Using Branding in SharePoint to Improve User Adoption

17 July 2014
By Anna Kolot, SharePoint Developer

SharePoint-based corporate portal

A SharePoint intranet portal is a way to centralize access to enterprise information and applications on a corporate network. This tool helps a company manage its data, applications and information more easily. It is primarily designed to be an indispensable tool for your work, a single point of access to corporate documents.
For employees, it should be in an information network, where everything is transparent and understandable.

However, according to my experience, it is often that people speak negatively about corporate portals. They complain about the complexity of working with countless unordered lists, a variety of different sites, subsites and libraries collections. Besides, they say, naked out-of-the-box SharePoint solution looks unusual and uncomfortable.

Making SharePoint more user-friendly

One of the tools used to accelerate the adaptation of users to new corporate portal is branding. And not just repainting the background and fonts, but a sound approach to the formation of the information architecture, requirements gathering, involving professional developers. Without this, there is a risk to turn SharePoint portal to dump of documents and another non-core corporate resource.

Thoughtful branding is able to free SharePoint users from the burden of numerous trainings and reduce the amount of advice and guidance during their work. Branding is able to make SharePoint Portal intuitive for employees.

Why SharePoint branding is complicated

So we have come to the conclusion that branding of corporate portal is essential. Where to begin? Experience suggests the following stages of a successful SharePoint branding:

  • Establishment of a clear informational architecture on a business level. Saying this we imply that it assignment of information to libraries and SharePoint lists will be thought through. Also it is important to create the access matrix, which will control groups of users and their access to the lists. The cope stone is creating of graphic prototypes of the portal pages, where a schematic layout will be presented
  • Gathering and analysis of user requirements. Here, we can quote a whole book of Business Analysis. But even a little chat with users of several key units that are actively using SharePoint portal will help you understand the big picture and some important changes that are needed.
  • Involvement of experienced developers. As a developer, I just wanted to say that, perhaps, this is the most important step. Competent, professional designer and front-end/SharePoint developer can complete branding successfully even if the two previous stages of preparation went not as good as everyone’s expected. And vice versa – unprepared developer can ruin anything

Customization features of SharePoint, the impact of external changes on user adoption

There are various tools and techniques for customizing SharePoint portal.

The easiest option is the so-called “out-of-the-box” customization. It does not require the development, writing code, but all changes can be performed by a qualified SharePoint administrator. This could include work to change the name, logo, fonts; changing of zoning of Web Parts or their properties; setting of corporate color theme.

All this should improve the perception of information for users of the portal. Color and zoning will help structuring the information, highlighting the most important aspects.

Below is an example of “box” SharePoint 2010 portal and portal with changed color theme:


Here is an example of how you can transform SharePoint portal by changing backgrounds, logo and style sheet:

A more sophisticated version of customization involves the development of custom master pages, page templates, sites, creating a unique design navigation. Such branding can transform SharePoint portal, make it unique, echoing the ideology of the company.
Here are a few examples of how SharePoint Portal may change:


Conclusion

What will we have as a result of a proper SharePoint branding?

  • Employees will be able to easily adapt in a clear structured interface to experience the pleasure of working with the portal
  • “Well maintained” portal will increase the company’s value in the eyes of the staff and customers
  • Branding will visually isolate and organize information on the SharePoint portal, thereby make it accessible
  • Original design is always live advertising and great company status.

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