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Best Practices on SharePoint Site Design

I got an interesting question from one of my clients the other day. The question was whether I could recommend Best Practices on SharePoint Site Design. Having done some “googling”, I could not find a single article that encapsulated all the best practices. As such, I thought I would write this blog post and provide you tips and advice on best practices I accumulated during my career as a SharePoint Consultant.

Tip # 1: Minimize page scroll-downs

Your SharePoint Site might contain few web parts. And of course you might add a few to the site homepage. If you have more than a few or some super-lengthy web parts (i.e. long task lists or super-large document libraries), you might end up with a page where user might need to scroll-down quite a bit to see all content. This might be a personal preference, but I am a big fan of putting everything “above the fold”. That means that essentially all content (all available web parts) appear right on the front page and do not require user to scroll down to see it all. If you have long lists or libraries, or way too many web parts, you can mitigate the issue by:

  1. Creating additional pages to store your web parts on
  2. Creating custom views for all of your web parts that only display certain max # of items on the homepage. For example, may be instead of showing whole document library – only show last 5-10 docs uploaded. Users can still drill down to other views if they wish.

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Tip # 2: Consistent Top Link Bar (menu)

This is one of the biggest problems I encounter when I work with my clients’ SharePoint sites. I go into a SharePoint site, navigate via a menu to some project or department site and then… I am lost. There is no easy navigation for me to go back and it seems like that site is the only one out there in SharePoint stratosphere. The only way out is the browser’s Back button. Make sure to prevent this with consistent navigation. You can then inherit site navigation from the parent site (Site Settings > Top link bar).

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Tip # 3: Don’t turn Quick Launch navigation into flea market

This is another big annoyance I get to see all the time. I go to some SharePoint site, look at the menu on the left and I am like “What the hell happened here?”. There are 55 links on the left-hand-side, linking to every single little site, page, external site, you name it. The best practice is to utilize that left hand-side menu as a local/contextual site menu. That means that while the top link bar menu described above is global and stays consistent among sites, the menu on the left displays links to content (web parts) found on that specific site.

And another thing, please remove links to Recent and Site Contents as well. I know, they are added automatically by SharePoint and are kind of annoying, however, there is no reason why your end users need to see them. Remove them!

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Tip # 4: Use consistent and logical names for your web parts

If you have a document library that stores policies or invoices, than give it a name that reflects that. Don’t name it “Document Library” or “Shared Documents”. This will help users make sense of what is on the page (especially if you have multiple document libraries or web parts)

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Tip # 5: Use Promoted Links to aid users with navigation

Even with proper top link and quick launch navigation, it might be a bit overwhelming for some new site visitors to figure out where to go once they land on a site. To mitigate that, take advantage of Promoted Links functionality. This helps spice up the page with some colorful icons + assists users with navigation/getting to right content quickly. A great way to focus user’s attention on what’s important.

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Tip # 6: Do not turn your SharePoint Site into a Hollywood special effects movie

While I am a big advocate of customizing the site with some branding to “spice things up”, don’t your site into a special effects Hollywood movie. I have seen some of my clients hire developers to add some custom branding, flashy slideshows, hover-over effects, to make SharePoint “exciting“. Remember, at the end of the day, SharePoint is a working collaboration site. It is not an external, public-facing site that needs to “stand out” from the rest and make an impression. Choose long-term practicality over one-time “WOW” factor.

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