10 things to know as a SharePoint News reader

spnewsreader-headerIn earlier posts we have looked at SharePoint News and the News digest from the sender’s perspective. It is time to look at it from a reader’s point of view!

1. You can find SharePoint News in the following places:

  1. The site where it has been published
  2. The site overview (click “See all” on the web part after publishing 5 articles)
  3. News digests (Newsletters), consisting of the above, gathered with previews in an email
  4. The SharePoint app
  5. “News from sites” on the SharePoint landing page
  6. Ā All “News from sites” if you click the “See all” on the SharePoint landing page

To avoid a very long post, I have compiled some screenshots in this deck. You may want to watch it full-screen:

2. You will only see News articles to which you have access.

The News digest is an exception – it can be sent to you and you may not have access to one or more of the articles.

3. The SharePoint web part on the landing page can not be configured or removed.

So if anyone is posting News articles and you have access, you will see them there, whether you want it or not.

Our project was a first and we did not want to show the News to everyone just yet. That is why we made the News site and the News digest available to a limited group of people only, even thought the content was not confidential. We simply did not want to confront people with something new which may be there only once. (In theory šŸ™‚ )

We received some comments of people in the target audience because it “obscured their view of the Frequent Sites”.

4. You can like a page and/or comment on it.

You will find the options at the bottom of the page. The author will receive an email now and then with the likes and comments. If you @mention someone, they will receive an email immediately. This is great for urgent remarks to the author, and also to inform a colleague about this article.

SPNewsreader-comment
Likes and comments are available. If you @mention someone, they will get an email.

5. You can save a news article for later.

This will come in useful when you do not have time to read it now, or in case you will want to keep it. There are 3 ways to do that:

  1. At the bottom of the post you will see an option to “Save for later”.

    SPNewsreader-savefrompost
    You can save an article for later by clicking the label at the bottom of the page.
  2. You can also click the label of any News article that you see on the “News from sites” overviews.
  3. In the SharePoint app you can click the … at the right of each article and select “Save for later”

    SPNewsreader-how to save
    From the Newsfeed in the app you can also save for later. Sorry – in Dutch šŸ™‚

There are 3 places to see your saved articles:

  1. On the News cards in “News from sites”, saved articles will show with a “filled” label as opposed to have the outline only (Is this proper English? šŸ™‚ )

    SPNewsreader-savedfromSPPage
    The highlighted label show that this News article is “saved for later”. You can (un)save on this page by clicking the label.
  2. On your SharePoint landing page, in the left-hand menu under “Saved”

    SPNewsreader-savedSPpage
    You will see “Saved” News articles in the left-hand column on the SharePoint landing page.
  3. In the SharePoint app News, under Filter (on top) you can select the “Saved Items”.

    SPNewsreader-appfilter
    Click the Filter and select “Saved Items”. Sorry for the Dutch! šŸ™‚

I would have expected this to be on Delve, together with bookmarks. But no.

6 a. The SharePoint app (iOS and Android) is excellent for reading News.

The Newsfeed (in order of First Published Date) looks great and your saved items are available in a separate place. (Click the filter on top to see only the “Saved Items”)
You can easily read the News in public transport or in the evening on the sofa!

I often hear that people “do not have time to read the news during the day”.

I also heard a story from a bank that made the News available on smartphones (this was pre-SharePoint News and app) and they saw a massive spike in views around 8 pm, when people were ready to settle in for the evening. Apparently employees do not mind spending private time on work-related News, as long as they can consume it at a time that suits them.

6 b. The Android app is very sticky when it comes to post-publication changes.

Both iOS and Android are fast to show freshly published News articles. But while the iOS app is fast to respond to post-publication changes (e.g. items being renamed, edited, depublished or removed) the Android app is very slow and can take several hours to change. Some unpublished or deleted items never even go away, providing you with a 404 (not found) message when you click them.
Android phones and fast-moving news such as IT outages and their fixes are therefore not a good combination.

7. Make it a habit to click on the title to open a News article.

Clicking on the image in the News Digest will only show you the image. Everywhere else you can also click on the image. Weird.

8. You will get notifications of new News articles in the app.

This happens when someone you work with frequently posts a new article. This is determined by the Microsoft Graph (the machine that also provides you with suggestions of documents, sites and people) based on your interactions, so there is not much you can do about it šŸ™‚

SPNewsreader-mobile (2)
Someone I work with has posted one (1) News article.

9. Alerts suck big time.

If you do not like to wait until you get a News digest or an app notification, you may think about setting an Alert. Please don’t – Alerts do not work.

Here’s what happens:

  • If you set an Alert based on “All changes” you will get two Alerts – one with the raw URL and one with the title, content and metadata. After that, you will get notified of all changes, of course.
SPNewsReader-alert1
First Alert you will get – yikes!

 

SPNewsreader-alert2
You get this one minutes later.
  • If you set an Alert for “When new items are added” you get…nothing!
  • I also tried a Flow but the “Send email when new file is added” did not work (404 error) as it links to that “raw” URL which gets overwritten. Only once did I receive the correct URL and I have no clue why.
    If someone has found a Flow that works for this scenario, please share!
  • Using a filtered view (Published items, “version contains .0”) did not solve the issue with Alerts or Flow. Besides, would any reader know that?

10. Let me know!

You can guess: I am saving this place for a quirk that I will learn about later. šŸ™‚

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

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10 things to know about the SharePoint News digest

After my massive list of things-to-be-aware-of when creating and managing SharePoint News, I though it would be good to share some lessons about the News digest (Newsletter) separately.

The News digest is a Newsletter created from News articles. It looks very nice in all browser and systems:

SPNewsDigest-Newsletteremail
The News digest as an email

This is what it looks like as a page:

SPNewsDigest-Newsletterpage
The News digest page or the “web version”.

So, here’s a few things that are not in the official support article but may be relevant.

1. You need 5 published News articles before you can send a News digest.

Frankly, this one drove me nuts. I knew I had seen Jasper Oosterveld and other people demo this functionality, so why did I not see the “See all” link on the homepage? Well, because I had only posted 4 items. Duh!

SPNEwsDigest-See all
The elusive “See all” link that allows you to send a News digest

2. The order is by selecting – the first article you select is on top.

This is independent of the creating or publishing order.Ā  You can change the order of items after selecting them and clicking “Next”. Using the arrows you can then drag and drop the items into the desired order. The “x” will remove the item from the selection.

SPNewsDigest-moveitems
The yellow-marked icon shows “Move” and allows you to change the order.

3. You can only send this to an Office Group, Distribution List or individuals.

It looks like you can send this only to items which appear in the Global Address List.

I would have expected you could also use a SharePoint site user group (from this site) or a personal Group of Contact Persons from your Outlook, but no. In this case, it meant that our project manager had to add all people to a Distribution List. (We are not using Office Groups yet)

4. It is unclear (to me) what determines the logo.

  • If you do nothing the logo displayed will be the new SharePoint logo
  • If you replace the site icon by another image, the logo displayed will be the old SharePoint logo
  • Your organizational logo (the one in the Office365 top bar) does not show in the News digest
  • Both the support info and this blog by Juan Carlos Gonzalez Martin show that the site icon is displayed in the News digest.

I would like to know how this works, as I would prefer to distinguish the various News digests from one another by using a custom image. On suggestion of Juan Carlos I tested this with a modern team site (instead of a Communication site), but it did not work there either. That said, if there is one site template I would expect to allow more branding, it would be the Communication site!

There is already a number of User Voice requests out there for more options to manage the News digest look-and-feel.

At this moment Microsoft says in their support article that “It is not yet possible to make changes to the appearance of images, header area, or summary area of the email.” That gives hope for the future!

5. Your News digest will display the site’s name.

So make sure your site has a meaningful name.
This is of course another good way to tell the difference between this digest and another, but I still would like to have an image, too!

SPNewsdigest-logoandname
The logo (that I would like to be customizable), and the site name.

6. Access requests will be sent for the News article, not for the site.

If someone has been forwarded the News digest, clicks on the first item and then finds out they need access, they will send an access request to the News article.
You can click “Approve”, but

  • You will only give access to this specific article, so they will have to request access for the next article and the next, etc.
  • You will break the permission inheritance in the pages library, so every page will have its own permissions.
  • They will not see the header image because that lives in the Site Assets library, to which they do not have access.

I would suggest to treat the access requests as a general request for access to the complete SITE.
In our case, I have added a link to the Visitors group on the top of the site, so the project manager can quickly open the list and add new people.

SPNewsdigest-linkontop
Easy to reach for giving access.

He grumbled a bit but is IS a sign of success when people forward the News digest šŸ™‚

By the way, the access request email looks really nice these days. Sadly you can only Approve from the email if you are an Owner (not if you use a custom role, like we do) AND you can not give permissions for the complete site from this mail, only to the link requested.

SPNewsDigest-access
The new access request mail allows you to select role (but not Group) and Approve/Decline, for this specific News article.

7. Access requests will go to the original name of the article.

Have you changed the title of your News article after publishing? When you get an access request, the original name will be shown. If you have forgotten what it was, never mind – another reason to give access to the complete site! šŸ™‚

SPNewsDigest-accessrenamed
I renamed that article into “Share your best holiday pix” but the request goes to the old name šŸ˜¦

8. You can send this to external users.

The email and the articles will look just as nice for your external partners as for your internal colleagues, including all logos and pictures. Of course your external partners can only read the full articles when your site allows external sharing AND they have access.

9. Your News digest may end up in the Spam box.

I have had to dig my beautiful News digest out of several spam boxes, for different email addresses šŸ˜¦
So if your first News digests do not get the attention they deserve, you may want to ask around if people have received the emails. (and help them mark it as Not Spam)

10. Place-holder for something that I do not know yet.

I am quite positive that something will turn up. If you have found something, please let me know!

Next steps?

Overall, our audience was positive about the News digest and we have already received inquiries from another team.Ā 

My next post will be about experiencing SharePoint News as a reader. Stay tuned!

15 things to know about creating SharePoint News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Promoted State: (Thanks to Susan Hanley)

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

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

5. You can unpublish an article.

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

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

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

SPNews-Unpublish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. The News web part is not very stable.

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

15. Edits take some time to update.

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

What’s next?

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

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

Image by kconcha at pixabay.com

What do YOU call Home(page)?

HomepagesweethomepageThe first page I see when I open a browser on my work laptopĀ is the intranet. That was the case in my previous job and in my current one. When I see peers open a browser window, I rarely see another page, like a search engine page; it is generally an intranet homepage that opens first.

When discussing our new digital workplace the other day, we wondered which page should open when you open your browser. With Office 365 you have a number of options.

  • One person wanted the intranet homepage to be the firstĀ page shown, like it is today.
  • AnotherĀ suggestedĀ the Delve page, although he realized thatĀ will not be the best page for launchĀ since it needs to fill up with relevant content before people will see the benefits. I personally like the Delve-page, but not as a browser home page. To me it feels too much like a “filter bubble”.
  • A third colleague thought that the SharePoint homepage would be the best option, since it would have all your sites in one place.
  • I preferred the Office 365Ā landing pageĀ since I think that is the best representation of the Digital Workplace. It hasĀ all the tools I need on a regular basis: Email, Yammer, Office, SharePoint. With the recent improvements, however small, I think there is a great potential to turn that page into a very useful dashboard to start your working day.

We clearly did not agree so I decided to ask the question in the Office 365 network on Yammer.

The results surprised me!

  • Most organizations have “a specific SharePoint page” as their browser homepage. I assume that is the “intranet homepage”, because the people who voted “Other”, mentioned their intranet homepage as well, but those were not (yet) on Office 365.
  • A surprisingly high number of organizations (19%!) leave the decision to the user. This is totally unthinkable in my corporate world so perhaps these answers were given by smaller consultancies.
  • A disappointingĀ 14% had the Office 365 landing page as their browser opening :-(.

Poll

I have given my feedback about the new Office 365Ā landing pageĀ to Microsoft.Ā I hope they will develop this quickly soĀ I will get my way one day after all šŸ™‚

BTW, since then we decided that the new intranet homepage will be the chosen page.

If you are on, or planning to move to Office 365,Ā whatĀ have you selected as your browserĀ homepage?

Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Celebrating more than 200 intranet promotion videos!

FireworksUpdate November 2018: I now have more than 400 videos in my collection.

Usually my intranet videos deal with a new or revamped intranet. This time I am getting a little meta by sharing some videos aboutĀ celebrating theĀ launch of the intranet itself.
I think having more than 200 videos in my collection is cause for a celebration. When I started my first investigation I was surprised to find more than 30 of the kind. But new ones are being uploaded every week and I have a backlog, so I think we will reach 300 soon! That is, if they are not withdrawn faster than I can upload šŸ™‚

Not everyĀ organization can do this, of course. If you are a dispersed company it will be impossibleĀ to get everyone in one place toĀ serveĀ pastries with the intranet’s name on it. (Yes, this appears to be a theme). Perhaps you can have a webcast and have some non-perishable goodies distributedĀ in time.

This one is from Skanska, a building and construction company from Sweden. Watch the cupcakes!

A similar one from KEARN, a Dutch health and social services organization. It is in Dutch but you will get the idea. There are special “intranet-ladies” that help you walk through the intranet, and there are pastries with the logo.

This intranet is celebrating its first anniversary! It is more a case study than a launch party, but I wanted to include it because celebrating and evaluating are a sign that the intranet is important. Especially after the first year you will be able to extract many lessons!
This intranet has won awards, anĀ extra reason to celebrate.
EDP is an energy company.

I hope these examples will inspire you to make (and share!) a video of your intranet launch party as well!
See my complete collection here.

Image courtesy of satit_srihin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The deconstruction of the intranet

Deconstructed-PuzzleJust after publishing my last post,Ā I found three interesting things that increase my belief that we are currently ā€œdeconstructingā€ the intranetĀ and making it intoĀ something different.

1. No more Internal Comms department.

A Dutch bank and insurance company reported they have done away with their Internal Communications department. The rise of enterprise social networks (two-way communication – I wrote about this earlier) as well as the large number of customer-facing employees in webcare and other business processes had made them decide that communications is no longer a role for one department but for all the company.
English version of article.

Why is this important? Because it is often Internal Comms that has been the department that has introduced intranets to their employees as a communicationĀ tool for all the company. They have made sure intranets looked good,Ā that peopleĀ got trainingĀ and that the corporate news got the best real estate on the homepage.Ā  šŸ™‚

MostĀ of them have realized that the intranet is no longer only a communication tool, but a tool to do your work. In that respect, it may be time to hand over the ownership of the intranet to a different part of the organization, and the digital workplace team may be the best candidate. They can take care of a proper technical installation, governance, training, app selection and development, usability etc. (which, incidentally, apart from the technical installation, areĀ all things I really like to do :-))

If Internal Comms is no longer the owner of the intranet/digital workplace, it means that we can finally use that prime real estate for the most important work stuff, regardless of what that is. Perhaps weĀ can also be less fanatic about design and branding, šŸ™‚ and focus onĀ usability.
But of course this is just one company. I have no idea if (m)any others will follow suit.

2. More talk about an app-store on your intranet.

I came across an article about Neil Morgan’s work for an intranet app store at Richemont. And that was done in 2012!

3. More proof that the app intranet exists!Ā 

And then I found another intranet teaser video featuring a Windows 8 tile view with apps! This is the screenshot. (Please click to enlarge)

Screenshot of the desktop
A screenshot from 19s into the video shows the desktop, with various apps. Source: http://vimeo.com/98925422

Once again, all kind of tools are displayed on the desktop and several elements from the intranet are there (news (in the centre – prime real estate!), Ā time and weather, an HR app). But there appears to be no integrated website called ā€œintranetā€.

[Update October 17th, 2014: Unfortunately, the video was suddenly made private, so I removed the embedded link. I am glad I made that screenshot!Ā ]

This feeds my theory that the ā€œintranetā€ will be replaced by the individual building blocks of the intranet-as-we-have-come-to-know-it + other tools.Ā I will call it the “deconstructed intranet” šŸ™‚
This term has already been used earlier in a blog by Russell Pearson.Ā I am not sure if he meant exactlyĀ the same thing though.

Is this the same asĀ a Digital Workplace? I do not think so – this may be part of a Digital Workplace or a stage towardsĀ a Digital Workplace, but I think the Digital Workplace has more to it than just a set of tools.

Have you seen other examples of “deconstructed intranets”? I am ever so curious how this will develop!

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The pick-‘n-mix app intranet

PicknMix-JellyBeansLong ago, our intranet was custom-built because there was no intranet softwareĀ available. We always spent a lot of time integrating our third-party applications nicely into the intranet. Any application, e.g. travel booking or ordering office supplies, was built with the same user interface and style as our intranet, and of course they were all single-sign-on!

Later, budget restrictions, the availability of intranet platforms, our managementā€™s decision to buy rather than make, as well as the rise of internet-enabled third-party applications resulted in a mish-mash of different color schemes, user interfaces and password requirements on our intranet. I hated the fact that our employees could not move frictionless from one application to another. But I learned to be happy with small things like seeing our company logo on the travel booking system. šŸ™‚
I strongly believed that a consistent user interface is a prerequisite for an effective digital workplace.

Is consistency in design and user interface still relevant now?
That belief has been shaken recently by an intranet introduction video (unfortunately it has been deleted) where the intranet was replaced by a collection of different apps (Office suite tools, general apps and custom intranet apps)Ā on the desktop in a Windows 8 tile view. The intranet as an integrated websiteĀ no longer existed.

Although I was shocked at first, I now think this is not such a strange idea. In our private life we are managing many different apps with different interfaces without thinking. WeĀ love spending time collecting them on our devices, moving them around, updating them and learning different interfaces, because we want or need to use them. With the rise of Bring-Your-Own-Everything, is designing your own workplace not a logical next step?

What did I see in that video?
I have tried to recreate the video’s concept.Ā Ā Since I know Microsoft Office suite and SharePoint best, I have used those elements, but of course this concept works with any Office and intranet suite.

At the moment, we generally make these big blocks of functionality available to our (new) employees.

New employee desktop
1. This is the software on the desktop for a new employee.

Over time, most employees adjust that by adding individual links to Office and other tools to their desktop or task bar.

This is theĀ workplace that the video showed. All suites and the intranet have been broken up into building blocks to create a personal digital workplace, in this case for a Sales-type role.

The new toolset as seen in the video.
2. This is what I saw on the video – a selection of all kinds of specific tools, without any mention of the word “intranet”.

What are the implications of this concept?
I think this is a plausible direction, but it raises many questions:

  • If it is pick-ā€˜n-mix, will some apps be mandatory or will you leave it to the employee? Or will you have mandatory or recommended sets for different roles within the organization?
  • Will people have the same patience to create their own start page and learn different tools in the work environment as they have in their private life?
  • Will more employees spend effort in personalizing their start page than the reported 5% that has ever personalized their intranet homepage?
  • Who will be responsible for management and governance? Will it be one role or will every department have responsibility for their own role apps? Or a mix?
  • Will the responsible have any influence on a consistent user interface for internal and external apps? Or will they only be responsible for a set of design standards that every department will have to stick to?
  • WillĀ  ā€œconsistent design and user interfaceā€ still matter, or is it sufficient thatĀ apps adhere to common usability and accessibility standards? (And what would those standards be?)
  • Will the responsible brand apps and if yes, which ones? (after all, we all love email and spreadsheets, and nobody has ever branded those)
  • Will it mean that the employee can pick-ā€˜n-mix another set of apps for their mobile or tablet device, if that works better for them?

What do you think?
I am building this theory on the basis of one deleted video, so I may be completely off the mark. šŸ™‚ Ā On the other hand, it may as well be a plausible and tangible example of a digital workplace of the near future. I certainly have never seen something like figureĀ 2 in real life yet, and I am very curious if this will ever happen. Have you seen anything like it, or are you working on something like this? Or do you think thisĀ will take a different direction altogether? Please share!

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at FreeDigitalPhotos.net