Chris’s SharePoint Reflections

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  • Chris Zhong

    IT consultant Australia








Planning your SharePoint WCM site – Part 1

Posted by chrissyz on June 29, 2008

Many organizations build their public-facing Internet sites using MOSS 2007 because of its WCM features. It has a lot of improvement over MCMS like: rapid site creation, caching, web-based management interface, new content deployment architecture, extensible workflow and search etc.. Recently I am building a MOSS Internet site for my company, a couple of thoughts I would like to share here:

1. Hosting Environment:  Ideally we will have two server farms. One for internal farm (for intranet) dedicated to the content authors/editors/designers and a second farm (in the internet- facing network) that hosts our production site. Our internal farm is read/write, while our production farm is most likely read-only. This way we could have business owners setup to edit the content on the site and have it published through a proper approval and content deployed process.  The environment we should be aiming for should look something like this:

 

 

2. Looks and feels: Personally, I don’t think you need to be a SharePoint expert to design your internet site. SharePoint is build on top of ASP.NET 2.0, so basically, whatever you can design in an ASP.NET website, you can always implement it in SharePoint (just a matter of money and effort. 🙂 ) Therefore, don’t confine your creativity at the first place just because it is a SharePoint site, you will be amazed at what SharePoint can do. However, it is always good to have an understanding of SharePoint, as it does have a few things special. Heather Soloman’s blog is a good place to check out.

·         Design:

Tools: I am using Microsoft Expression Web for prototyping.  It is so cool.

               A couple of things need to take consideration when you are prototyping

Ø  SharePoint OOTB Controls:  what SharePoint interface features do you want to keep in the new design? Like breadcrumb, welcome menu, site action, page titles, site titles, page images, navigation menus, etc. Make sure your master page still incorporate these items even though you are not going to implement them.

Ø  Navigation:  Do you want top bar navigation, left/right hand side navigation? Do you want to modify the SharePoint OOTB navigation control or do you want to create your own custom user control? You may want to check this site

Ø  Toolbar: there are several toolbars used in SharePoint on various screens, plus form field background

Ø  Content areas: page layout, web part zones etc.

·         Implementation

Tools:  SharePoint Designer

The bulk of the customization and branding was done in a master page. You can either start from the minimal master page or OOTB blueband/blackband master page. I don’t recommend start with default. master as you will get more kudos for the road less travelled.

 

To make your SharePoint site not look so SharePointy, CSS is the key .All the looks and feels are controlled by CSS. You do need to be good at CSS or at least have one CSS expert on your team.  There are 26 OOTB CSS files shipped with SharePoint. However, you don’t need to know all of them, but it is important that you understand the mechanism of how Core.css works with SharePoint. Here is a blog give a detailed explanation of how CSS works with master page.

 

3. Usability: Like an old saying said: if you don’t know what your destination is, it doesn’t matter if you take a bus or take a taxi.  Designing a website, you need to know who your audience is. As a technical person, we tend to design the web site to show off the best technologies instead of paying attention to the end user. For example, if the Internet site is built for government, then accessibility is the priority. You may want to give up Silverlight or flash etc and try to keep the site neat and clean. Make sure you take your end user into consideration when you make decision of what technology to use; what the site will be look like? Keep in mind that technology is meant to adjust to people’s need, not the opposite. Make sure you work closely with your customer on the Information Architecture and Taxonomy.

Well, have to stop here. Shopping time now, don’t want to miss Myer’s midyear sale. I will continue this in part 2, talking about deployment and packaging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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