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 🙂
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 🙂
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Enable comments for news and short-time pages.
This allows for discussion within the organization.
You can disable comments for static pages.
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.