Let your purpose – and your people – lead your SharePoint structure
It’s essential that you start your SharePoint design with a clear vision of what you are aiming to achieve. It’s likely that you will have several different goals for your employee engagement, internal communication, and company productivity, but these should all link back to the key pillars of your people strategy.
Before starting, think about the drivers behind your SharePoint Design. What is your internal communication approach? How do your people work together? How do you want them to collaborate and share information? How important is training and development?
Once you have understood how your people work, established your purpose, and gained buy in for the prioritisation of the content you are delivering through your design, you’ll be able to draft the structure of your site. Microsoft recommend a flat structure, using the connected hub sites to make sure SharePoint search is effective from where you’re working, and the employee find the documents and topics they are looking for with ease. You will need to ensure you plan in end-user training and education for content creators to ensure they know how to correctly tag content to maintain the virtual structure that reflects your goals.
By creating a core navigation – or metadata taxonomy – with a simple, intuitive hierarchy that reflects the way your organisation works, your users are far more likely to engage quickly with the site, use it regularly and be able to access all the content available to them.
Now you’ve got your content and structure sorted, you’ll need to decide what you want to display on your landing pages. As another important part of your design, your main landing page can give users relevant, personalised, up-to-date information that will encourage them to return frequently – or even to make the landing page their go-to virtual desktop from the moment they log on to the end of their working day.
By using Modern SharePoint communication site web parts, you can automatically keep the information on their landing page fresh and relevant. These web parts might include:
- Quick links to relevant content or last document worked on
- Links to most frequently updated pages
- Upcoming Events, Group Calendar or even Countdown Timer to special events
- Company news feed or key messages
- Latest Stream Videos
- Yammer Feed
- Twitter Feed
Let’s say you are running a series of company wide events. With SharePoint Modern you have all the tools and templates you need to design a highly valuable event site to share information about the event with the whole organisation. Use SharePoint Online News Pages to display photos on your Team SharePoint Site, combine pages to provide a quick look page for users to browse, add Yammer for gathering feedback, MS Forms to run a survey, and Sway to create even banners. The possibilities are endless.
With SharePoint you also have the opportunity to design Team or Department Sites that can help boost collaboration and give specialist or project teams the opportunity to share files and information that are relevant to them. Again, web parts can play a part here with PowerBI integration and Highlighted Content giving the user team specific, audience targeted, information on a single page.
Internal communications hubs can be dry and dull, but SharePoint design features allow for your creativity to shine through and give you the chance to really ramp up the effectiveness of your communications. Use slideshows and web parts to feature high quality imagery or customise the look and feel of the site by changing your logo, colour themes and navigation. You can even choose to apply your branding to a single site, a group of sites or all the sites in your organisation. Themes mean that you can make easy selections without touching the site code and can refresh your SharePoint look and feel with no need for developer support.
Communication Site templates in Office365 SharePoint Online give you the scope to use web parts to easily build an engaging landing page. With a Hero Web Part you can be highly creative. Simply start building your site, use the SharePoint lookbook to find a template with a Hero Web Part and start creating images and designing your page. Add PowerPoint or even create and feature a gif to bring both focus and visual interest to your page.
Understanding what your users need is paramount in every aspect of your SharePoint design, but it may be particularly helpful in deciding when to use imagery, infographics, or iconography in your site. 90% of the information processed by the brain is visual1 and we process images 60,000 times faster than text2, so these identifiers can make a significant difference to the usability of your site.
Make it accessible anywhere
With over 200 million users relying on SharePoint to stay connected and engaged with their business, their colleagues, and their work, it’s no wonder that designing multi-device – and particularly mobile -compatibility is vital for your SharePoint site to succeed.
Using modern SharePoint site automatically means that your team will be able to access all your content from any device with a browser and an internet connection. However, you do still need to consider cross device compatibility in your SharePoint design. So, make sure to use Mobile Brower View to optimise your design, images and gifs for mobile device and don’t forget to test, test, test! Make sure you test your design across all the most commonly used devices in your organisation.
Learn and improve
One of the great things about SharePoint is that you automatically have access to an array of information about how your users are interacting with your site: from the number of visitors to the files that have the most views, as well as average time spent per user and platforms. To gather more quantitative data, you can use surveys – easy to do with Microsoft Forms in M365 – and hear direct from users about what works and doesn’t work for them. By drilling into this data and listening to your users to understand the ‘why?’ behind their behaviour, you can pinpoint any issues with your design and make small changes to address these. A new feature rolled out in Q2 2021 is page analytics (to compliment site analytics), this should be used to monitor the performance of articles and key pieces of business content.
The SharePoint platform itself is always in the process of continuous improvement – and you and your teams will benefit from the releases that automatically install fixes or deliver larger updates to install. But it’s up to you to make sure that you apply the same principles of continuous improvement and maintain your well-planned SharePoint design over time. Take time at regular intervals to carry out a site review to:
- Monitor the growing volume of content on the site – is it tagged or filed properly, and is it impacting your user centric navigation experience?
- Review your imagery – is it still fresh and enticing, and is it all adhering to the standards you set at the start?
- Assess whether the site is still cross device compatible with new or emerging internet enabled hardware.
Launching your new SharePoint platform can feel daunting at first, particularly with a large volume of content to organise and share, but by applying these five basic rules you will be able to establish and maintain a highly usable, visually enticing SharePoint design that engages and inspires your employees day after day.