern look & feel. It has all the things you expect from an intranet – news, pictures, calendar, social network, and a mobile app.

Uploaded March 2022.

That was it for this time, folks!

Image by Gabriela Palai via Pexels

Stay true to your Form

In my most recent post I showed what happened when you make a change in one of the answer options in a choice question in Forms. That case was based on a real-life scenario.

You will know by now that these things trigger my curiosity, so I decided to find out what happens to other question types when you change them halfway?

I thought about question types that can be changed significantly and came up with Text, Rating, Ranking and Likert.
So I started out with this questionnaire:

The survey start – 4 changeable questions

And after entering 10 responses randomly, this was the first result:

Results 1

With a score of 4.20 this must be a good blog post! πŸ™‚

Then I made the first set of changes:

  • In the Text question, I changed from short text to long answer
  • In the Rating question, I changed the 5 stars to 5 numbers
  • In the Ranking question, I replaced “Darts” with “Figure-skating”
  • In the Likert question, I changed “Forms” to “Visio”

Again, I added 5 random responses, and ended up with these results:

Results 2

Results after the first change

You only see the last 3 responses for the Text question, the answers appear a bit more wordy. The word cloud is a bit fuller, but that’s it.

Exchanging stars in the Rating question does not make much difference, you get a number rather than stars, but that is not significantly different.

For the Ranking, the change is rather more alarming as the results for Darts are replaced by those for Figure skating, and the name Darts completely disappears. I had expected that the results would be separated, and that Darts would be called “Other”, like with the choice options, but apparently not.

For the Likert question, again all votes for Forms are now turned into votes for Visio, and the word Visio has disappeared, there’s no “Other” like in the choice question.

So, it was time to make some more changes:

  • In the Text question, I changed to a Number
  • In the Rating question, I changed the 5 numbers to 10 numbers
  • In the Ranking question, I added “Cycling” as an option
  • In the Likert question, I added an option “N.A. or don’t know”

And when I had added 5 responses, the results looked like this:

Results 3

Results after the second change

The Text question now shows the last 3 numbers PLUS the old word cloud. Most confusing!

For the Rating question, the average was 4.9. I had made several entries in the 6-10 region, but as there were at least15 entries with a lower number, the average had not increased that much.
But…when you have a 5-point scale and score a 4.2 (as in the second result) you are doing very well. If you have a 10-point scale, 4.9 is pretty low.

For the Ranking question, the new sports gets added to the results. There’s only 5 responses for this option, which skews the results. 20% firsts for this sport is not as many as 20% for the sports that have been there for the entire ride. πŸ™‚

For the Likert question, a change of colour may confuse you. The “Yes” option was blue, but has turned to grey. This makes perfect sense from a visual design perspective, but is a bit confusing otherwise. Again, as with the Ranking, there’s only max. 5 responses of “N.A. or don’t know” possible, compared to max. 20 for the other options, so this will skew results.

I also looked at the Excel.

The detailed results in Excel

The Text results are a mess. Yes, you could score all answers as a number, but then you might have as well sent an email or interviewed everyone.

You see that the first 15 Rating scale answers are not multiplied by 2 after moving from a 5-point scale to a 10-point scale. This will result in a much lower score than you would have had if you had started out with a 10-point scale straight away. This will lead to the wrong conclusion: that people do not like this blog topic, while in fact they do!

For the Ranking, you see that the word “Darts” no longer appears in the responses, it gets overwritten after the change. So that darts fan is now suddenly a lover of figure skating. πŸ€¦β€β™‚οΈ It also means that cycling fans will hardly ever be in the majority as that option was added quite late in the process.

For the Likert question, the results between the options are not comparable. Everyone who thought they were answering a question about Forms, have now answered the question for Visio. And “N.A. or Don’t know” may have scored differently when the option had been there throughout the survey.

I could have made more changes, but I trust you will get the gist.

Conclusions

  1. Mid-survey changes are technically very easy to do.
  2. Mid-survey changes are not visible as they are not logged (not even in the Excel file). This will make it very hard to interpret the results. It will even be difficult for the owner, as they do not know at exactly which moment between entries the change has been made (except when adding an extra option).
  3. The good news is, that for Rating scale and Likert questions you can easily correct a typo. In the Choice question types even that creates a new option, as we have seen before.
  4. Mid-survey changes can create havoc in the results. In fact, you are changing the rules in the middle of the game. Results become incomparable or and conclusions may be completely incorrect (such as changing Rating from a 5- to a 10-point scale).
  5. You may want to check the Excel for the exact results, but that does not help when drawing conclusions. Are you sure that someone who likes to watch Formula 1, would have the same preference when (s)he would have had the option to select Cycling?

This will not come as a surprise, of course. I only hope I have made things more clear by having shown what happens exactly when you make a change. It is tempting as it may look like a small and easy change, but it can have unpleasant consequences.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I would rather suggest that before launching your survey, you

  • discuss the setup of your survey with your colleagues – e.g. which sports do they want included in the answer options?
  • ask one or more colleagues to complete the survey to see if they understand your questions and the answer options are logical, complete and spelled correctly
  • remove all test entries or copy your survey before it goes live
  • resist any push to make changes when the survey is running, even if it comes from higher management. Show them this blog when they insist. πŸ™‚

Do you have any experiences with making mid-survey changes?

Funny Forms response

Recently a colleague saw something strange in the Forms survey she was running: she had 5 potential answers, but the results showed 6, including one “Other”. What had happened here?

Let me show you with some screenshots.

I created a survey. By the way, does anyone know the mechanism of that lightning symbol that sometimes shows up at the Theme-button, providing you with a number of additional images? Sometimes it is there, sometimes it is not. Most confusing!

So, this is the Form I created.

The form, 5 answer options, shown randomly

I added some results until it looked like this:

The results so far

Then I did something and then the results showed 6 answer options, including “Other”. It also changed to a bar graph instead of a pie.

Suddenly an extra option appears

Do you notice what I did? I changed “Text message” into “Text”. This means that my earlier entry is a different entry than the current choice options, so it is “Other”.

Any new entries after the change will be added to the new option:

New entries will be added to the new option

Conclusion

If you see an unexpected “Other” option in your survey responses, remember if you have changed one or more of the options during the survey.

How to remediate?

You can go back to “Text message” but if your survey is already live, you may have received entries with “Text” in the mean time and that will mean that those will now be in “Other”, so that does not really help.

Entries with the new option will be “Other” when you change back to the original wording

Fortunately, the Excel file will give you the exact responses, old and new.

Old and new responses

How to prevent?

Of course, prevention is better than fixing, so I always advise my colleagues to:

1. Ask colleagues to review before going live

Ask one or two others to review any survey before it is made live. A fresh pair of eyes can help a great deal in removing any overlooked typos, weird questions or answer options, or formatting mistakes. Additionally, Forms mentions the average time to complete the survey, and this may help you to “sell” participation – “it only takes 2 minutes”.

2. Remove any test data before going live

Have you or your reviewers completed the survey while checking? Make sure you remove these responses before you go live, especially when you have corrected anything during the review. This way you will start with a fresh survey.

Hope this is helpful!

SharePoint Holmes and the Tricky Text

The case

One of our teams is using a SharePoint list to capture the goings-on in their department during each shift.

At the beginning of each shift they create a new list item, add info for date and shift and the name of the person in charge and save the item. During the shift they edit the item, adding all the things that need to be captured for later and/or handed over to the next shift.
Generally they are quite happy as the list is less work to update and easier to search through than the Word document they used beforehand.

However, they noticed a few things:

  • When they used interpunction, such as ; or : the results often ended up a bit weird, especially when they were editing an item (e.g. to add something to the list during the shift)
  • They could not list items properly in a text field. They can add something on a new line while writing, but the end result is one large text without any indentation.

That was new for me, so I put my SharePoint Holmes hat on and started investigating. Incidentally Marc Anderson has just showed that you can edit columns on the List side , as well as on List Settings side, and you can get different results, so I checked both.

The investigation

I asked him to show me his issues during a Teams meeting. He shared his screen and I noticed the issues.

I checked the list setup. As it turned out, almost all columns were multiple lines of text (MLOT), Rich Text. (RT)

Rich Text (RT) promises more options than Plain text, yet is easier to work with than Enhanced Rich Text. (List Settings side)

I have always preferred Rich Text, as it has slightly more options than the plain text, while being less cumbersome than the Enhanced Rich Text. That one has more design options, but needs an extra click to access.
You create this Text field after creating the MLOT as Plain Text or Enhanced Rich Text, and then editing the column in the List Settings. (The option is not available when you create the column, and only available in the List Settings)

When you create a column (List side, shown here, OR Settings side) you can only choose Plain Text or Enhanced Rich Text.

I set up a test with three multiple line of text columns, each with a different configuration, and off I went. The strange thing is that I remember that a MLOT in RT always had a few formatting options, but the entry field looks exactly like the Plain Text.

The Rich Text looks and behaves exactly like the Plain text, even when you add and select some content. No formatting options whatsoever.

However, when you save the entries and check what it looks like , the RT field looks different than the others, and indeed, the behaviour is as described.

The Rich Text displays differently than the Plain and Enhanced Rich Text. It does not align texts properly.

Addtionally, when I edited Experiment 2, you see the : behaves strangely:

Strange behaviour with this : in Edit mode. It looks OK in view mode.

Additonally, when I checked the configuration of the Rich Text column from the List side, I noticed that the “Enhanced Rich Text” option was selected. When I pressed “Cancel”, nothing happened, but when I clicked “Save” the columns changed into Enhanced Rich Text.
It is not relevant for this case, but it confirms that there is something strange with this option.

The option appears to be already on, but not really implemented until you click Save.

The solution

You might have guessed: I changed all Rich Text fields to Plain Text, as that is sufficient for their needs and behaves a bit better.

Does anyone know if my beloved Rich Text is going away? As we are moving more towards configuring from the List page rather than from List Settings I am afraid so. I could not find anything about it, but if I have overlooked something, please let me know!

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

How to link from a SharePoint page

Did I tell you we are finally moving towards a SharePoint intranet?

We are currently training staff to publish pages and News on SharePoint. Many of them are very happy with the ease of creating pages and news articles, and the fact that you can so easily embed pictures and video. (The old platform can handle one picture or video per article)

One common question is: how do we create links from a page or News article?

Let’s discuss some options. Do you want to link to just one site, page or document? Of do you want/need multiple links on your page? And do they need to be functional and modest, just pretty or attention-grabbing? SharePoint has something for every occasion πŸ™‚

I have made examples in a Team site, but it works the same in a Communication site.

Link opening behaviour

You may want to know that links to content within your tenant always open in the same window. Links to content outside of your tenant always open in a new window. I have been playing around with different options that I found on the internet, but no luck so far.

Make SharePoint Online Menu Items Open in New Tabs! – Views from Veronique (veroniquepalmer.com)

How to open SharePoint Online Modern SPFX links in new tab | Code2care

Suggestions welcome, as sometimes you want to keep people on your page and the link is supposed to be only a side-step!

1. In text

When writing a news article or explanatory text you may want to link to additional information. You can do this in two ways:

  • Linking to a page within your site: type [[ and the list of pages in your site will pop up and you just select one. It will be added with the page name.
Type [[ and the list of pages will show, just click to create a link
  • Linking to anything else: select the text and click the link icon
This is the only option allowing you to open the link in a new tab!
The links will be shown in the text.

If you want your links to stand out, you will need to use a separate web part for that. You can use a two column section where you have a link in the column next to the text, for instance.

The following web parts all handle links in different ways. I will show you how they look in edit mode, what the editing options are and what the end result looks like.

2. Link

The Link web part shows a preview of one link. It depends on the website whether a preview is available. As mine does not have a preview (What! I need to work on that!) I have linked to another very useful website. You just paste the link and the only option you have is to add alternative text or not.

In the screenshot below, from left to right: the empty Link webpart, the web part with link and preview, and the edit options.

If you work with SharePoint, you should follow Gregory Zelfond’s site, sharepointmaven.com!

3. Button

Again, this is for one link, which will be displayed as a button in the colour scheme of your site. You can determine the alignment, but that’s all. Our intranet sounding board contains a number of therapists, and they have warned us against making pages too full of stimuli. So this is a good option if you want to have a quiet, non-overwhelming page.

The Button web part. Very straightforward.

4. Call to Action

If you want people to do something, like register for a webinar or subscribe to a newsletter, a Call to Action webpart may be the best option. It allows you to write an explanatory text (“Attend a webinar”), add the action with the link (“Register now!”), add a background image and align the text.
You pick the background image from the same source as header images for your news items – is there a word for that place? Let’s call it link-picker-page.

This is where you pick images and links from. But not all web parts use this as a source.

The button will be in your site’s colour scheme. If only you could change that black background, it is very visible and sometimes clashes with your colour scheme.

5. Image

You can create a click-through image by using the Image webpart. You will immediately go to the link-picker-page. This web part has an option to add a link, an overlay text (off by default) and to add a caption.

Before we move on to the multiple-link options, let me show you what the web parts look like on a page. I have used three columns, so you have an idea of the relative size. The size can vary depending on the number of columns – the Call to Action and Image web parts will fill the column width, but the Button will always be this size.

This is what the single-link web parts look like.

6. Hero

If you prefer your page to be visually interesting, the Hero web part may be useful. You can choose anything between one or 5 links (also depending on screen resolution and the number of columns in the section) and you start with adding the link (you will go to the link-picker page), then click on the pencil in the bottom of the image to add an image, a call to action for the first item, etc.
This web part consumes a ton of real-estate and I personally think it is too much imagery, too little content πŸ™‚
There’s a lot to this web part and there is good help from Microsoft available: Use the Hero web part – Office Support (microsoft.com)

The Hero web part has many options

7. Quick Links

Another good option if you want to display multiple links. You can go from large image tiles to modest buttons (as below). You can have as many as you like, and you have a ton of options (352 to be exact) to display them. Click “Add Links” and you get taken to the link-picker-page to add the link, then you can adjust things with the pencil underneath.
This is my favourite as it is versatile and you can keep it compact, yet nice looking. The number displayed horizontally will adjust to the column.
This is my blog about it: 352 ways to show Quick Links in SharePoint – Ellen’s Digital Workplace (wordpress.com)

The Quick Links web part has a lot of display options. The Button option is my favourite.

What do all these web parts look like? Below is an overview of all options used.

This is what all web parts look like.

8. Navigation

Of course there is also the navigation menu that you use to link to the main parts in your site. That does not look as pretty as the options above, but it will be shown all over your site, so it has its own merits.

Just click the Edit button below (Team site), or next to the navigation (Communication site) and you can add links, sublinks, move, edit and delete them.

The navigation – adding a new link

Navigation – moving, editing, deleting, indenting a link.

Conclusion

You have many options to select the web part that works for you. I understand it is not always easy to choose the best option, but in general I would say:

  • Keep it simple; visually pleasing but not cluttered.
  • Use Alternative text with images whenever possible – you do not know if anyone in your organization has a temporary or permanent loss of vision and they may want to use the Immersive reader to have the page or news read aloud to them. (I assume the Immersive Reader reads the alternative text – not sure!)
  • Think about the future. If your page is there for a long time, think about the number of links needed over time. Will this stay the same or do you expect more or fewer items needed next year? If you expect that your 5 links of today may be 6 or 7 next year, it may be better to use Quick Links from the start rather than a Hero.
  • Do not forget about your navigation; as it is visible all over the site, you may want to use that for important pages rather than a pretty link on your home page alone.

Have I missed an option? Would you like to say something else? Please comment – I love to hear about your experiences and thoughts!

New! The SharePoint app bar

“Hey, that’s weird, there’s only five News items on my SharePoint start page, not six,” I noticed the other day. When I looked a bit better at the page, I saw that something had been added on the left side of the page: the SharePoint app bar. At that moment, the only item that worked was the Home button, which led me to the SharePoint start page. Which, seeing that I already was on that page, was not a real advantage 😁. The other options showed an empty popup.

So, after asking around on Twitter, it turned out that more people had it and that they also saw empty popups, but Melissa Torres, the developer of this functionality at Microsoft, was so kind to confirm that it was populating, and indeed, the next day everything worked as it should.

Thank you, everyone who responded to my Tweet! πŸ‘‡

Many people responded to my Tweet, including Melissa Torres from Microsoft.

What does it do?

Here’s a nice explainer video from Melissa Torres. (Thank you, Phil Worrell, for sharing that)

  • This is the Microsoft documentation.
  • The app bar is displayed on the SharePoint start page and all sites with modern pages. We have some “classic” sites at work (well…modern but with a classic homepage) and it does not show on the home page but when you navigate to a document library you see it.
  • The app bar allows you to quickly move between content and sites, so when you in one site and need to go to another, you do not necessarily have to go via the SharePoint start page.
  • There are 4 buttons, see Tweet above, top to bottom:
    • 🏠 Home, which takes you back to the SharePoint start page, or, if your organization has a Home site specified, to the global navigation.
    • 🌍 My Sites, which shows your frequently visited sites and your followed sites
    • πŸ“° My News, which shows you about 8 recent News items
    • πŸ“„ My Files, which are recent documents you opened or worked on

Is the SharePoint app bar something to celebrate?

🌍 I was especially interested in My Sites. We do not have a SharePoint-based intranet yet, and we currently use SharePoint mainly for document management, generally in sites with limited permissions. We are slowly starting with communication sites and News, but the majority is “closed” sites. We have a custom web part showing “My Sites”, showing all sites you have access to, and I recently got some feedback that this was no longer displaying all sites. I wondered if this would solve that problem.

There is a Microsoft User Voice (what are these rumours I hear about closing that down?) asking for an out-of-the-box functionality that shows all sites you have access to, but that has been on the waiting list since 2017. Microsoft indicates that with a SharePoint intranet, there will be many sites everyone will have access to, so a list like that will be confusing rather than helpful. They suggest to use Following and looking at Recently visited sites, in order to create your own list. I will have some convincing to do, as the “All my Sites” is apparently popular functionality and now I need to tell people to “DIY”.
I know “Do It Yourself” is a Microsoft thing, but that does not necessarily resonate with everyone. πŸ˜‰

So, in that way My Sites is a bit of a disappointment, as it does not show “All My Sites” but rather “Recently/Frequently visited” and “Followed sites”. I think this is definitely useful but we will have to help people to make this useful for them. I can see the benefits of a quick switch between sites.

🏠 The Home button is at present not really useful, as there is a SharePoint button in every site to take you back to the SharePoint start page. When we have a Home site, and a global navigation, this button will be more interesting.

Every site has a link that takes you back to the SharePoint homepage

πŸ“° The My News option is nice, but to be honest, News is not THAT important that I need to be able to switch to it quickly when doing something else.

πŸ“„ My documents can be useful. I may need to find a certain document when working in a SharePoint site.

And this…

❓ I also wonder about what happened to plans for the SharePoint start page – about a year ago we were told that the left column would go away, but that never happened. I then thought that every “application landing page” would get the full list of Microsoft 365 apps, as we currently see on the Forms homepage, but that may also not be true.
So, perhaps the app bar will replace the left column? Oh well, we will see.

πŸ‘ All this may be a reason to get rid of classic pages!

πŸ‘Ž I am less happy with the fact that I can only see 5 news items on the start page.

What do you think?

About that Microsoft/Office365 homepage…

While I have been trying to adjust to the new vertical rail of apps (and I still do NOT like it) I came across something – which may be in the Roadmap but I have not seen it yet.

A line next to the app icon

Some apps get a vertical line next to them when you are on their landing page, to signify where you are. It is comparable to the line under open apps in your Task bar.
I have seen it on Excel, Forms, OneNote, PowerPoint, Word, the Homepage itself and the All apps page.

Homepage
Forms
Word

Nice detail: The All apps icon changes colour when clicked and the Homepage icon turns black at that time – and the other way around.

All Apps” changes colour when clicked

So, does this mean that this will be applied to all apps? Could that be the reason of the upcoming redesign of the SharePoint landing page – to make room for the app rail? The Lists app landing page appears ready for this, but Outlook, Planner and many more might be in for a redesign.

Other landing pages

I thought that the SharePoint landing page looked slightly different in the last few months, so I compared the image from my earlier SharePoint News posts with the current one, and it appears that the typeface has changed slightly – it is smaller, more condensed and bold. It looks very much like the letter used on the Forms landing page…so my guess is that this will be rolled out further until every app has a landing page like this.

SharePoint News looked like this in 2019
SharePoint News looks like this in 2020
And this is my Forms landing page in 2020

The “waffle” in Teams

But…there’s more!

When using the “Waffle” from the Teams web app, I noticed that the menu is different than other apps – there’s only limited apps, no documents and look what it says top right…

The Teams waffle menu – different from the others
This is the regular waffle menu

So…

It looks like more design changes are coming up!

352 ways to show Quick Links in SharePoint

As my organization is slowly getting used to the look of modern SharePoint sites that go with a Team site, I am getting more and more questions about how to create those “buttons” that some of our pioneers added to their site.

For Classic sites I once made an overview of the options for Summary Links, which is a web part to store lists of links, with styling options. The equivalent in Modern sites is the Quick Links web part.

Now we can have a debate on the “Quick” aspect of Quick Links, but let’s not go into that and let’s focus on the ways you can make them look. (But if you are curious, you may want to read this article by the Nielsen Norman Group)

How did I prepare?

  • In one of my SharePoint sites, I created a new page and added a header from the new Stock Images (πŸ‘ nice!)
  • I added a one-column section
  • I added a Quick Links web part to the section
  • I added some individual links with either an image (Web search), an image from the new Stock Images option (again: nice!) or an icon (also much-appreciated functionality).
  • To some links I added a description.

This is the result:

Starting point for my experiments

Now you have a number of options for how those 8 links are shown.
Of course in a real-life situation you would not want to mix images and icons but for demonstration purposes it makes sense.

6 Web part layout options

When your page is in edit mode, and you click the edit icon for the web part, you get 6 options for layout. Each option can have sub-options.

6 options for different displays of your links

“Compact” is the default option, as shown in the screenshots above. If I uncheck “Show image in layout” the images and icons are removed.
2 options.

No images – a bit plain, right?

Filmstrip” gives a large emphasis on the image. You can move from left to right with arrows, and on the bottom you will see an indication that there’s more than these 4.
1 option.

The “Filmstrip” layout emphasizes the images …
… but it appears NOT to show any default icons (in this case, from a document library)

Grid” shows the links in tiles with large images, again not displaying default icons.
1 option.

Grid – large images, but no default icon

Buttons” has a ton of options:

Description yes/no, image yes/no, appearance, alignment and number of lines: buttons has many options.

Let’s show a few:

With description, icon on left, button outline, centered and two lines of text
No description, icon on top, no outline, top aligned and one line of text (which makes it slightly more compact)

And the option that is very popular in my organization:

No description, no icon, fill colour, center alignment and two lines. If you only use icons, and no images, with your links, this is a good option too.

So the Buttons option alone has 72 display options!

The “List” layout has 4 options: with or without icon, and with or without description. It looks like the Buttons option with the icon on the left, but it is slightly different when you toggle between the two.
4 options.

The List option with icon and description

And finally there is the “Tiles” option, which shows your links in squares. There are 5 sizes, and for the smallest 3 you can decide whether you want to show just the icon, or only the image. I am sharing the two most extreme options.
8 options.

Small tiles with title
The largest image where there is no room for the title

So, all in all you have 88 options to choose from!

But wait, there’s more: 4 section background colours

When you edit the section, you can determine the columns, but also select one of 4 colour options for the section background from left to right: none (as shown in the screenshot), neutral, soft and strong. The exact colours depend on the theme of the site.
So, multiply the 88 options of the web part with the 4 background options and you get…352 options!

These are the options:

You can select 4 different hues

This is the default Compact option with images with 3 backgrounds:

The neutral background
Soft background-the screenshot shows hardly any difference with white
The strong background – that is VERY visible

When you have selected a Link option with a fill-in colour, such as the Button (fill colour) or the Tiles, and you use the strong background, the colour of the buttons will revert to white, for maximum contrast.

The Button with fill colour – now white with strong background.
Tiles with strong background – the icon tiles change to white.

Conclusion

There’s 352 ways to make a nice list of links on your SharePoint page.
It is easy to switch from one style to the other so you can play around until you have found the best style for your purposes.

I would not quickly select one without a title – I have clicked too many image-only buttons that led to something I had not expected or wanted. Tell people what they can expect or do and do not leave them guessing. Nielsen-Norman group have many suggestions for link names with good “information scent”.

What’s your favourite Quick Link style?

Note: I have recently switched to the WordPress’s Block Editor. This has changed the way image captions are being displayed.

Some intranet promotion videos – part 4

Intranetvideos4While List.ly is doing their best to get their Vimeo videos displayed properly, I thought I’d share a number of recent finds with you.
Where available, I have added related videos so you do not have 5, but 8 items to look at. In total, this should keep you busy for a little more than 30 minutes! πŸ™‚

Stay indoors and stay safe!

1. Intro to Delve

Quite a good introduction to the capabilities of Delve. It is not very specific to the organization (a University in Melbourne, Australia) so it is very reusable. They also have good videos for Managing permissions in Delve and Managing your Office profile.

The logos are outdated so I guess the video is older than the upload date of February 2020. But as far as I can check in my one-person Delve, the functionality is still correct.

2. Your new intranet (in Portuguese)

Teaser for the upcoming new intranet at Samsonite Brazil.Β 
Uploaded March 2020.Β 

 

3. CM3 SharePoint – your first walkthrough

Quite a long demo of this SharePoint intranet for a USA-based building services organization. This demo starts with the log-on process and it starts to get really interesting from 1.40 onwards, when the homepage is shown. I am fascinated by the colour scheme! It has a lot of useful content and other stuff. In their next video, they look a bit more at the homepage and the SharePoint functionalities and invite you to name the intranet (by completing a Form, of course!).
Uploaded March 2020.

4. Mobile app for real estate organization (builder) – in Dutch

Nice overview of the mobile (SharePoint-based) intranet-app for this Dutch real estate organization. They build houses but also own some DIY-shops in the Netherlands.

This mobile app has a ton of good stuff – News of course, colleague search, employee-stuff. It does not look like the native SharePoint app though.
Uploaded March 2020.

 

5. SmartSpace SharePoint intranet

Walkthrough of a SharePoint intranet for a software organization with offices in UK and USA. The look and feel is quite basic (just the company logo, not even their corporate colours) compared to the design of their proposal templates and website. They appear to do almost everything “corporate” in one site.
Having your Mission and Vision statement on the landing page must become boring after some time, but they may want to change that over time into News or something used frequently. I really like the fact they have a list of approved software (with details) as well as their project portfolio also in SharePoint lists.
Uploaded March 2020.