Tag Archives: user adoption

Slide Deck: Don’t Upgrade to SharePoint 2013! #BASPUG

Last night I had to great privilege to share why I think you shouldn’t upgrade to SharePoint 2013 at the Boston SharePoint User Group. No, I’m not an anti-Microsoft guy, I love SharePoint, especially 2013. I wanted to walk through what it’s going to take to upgrade, all of the costs (infrastructure, customizations, training, etc) and walk through 2 viable methods of upgrading. Upgrading is going to come, are you ready for it?

Below is my deck if you’re looking for it.

Til next time, happy SharePointing!


My Users Don’t Like SharePoint Because It’s Just Ugly!

This is Part 4 of my series on ‘My Users Don’t Like SharePoint…

“Can you make it not look like SharePoint?”

Sorry, I can’t use the Mustang metaphor on this one, it’s too beautiful.

Ugly SharePoint 2010

SharePoint can be a little rough to stare at day after day. It’s basic, and a little boring. The 2010 interface was a huge improvement over 2007’s, and the 2013 is an improvement over 2010’s. Eventually, they’ll be hatred for the 2013 design I’m sure. I don’t remember the last SharePoint gig I was on where branding wasn’t a part of it, in some manner. It’s ugly, it is, but it is functional.

Fortunately SharePoint can be branded/themed/designed, whatever you want to call it, to look like anything but SharePoint. Don’t believe me? Check out TopSharePoint.com, an entire site dedicated to showcasing awesome SharePoint sites. Small disclaimer: these sites listed are publicly facing marketing sites and not intranets for a company. Making your SharePoint look like one of these might be an unrealistic expectation. However, it is a great start for getting ideas for cleaning it up and removing the SharePoint look and feel.

Branding SharePoint can be a basic task (change a color or two, layout, etc.) using a custom CSS file to a large project (new master pages, page layouts, full styling, images, etc.) which can engage a team of designers and developers. Branding can be setup to automatically handle mobile devices, giving a richer user interface to SharePoint for iPads, tablets and phones.

If you have the money, pay for a team to come in and brand SharePoint until it’s not recognizable anymore. Go to town and make SharePoint look like anything but SharePoint.

If you’re like most, budgets don’t allow for a full redesign. I’m going to walk through taking a SharePoint site and doing some basic tasks to spruce it up a little. My CSS file is linked at the end of the walk

Before we dive in. True design takes into greater consideration the user experience (UX) along with the user interface (UI). Not only should it look good, but is it functional. Up to now, my other posts have been about improving UX, and though this post might be about UI, it should really be considered in tandem with UX. If you make it look pretty, but users still can’t do anything, what’s the point?

With that said, let’s make SharePoint look a little prettier.

Change the theme. Pretty easy, go to Site Settings > Site Theme (under Look and Feel). Pick your desired colors. If you’re using SharePoint Server, you have the option of taking it a step further and customizing your colors as well.

I’ve picked a new theme, Construct. When you do, you’ll notice it’s a slight change, but definitely still looks like SharePoint.

Use a custom CSS file. This isn’t tough. A Site Owner can do apply a custom CSS file, no need for SharePoint Designer or custom master pages, with the Publishing Site Feature enabled. If not, you’ll need to modify your master page to link to your CSS file.

To really make a noticeable difference, I decided to set the page fixed width (see Lesson Learned: Using Fixed-Width Layouts in SharePoint. Explore whether or not your SharePoint design should flow with the browser or be set to a fixed width.). And since the page is fixed width, I threw in a background color. Notice I took out the large image. A caveat with fixed width is that content can spill over and make the page look bad. I went ahead and removed that image.

Disclaimer, I’m terrible at matching colors, which is why I leaned towards an almost monochromatic theme.

Let’s rework the left quick launch a little bit, adding a little depth and style by bolding the section headers and indenting the links.

Change the site logo to your company’s logo. If the logo isn’t a solid square (most aren’t), make sure its background is transparent so it will fit nicely. Save it to the Site Assets folder, and then set the logo in Site Settings > Tile, Description and Icon.

Now let’s take the top link bar, add a little custom styling, and modify the left quick launch to add some gradient. Check out the Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator for a great free tool for creating gradients that even work in IE9.

It’s coming along isn’t it?  Using the same gradient tool, and a little more styling to the background and web part titles, here’s my finished result.

Not bad eh?

This is all in one CSS file, which you can download here. This took me about 20 minutes to do, spent most of the time playing with colors.

Upload the CSS file to your Site Assets folder, and then specify this as your custom CSS file (Site Settings > Master Page > Alternate CSS URL). If you don’t have the Master Page option, you’ll need to enable the Site Publishing feature. If you can’t enable this, or don’t want all of the other stuff that comes with it, you can link to your CSS file by editing your master page in SharePoint Designer.

Where to go from here. There is so much more you can do with branding, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can start diving into editing your master page and moving stuff around, adding cooler elements, JavaScript/jQuery, HTML, etc. Keep in mind, the more you add, the greater chance you have of slowing down the pages. Adding jQuery minimum alone adds approximately 93kb to the page. Keep this in mind as you’re improving your design.

There are a ton of resources online for how to customize your master page, apply a custom CSS and do some pretty cool stuff using jQuery. Here’s a few I’ve booked marked along the way:

Til next week, Happy SharePointing!

My Users Don’t Like SharePoint Because They Can’t Do Anything!

This is Part 3 of my series on ‘My Users Don’t Like SharePoint…

Again, let’s take the Ford Mustang metaphor from the opening post. I get my 2013 Mustang, and it’s shiny and beautiful.

Credit Ford.com

It’s new, shiny, has the new car smell, spotless. I make the decision that my kids are not allowed in it at all. Period. My wife is only allowed after she has brushed her shoes off. And then once she’s in, no drinks, no food. I don’t even bring coffee in it. Is it still a beautiful car? You better believe it is. Will anyone want to drive with me? Meh, maybe the first time, but it’ll quickly get old (make sure your feet are clean, sorry you have cat hair on you, you can’t ride in my car). No one will want to drive with me since there are so many limitations.

This is also a common scenario for SharePoint, but sometimes it is deployed and locked down so tight that everything of significance is filtered through IT. All lists have requests and approval workflows setup. No one is allowed to create new lists or sites. Since it’s all going through IT help desk, a request takes an annoyingly long time to complete and eventually users decide to not bother with it.

Or following the second post in this series, if you just spent all of this time and effort cleaning, scrubbing, and reorganizing SharePoint, you may lean towards locking it down so much that it can never happen again.

from PhotoBucket

Loosen up!

I know, I’m sending you mixed signals. Last post I said to apply governance and kick people out of doing things, tighten down the reigns, now I’m telling you to loosen up.

There’s a balance.

I’ve worked with enough IT departments to know what they think of their end users. I understand most users don’t know how to change their screen resolution or use the Windows key. I honestly had someone think the CD-ROM was a cup holder, and used it as such… I’ve had a VP complain his laptop stopped working after he spilled coffee on it… I’ve had someone report that their new hard drive wasn’t working properly, upon assessment it wasn’t plugged in, it was resting on the computer… I’ve had a tech support rep from a computer company tell me to reboot and give it 24 hours for the settings to sink in… I’ve told users to straighten out their keyboard wires or the letters will appear upside down… ID-10T… and there’s more. I’m sure you have a long list as well. I know the stories and the pain. I do, I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

Since I know where you’re coming from, let me take a moment to vent… As the IT department, your job is to support and provide services to your users, assisting them in completing their jobs, not telling them how to do their jobs. Too many times the business is run by IT; IT is making business decisions (or forcing the business into choices) based on technology, instead of hearing and understanding what the business needs and then doing everything they can to make it work. Without the business, there’s no need for an IT department. IT departments can a note from consultants: do everything you can to make the customer happy. Just sayin… now back to SharePoint….

What I also learned is that not all of your end users are mindless lemmings. There are always a select few who should be considered power users. Leverage them! SharePoint is best used when power users are granted permissions to create some customizations on their own. Your governance plan should identify this, clearly.

How do you identify your power users? They’re the ones who do some cool stuff without hassling IT. Or they do something so big, that they need IT to help fix it (this is good, they’re venturing on their own). They’re users who customize their Excel worksheets with cool functions and macros, or actually know how to use PowerPoint and maybe embed a video. Get to know them, and adopt them into your team, they don’t have to join IT, but they can be a go-to-person for their department. Provide them additional permission to create a list or library. Explain to them the importance of organization and your governance. There can be a healthy balance between the junk drawer affect and the strict IT department.

Train your users.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn” – Benjamin Franklin

This can take time and is costly. If you were deploying a new ERP, CMS or a highly customized solution, you would provide training, manuals, quick reference cards, and more. But nooooo…. SharePoint is Microsoft and should be easy. Well it isn’t.

Start with finding some resources you like (some awesome resources online on sites like www.nothingbutsharepoint.com and sp365.co.uk, videos from www.criticalpathtraining.com, and many books are available as well). Take what you like and paraphrase it, highlight what you think your users need to know, and reference these sources in your own manuals.

Take screen shots or small videos to help explain the steps. Check out a great free screen shot app and 5 min video recorder: Jing by  TechSmith.

Hold small training sessions, I find that SharePoint training can be intimidating to users and they tend to ask loads of questions; small groups make it more manageable for the trainer. Make sure to allow time for question and answers, SharePoint can do a lot, let your users play with it and explore and come back with questions later on. Consider bringing in a trainer or consulting firm that can help train and answer the questions effectively.

Once your larger user base knows what is possible, two things can happen:

1. They appreciate your SharePoint implementation, they understand what it’s for and what it can do for them. This will drive user adoption and improve your users’ point of view.

2. They come back with additional ideas and feature requests: “since it can do ABC, can we have it do XYZ?”. Nothing drives user adoption better than buy-in.

Give them some space.

To play that is. After you spent the time to train your users, or provided the ideal manuals and guides, give them their space. Turn on My Sites and let them bang on their own site collection. They are their own masters in their My Site. Set quotas so they can’t run wild on space. If they blow up their site, wipe it out and create them a fresh one. No harm no fowl. Letting them play will help get additional buy-in and improve user adoption.

Allow them to customize their own web part pages. With the Personal Permissions section enabled (enabled on the Contribute rights by default), users can customize their own web part pages. The page has a shared and a personal view, allowing users to add and remove web parts as they want. As an admin, you can lock down web parts so they cannot be removed, which is important to ensure the company message is still present. Also, with this permission set, users can create their own personal views on any lists they have permission to. This enables users to create their own views of the data without bugging admins. Train your users on how to use this and you’ll have a happier user base.

If you get enough [happy | satisfied | content] people behind your SharePoint, and key stakeholders get wind of it, you have a better chance of additional resources for improving SharePoint (increase budgets for training, software, hardware, consultants, etc.).

Til next week, Happy SharePointing!