Client Side Rendering – In-place upgrade of SharePoint list views

When you migrate SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013 or to Office 365 some of the views that was created in the previous version might look the same.
The user will get a mixed user experience because document libraries, switch between the old view styles to views that are configured for client side rendering. Via scripts those views can be recreate, but they also can be upgraded in-place.

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Hide toolbar / hero button in list view web part using JSLink

To hide the tool part of a web part is pretty easy. You just need to edit the settings and set them to “No Toolbar” and you are done.
Today I needed to do this programmatically. After I debugged the list view web part an haven’t found a setting for this I took a look into the “clienttemplates.js”, which is mostly responsible to render the views correctly and voila I found a solution how to hide the toolbar.

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Site logo inheritance on sub webs

Be careful when you change the title or the description in SharePoint you might set a logo url. Even if you don’t need to set one. Recently I found a strange behaviour in SharePoint during a branding project. The project included three site collections where each of those should have a different logo.
Somehow the logo couldn’t be changed in the complete site collection. A changed logo in the root of the site collection was not reflected on the sub site. Strange behaviour thou, because SharePoint has something that I call logo inheritance. Continue reading

Allow users with view permission add entries to the Newsfeed

Imagine you have a team site that provides curated information. Only a few people are allowed to update the content. The rest of the people only have view permission. To spread the word you like to make use of the Newsfeed web part for two reasons. People who follow this page will get updates on their Newsfeed. The other reason is that the viewers should be able to give feedback to your updates. Seem to be a pretty good solution and this is what the Newsfeed web part is actually being made more.

Newsfeed web part

Newsfeed web part

The problem is that this web part is by design only for users that have at least contribute permission. With some simple steps this behaviour can be changed and allow everyone reply to the Newsfeed.
First, let’s take a look where the data of the Newsfeed will be stored. Continue reading

Revised: Table of Contents for SharePoint Wiki Pages

It’s more then two years ago when I first wrote a table of contents script to enhance wiki pages in SharePoint. Time to release a new version and this time it’s a jQuery plugin. This new version will work potentially work with all versions of SharePoint and Office 365. I just have tested it in SharePoint 2013 and Office 365.
Now I also included support to for all levels of headlines (<h1> – <h6>).
This is possible because a found a good old part in the jQuery Documentation

Table Of Contents - Live in Action

Table Of Contents – Live in Action

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Load Display Templates from Provider Hosted App or remote website

Display templates can only be stored in several places of SharePoint to get loaded. I was wondering if I will be able to inject this mechanism or if I will be able to provide a display template directly out of a provider hosted app.

Normally Display Templates will be uploaded to every site collection inside the master page catalog, but with a little tweak those can be loaded from everywhere in the world as long they are accessible via a web server. Continue reading

Typography First – Make your SharePoint content readable and compelling

Typography

The first thing when I start a new branding project I first make myself familiar with the fonts I want to use. This is because I want to see how they work on some basic text elements an if the text is readable.

In general the overall typography is the most important factor to success of any information system or web site. 90% to 95 % on a website is dominated by text. Becoming a master on typography means you become a better web designer or SharePoint brander, but it is no easy topic and I just want to scratch the surface here but provide some good links for further information at the end.

The basic

The typography setup can be mainly defined by the following factors:

  • The Font
  • Font Size
  • Font Weight
  • Line Height
  • Letter Spacing

In other words, these are our core ingredients how we can manipulate the text. For example, some fonts look great with the predefined letter spacings while others require a little bit more space in between the characters. You can also use the letter spacing to make a special effect on headlines. For some examples that a look at Helvetica, Bold, Big, Negative Letter-Spacing.

How many fonts should I use?

In general when, you plan a design it is common practice that you don’t use more than three to four different fonts. Those different fonts can be defined for:

  • Headline (<h1>-<h6>)
  • Paragraphs (<p>)
  • Quotes (<cite><cite>, <block quote> is decrepted with HTML 5)
  • Code, Navigation,…

When we take a look at the out of the box design of SharePoint 2013 at least 3 different fonts was used. Those fonts are Segoe UI (for smaller text), Segoe UI Light (for large text such as headlines) and Segoe UI Semilight (&lth2>-&lth3>).

The fonts are part of the same font family, but have a different font weight, which is indicated by “Light” and “Semilight” and those fonts are slightly different. The typeface was adapted to the weight and are not only bold and “not so bold”. The reason why Microsoft used those different font faces was that they look great in there specific use case. Improved the readability and the overall design.

Font picker in composed look

Font picker in composed look

When a theme is used in SharePoint the fonts can be changed to only a maximum of two fonts. Mostly Segoe is used for the regular text as used in a paragraph, navigation, and so on because of its good readability. The larger font in the font picker will be applied to the headlines only.

Reset and Reapply fonts using CSS

When a web design is created from scratch it is fairly simple to reset the fonts. All that needs to be done is to apply a base font to the body tag and additional fonts for the headlines.

HTML Typographic Template

HTML Typographic Template

In SharePoint this only partially works because some elements will still have the Segoe font applied. For a full change of the body font some additional classes need to be added.

Changed Typography in SharePoint

Changed Typography in SharePoint

So we now have two different styles that need to be applied differently to the Apps (first snippet) and SharePoint (second snippet). Both are probably stored in different style sheet files and we still don’t have any additional properties such as line height, font size or font weight applied to the fonts.

Finally and whats next

The two different style definitions cry for something more flexible and yes we can do this in SASS. By assigning variables we will be able to define the typography as global settings that are easy to change. Then we don’t have to care or worry about those style sheet classes.

In the meantime, you can do a test run and add the SharePoint Style Sheet from this blog post to your master page. If you want to get a little bit deeper into typography you can read the following resources.

Other articles in this series

Further readings

The future of SharePoint Branding

You cannot take a look in the future if you don’t know about your past. I started branding SharePoint in 2004. At that time I already had some years experience on developing web sites and application. Now we have 2014 and the SharePoint branding haven’t changed a lot. We still try to figure out how Microsoft built up the master pages and how we can bring them into a new form.

In SharePoint 2013 a great step forward has been made by Microsoft to improve the underlying style sheets and HTML. Tools like Twitter’s Bootstrap or Foundations and a couple of other frameworks have approach to bring responsive web design to SharePoint. Needless to say with all the benefits and downsides.

Global Experience Language by BBC

Global Experience Language by BBC

In the future we will see more and more applications (okay, okay apps) that will be integrated into our SharePoint.

Sooner or later our SharePoint will look like a patchwork of different designs. Will the future be of not branding SharePoint and use it as it is? I don’t think so we just need to find a smart way to adapt SharePoint to our visual needs and sometimes improved user experience for custom development inside the boundaries of the platform. Last but not least, how can we implement methods that helps us to adapt faster to future releases without recreating the branding from scratch as we did in the last versions.

CSS, FrameWorks, Themes

Currently, some branding like to do it the old fashioned way, just using the HTML and CSS to build up the user experience. Others prefer to use a framework and some might like to use the theming engine of SharePoint to change the look and feel.

There is no right or wrong with all these approaches. Over the last months I always asked myself the same question over and over again.

What can we do to create a smarter, better documented and future prover system than we do it today. Especially with Office 365, apps, display templates and much more everything become fluid. What worked today can be could be changed tomorrow.

For me the challenges of the future are focusing on content that lives throughout the different devices (Content Strategy). The usability that users expect on different devices. Last but not least we will see more and more different interfaces, there that access our content. May it be directly inside of an Office Application, a refrigerator, in our car or use a Xbox to manage a project.

We need to step one step back to see the bigger picture.

Design with a system

Wouldn’t it be great to have one central design system that handles all the different display forms without rewriting the code from scratch. Provide the same look and feel even user experience in SharePoint to Apps and even Office Apps. I think the key to success can be found in two concepts that are state of the art in web design today.

Design Systems

A lot of great information on design systems can be found on the web. The Laura Kalbag such system as:

“A visual design system is built out of the core components of typography, layout, shape or form, and colour.”

Another great explanation can be found in the article “Design Systems: Building for the Future”. Especially because he explains why design systems are more future proven than to use a framework in the context of a CMS.

The most inspiring article on this topic I found in a blog post called “Atomic Design” by Brad Frost. In his article he explained how to form a well structured and categorised design system for the future. He further explain how we can set up the core components (Atoms) that will be used to formulate larger components (from Molecules to Organism) that up into templates and pages. A functional demo of be found at patternlab.io

To me setting up such system has the following three benefits:

  • Better documentation of what we didIf no design system has been set in place prior the concrete implementation it will be hard to find the components that have been implemented. The consequence of this is that we might end up with code that does similar stuff, but with different classes attached.
  • MaintainabilityMost of the core components in HTML haven’t changed over decades, we just got some new. We can combine those in many different ways. The better we structure those the more maintainable the final branding will and easier to change in the future.
  • TestablityIf we know how our components look and behave in different view ports, we better understand how they function and work in the overall design. Testing smaller components is much easier to accomplish.

DRY – Don’t repeat yourself

SASS and LESS are great CSS preprocessors that allow us to write much cleaner code. Hence we can build our rich text editor styles by changing and assigning some variables instead of writing those style definitions from scratch. I know this is just a simple example, but the benefit of these technologies is that is also removes some complexity and gives us tools that are much easier to use.

Another benefit is that especially SASS allows to compile different CSS files based on the same code. For example, you create one in the context of SharePoint and one for a SharePoint Apps.

If you cannot wait for my next blog post. I can only recommend to read the blog post about DRY-ing Out Your Sass Mixins.

Finally and whats next

Those theories sound nice I know but how can we get started. I tried some things out over the last weeks and I will publish my findings over the next weeks. So stay tuned.

If I’m not completely wrong some people struggle with the implement a corporate wide branding. Though the changes in the app model we are not in the “SharePoint Exclusive Club” anymore. Sooner or later we need to move forward and take a closer look what other web developer do and what they are struggling with.

As Jeremy Thake said at the SharePoint Conference in Barcelona there are many of web developer out there that will be sooner or later able to build up Office Apps and SharePoint Apps.

If you like to follow my journey I would be pleased. Have comments on this, please feel free to comment. I hope at least for some it will be an interesting journey to the future of SharePoint Branding.

Other articles in this series

Typography First – Make your SharePoint content readable and compelling