Tips and Tricks on How to Customize SharePoint Sites

Did you play with Lego when you were a kid? Time magazine describes it as the most influential toy of all time and one of the reasons for its popularity is due to its potential. It’s a toy with an incredible amount of flexibility (metaphorically speaking—those that have stepped on a stray Lego brick will argue it’s definitely not flexible!). When you bought Lego as a kid, sure, you could follow the instructions and build the house or the castle or whatever came in the box. But it got a lot more fun when you began using all your bricks to build something even more creative.

And you know what? SharePoint is pretty similar to Lego in many ways—one of the reasons it’s the most popular enterprise platform among Fortune 500 companies is that, like Lego, it’s super flexible. Yes, you can just use SharePoint out of the box and it will be pretty cool. But by customizing your SharePoint Sites and branding the platform to your company’s style, you get an even better environment that your employees will love.

When you’re customizing SharePoint, you need to make sure you follow best practice—when customizations go wrong, you can end up with a confusing mess that is hard to put right. Follow our simple tips and tricks for designing your SharePoint Site so its level of performance can match its level of suitability.

1.  Before you do anything.

Think about what you are actually changing the site for. Don’t just dive in and start adding and removing parts of the Site on a whim. Instead, have a plan. Depending on what you want to do, try sketching your ideas out first, think what you want it to look like and let that end goal guide your editing.

2. Make sure you have the right permissions. 

You won’t be able to do very much editing at all if you don’t have the right permissions. Make sure you are allowed, at a minimum, to:

  • Add and customize page
  • Apply themes and border
  • Apply style sheets

If you don’t have these rights, talk to your SharePoint Administrator or IT department.

3. Think about the people who are going to use the page. 

Now, it’s nice if you want to throw in some illustrations of unicorns and fill the page with bubblegum pink borders, but remember who else is going to use the Site. Most users don’t care about your arty touches; they just want something that lets them easily get their work done. Don’t be tempted to go overboard with your design; keep it simple and relevant to the people at your company.

4. Start by editing page contents. 

This is the easiest way to edit Sites in SharePoint. In the page editor, you can carry out various functions, including moving the position of web parts, changing the color and size of the font and other matters of rearrangement.

5. All good? Now move on to editing site settings. 

Site Settings can be reached through your setting menu and are used for changing the look and feel of your Sites. Here, click on Title, Description and Logo. You’re able to change the site’s title, its description and add your company logo. Easy!

6. Change the theme. 

Another important option in the ‘look and feel’ section is the ability to change your theme. Select this and you can choose from one of Microsoft’s numerous free themes. Try one out and, if you think it will do the trick, you can instantly apply it to your site. If you’re not happy with SharePoint’s built-in themes, or you want to give your Site a more personal touch, you can build your own theme. Here’s a guide on how to build themes using PowerPoint which you can then upload to your SharePoint template library. Depending on how you created your theme, there are different ways of deploying it.

7. Add Web Parts. 

There’s a load of different Web Parts you can add to a Site, depending on the version of SharePoint you’re using. From the ribbon, select Web Parts and the view all the different categories of Web Parts available for that page. Click and drag the Web Part onto your page, and when you’re happy with that, edit the Web Part’s properties for further modification.

8. Add workflows. 

There’s a huge range of workflows you can add into a SharePoint Site – for instance, you can add a vacation approval form right into your HR Site. This can trigger an automatic approval process, be time sensitive, and avoids any mistakes or miscommunications.

9. Get working with SharePoint Designer. 

SharePoint Designer is a super useful tool for Power Users to begin editing their SharePoint environment. SharePoint designer gives you much more control to fine tune your SharePoint Site – place the logo exactly where you want, place your navigation menu in a new place, or move around the navigation menu. SharePoint Designer gives you that extra bit of power and you don’t need to be a fully-fledged developer to use it.

10. Use Visual Studio or ultimate power. 

If you want to push your customization to the next level, you’ll need to get down into the machinery and start editing the code underpinning SharePoint. Visual Studio is the ultimate development environment and it’s the best place to start making those bigger changes.

Remember, beyond the basics, editing a SharePoint Site can have a lot of unintended consequences. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, speak to your administrator.

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