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SharePoint Online Website Examples


You may also be interested in: O’Reilly - SharePoint 2010 at Work


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Clark is the Marketing Manager for Creative Sharepoint. Follow him @chrisclark005

SharePoint Online, a component of Microsoft’s Office 365 suite, provides subscribing organisations with public-facing website functionality. This type of SharePoint public-facing website lacks the full feature set of SharePoint, but is perfectly adequate for websites with basic functionality (not necessarily small or low-traffic sites).

We were recently approached to deliver 2 such websites for a client (N.B. as an educational organisation they were eligible for the A2 Office 365 Plan, meaning their SharePoint Online website licensing and hosting was completely free)

Both of the SharePoint Online websites can be viewed here:

http://www.councilofhealthcarescience.ac.uk/
http://www.pharmacyschoolscouncil.ac.uk/

In this blog post we will give a brief overview of the two websites, exploring:

  • SharePoint Online Website Author Requirements (content management and analytics)
  • SharePoint Online Website Visitor Requirements (user experience and accessibility)
  • SharePoint Online Website Features Leveraged (blog site, list apps and library apps)

SharePoint Online Website Author Requirements

A public-facing website can have all the design and functionality in the world thrown at it, but if the content is not relevant or up-to-date then it is unlikely to have a lasting effect. For that reason, the key requirements from a website author’s perspective were easy content management and the ability to analyse site performance.

Content Management

As the organisation’s marketing team have no internal IT support, it was crucial that the content of both sites could be managed by non-technical authors. The content on the websites, which needs regular updating, includes:

  • Rich text, including videos embedded from YouTube and other sources
  • Links to other pages and external sites
  • Documents (particularly Word and PDF)

2013-10-22-SharePointOnline-01.png
SharePoint Online websites allow videos to be surfaced directly from YouTube using the ‘Embed’ tool

In addition to creating and editing pages independently of IT, the website authors also need to be able to optimise the site for search engines (SEO) without having to edit code.

2013-10-22-SharePointOnline-02.png
SharePoint Online websites allow SEO properties to be changed through a modal in the ribbon

Analytics

Finally, website authors need to track the performance of the websites using Google Analytics. As the code snippet for Google Analytics (the code that allows authors to track websites) can change without notice, website authors also require a way to update this without going into HTML.

2013-10-22-SharePointOnline-03.png
The SharePoint Online ‘Web Analytics App’ (freely available) allows authors to change Google Analytics snippets without touching code

SharePoint Online Website Visitor Requirements

User Experience

Website visitors need a simple, modern look and feel that helped them easily find the content they needed, whilst conveying the organisation’s existing brand guidelines.

2013-10-22-SharePointOnline-04.png
SharePoint Online themes provide the whole website a consistent look and feel whilst custom CSS can be used to enhance specific page elements

Accessibility

As well as looking good, it is also important that the websites meet accessibility standards (specifically being AA compliant). Whilst underlying elements of Office 365 may compromise accessibility, additional code is able to meet the rigorous standards.

SharePoint Online Website Features Leveraged

As I mentioned in the introduction, the SharePoint Online public-facing website lacks the full feature set of SharePoint. Nethertheless, it provides more than enough functionality for many website projects. Here we will look at three areas of functionality in particular; the blog site, list apps and library apps.

Blog Site

The SharePoint Online blog site enables content authors to publish rich text blogs from either the browser or Word. Once published, blogs are automatically categorised and made available to website visitors. The latest blogs are surfaced on the homepage and visitors can choose to follow via RSS, comment with a Facebook account and share content via email.

2013-10-22-SharePointOnline-05.png
Publishing a new blog through a rich text editor, as viewed by a website author

2013-10-22-SharePointOnline-06.png
A new blog post, as viewed by a website visitor

List Apps

List Apps enable content to be stored, as the name suggests, in lists, and then surfaced on various website pages via ‘app parts’. Adding new content to lists is done through simple forms, meaning that pages with these ‘app parts’ can be updated without the use of code.

2013-10-22-SharePointOnline-07.png
Adding a new FAQ through a form, as viewed by a website author

2013-10-22-SharePointOnline-08.png
A list of FAQs, surfaced through an ‘app part’, as viewed by a website visitor

Library Apps

Similarly to list apps, library apps allow content in document format to be stored in libraries and then surfaced on pages via ‘app parts’, once again avoiding the need for editing in HTML.

2013-10-22-SharePointOnline-09.png
Adding a document by dragging-and-dropping into a library, as viewed by a website author

2013-10-22-SharePointOnline-10.png
A list of downloadable documents, as viewed by a website visitor

Conclusion

As you can see, despite the functional limitations of SharePoint Online public-facing websites, they can be more than capable of delivering an impressive authoring and visiting experience. In particular, they can:

  • Streamline content management, reducing dependency on IT
  • Be easily optimised for search engine performance
  • Integrate industry standard analytics
  • and finally, provide an engaging (and accessible) user experience to website visitors

5 Features for your SharePoint 2013 Intranet Homepage


You may also be interested in: Simple SharePoint Migration Tool - Content Matrix by Metalogix


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Clark is the Marketing Manager for Creative Sharepoint. Follow him @chrisclark005

Intro

A well designed homepage can be the make or break of an intranet. It forms first impressions of the system and acts as a starting point for a range of tasks and journeys.

Despite this importance, many organisations fail to get this keystone of their intranet right. All too often the homepage becomes a static page, crowded with generic content produced by a handful of designated authors.

Inevitably this has a knock-on impact on the rest of the intranet. Users avoid the homepage (in some cases, the intranet all together) and bookmark various other sites and pages instead.

So what can organisations do to create a relevant and engaging intranet homepage? Crucially, there must be a recognition that users’ expectations of the intranet have changed. Rather than just formal top-down communication, employees expect the homepage (and the intranet in general) to be a hub for bottom-up and peer-to-peer communication.

That communication is no longer limited to just change management initiatives or the CEO’s blog either. Employees want to see information relevant to their day-to-day activity, such as personal or organisational performance data.

The functionality in SharePoint 2013 has reflected these changes in user expectations. In this blog, we will explore 5 trending intranet homepage features and explore what SharePoint 2013 functionality is available to deliver these.

1. Creating an intranet newsfeed with SharePoint 2013

2. Surfacing intranet blogs with SharePoint 2013

3. Creating an intranet survey with SharePoint 2013

4. Surfacing intranet KPIs with SharePoint 2013

5. Creating an intranet discussion list with SharePoint 2013

1. Creating an intranet newsfeed with SharePoint 2013

An intranet newsfeed gives users the ability to rapidly and publicly communicate with one another, enabling them to ask questions, post updates, share ideas and more.

For management, it offers an opportunity to engage with employees openly, directly and personally.

Suggested SharePoint 2013 functionality: Newsfeed App

The SharePoint newsfeed provides a microblogging experience familiar from social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Users can post comments (including rich media), direct it at specific users with @targetting and tag it with a specific topic using #tags. Comments (as well as users and #tags) can be followed and liked.

The author’s profile picture, as well as presence (e.g. online, offline, in a meeting), is displayed on an interactive tile to the left of the comment itself. Newsfeeds can be added to multiple sites on the SharePoint intranet and all conversations are aggregated (and can be filtered) in the users’ MySite Newsfeeds.

Out-the-box example

In this example a member of the Marketing department has used the SharePoint homepage newsfeed to gather feedback on a recent company video. The video itself has been embedded inline from a YouTube link and another user has liked the original post and replied.

2013-09-15-5Features-01.png

Custom example

In this example we’ve simply styled the SharePoint homepage newsfeed app to have a custom header reflecting the organisation’s brand and SharePoint intranet theme.

2013-09-15-5Features-02.jpg

2. Surfacing intranet blogs with SharePoint 2013

Intranet blogs open discussions around relevant topics in the way that news articles cannot. They provide authors with the ability to not only communicate a message, but also to spark conversation and collect feedback. For readers, they offer the opportunity to have their opinions be heard and addressed.

Suggested SharePoint 2013 functionality: Blog Site and Content Search Web Part

The SharePoint blog site offers authors the authoring and publishing tools they would expect from a consumer Content Management system like WordPress – including rich text editing, the ability to embed video from sources like YouTube and the ability to publish content directly from Microsoft Word. Readers can “Like” or Rate (1-5 stars) blog posts, leave comments and follow / share via RSS or email.

The SharePoint Content Search Web Part can aggregate all blogs from multiple site collections and surface links to them (in chronological order) via a web part on the SharePoint intranet homepage.

Out-the-box example

In this example we’ve used the SharePoint Content Search Web Part to display all blog posts from all SharePoint site collections. This means we are seeing an aggregated view of personal blogs (from MySites), departmental blogs (from team sites) and organisation-wide blogs.

2013-09-15-5Features-03.png

Custom example

In this example we’ve displayed SharePoint blogs as part of a tabbed web part that also aggregates formal company announcements as well as company events in a calendar format. The web part has also been styled to include a profile of the blog author as well as a synopsis and to suit the organisation’s brand and SharePoint intranet theme.

2013-09-15-5Features-04.jpg

3. Creating an intranet survey with SharePoint 2013

Intranet surveys enable creators to rapidly crowd source valuable information from a large pool of employees. As participants in the survey, employees are likely to become more engaged as a result of having a convenient channel for bottom-up feedback. Due to the potential passing traffic, the intranet homepage makes the ideal location for a SharePoint survey.

Suggested SharePoint 2013 functionality: Survey App and Promoted Links App

The SharePoint survey app provides a template to quickly and easily construct surveys with various question types (multiple choice, rating scales, text fields). Once the surveys are completed it also provides graphical representations of the results (which can also be exported to Excel for further analysis).

The SharePoint promoted links app part creates metro-style tiles with a hover-over state to provide additional text information. The benefit of the tiles is that they are more visually engaging than a standard list and follow the theme of the SharePoint site.

Out-the-box example

In this example we’ve used the SharePoint promoted links app part to display 2 Calls to Action – “Take the survey” and “View the results”. When a user clicks on the “Take the survey” link, the SharePoint survey app is opened in a modal on the same page.

2013-09-15-5Features-05.png

Custom example

In this example we’ve embedded the SharePoint survey question directly onto the SharePoint intranet homepage to make it even more convenient for users, increasing the number of responses. When the response is submitted the web part dynamically changes to display a graphical view of the results. The web part has also been styled to suit the organisation’s brand and SharePoint intranet theme.

2013-09-15-5Features-06.png

4. Surfacing intranet KPIs with SharePoint 2013

By having convenient and regular access to KPIs, employees are able to align their activities more closely with the changing demands of the business. Increasing visibility of organisational level performance metrics also unites employees in a wider cause.

Suggested SharePoint 2013 functionality: Excel Web Access Web Part

The Excel Web Access Web Part enables us to display data from an Excel spreadsheet directly on a SharePoint page. The author has granular control over what data from the spreadsheet is displayed and what data can be accessed (e.g. displayed only a single chart, restrict the ability to open or download the spreadsheet).

Once surfaced on the SharePoint page, the Excel data can also be made interactive for users. Filters and refiners for Pivot Charts and Tables as well as animated charts (using PowerView) can be surfaced so that users are able to explore data in more detail.

Out-the-box example

In this example we’ve used the Excel Web Access Web Part to surface FY2013 sales figures against targets. Users can filter the chart to see data by a specific quarter or month.

2013-09-15-5Features-07.png

Custom example

In these examples we’ve displayed a variety of KPIs on the SharePoint intranet homepage combining a text description with a RAG status, indicating immediately to the user which areas of the business relevant to them are performing or under performing. In addition the web parts have been styled to suit the organisations’ brands and SharePoint intranet themes.

2013-09-15-5Features-08.png

5. Creating an intranet discussion list with SharePoint 2013

Intranet discussion lists, as the name suggests, allow users to discuss particular topics with their peers and subject matter experts. An intranet discussion list could be used for a wide-range of purposes, from a Questions and Answers area to a forum for Product Ideas. The benefit of discussion lists is that employees can tap into a wide organisational network of knowledge and resources.

Suggested SharePoint 2013 functionality: Community Site Features and Discussion List App

The SharePoint Community Site Features allow us to create forum-style collaboration areas. Users can ask questions or start discussions using a discussion list. The content can be ordered by category. Contributors are rewarded with scores for their replies (and designated “Best Answers”) and discussion lists can be moderated by appointed users if required.

Out-the-box example

In this example we have added a noticeboard to the homepage for users to post work-related “Buy and Sell” discussions / adverts. This sort of fast-changing and unpredictable content often helps drive traffic to the homepage.

2013-09-15-5Features-09.png

Custom example

In this example we have embedded the “Ask a Question” field directly into the page for convenience. Additionally, the responses to any questions or discussions added are displayed in-line on the same page, so users do not need to navigate to a new page to view them. The web part has also been styled to suit the organisation’s brand and SharePoint intranet theme.

Conclusion

SharePoint 2013 comes equipped with all the functionality required to create a dynamic and engaging intranet homepage for users. For those that recognize the changing requirements of intranets and harness this new functionality, the rewards can be great. A good intranet homepage sets precedent for a wider intranet experience and can contribute to employee engagement and productivity.

Whilst SharePoint’s out-the-box functionality has vastly improved since 2010, the requirement for customisation remains in order to provide a fully branded and cutting-edge user experience.

Embed a PowerPoint Presentation into a SharePoint 2013 Page


You may also be interested in: O’Reilly - SharePoint 2010 at Work


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Clark is the Marketing Manager for Creative Sharepoint. Follow him @chrisclark005

Intro

Office Web Apps (as part of SharePoint 2013) allow SharePoint users to view and edit Office documents (Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc.) from within the browser. Typically a user will click on a link to a document, for example in a document library, and be taken to a new page, as seen below:

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-01.png

But what if you want to present a document, specifically a PowerPoint presentation, in context on another page? In this blog I will show you how to do so.

Create (or upload) the PowerPoint Presentation

Start by navigating to your SharePoint 2013 site’s document library, or wherever is most appropriate to store your PowerPoint presentation.

If you have already created your PowerPoint presentation simply upload it to the document library. If not, click on “New Document” and select “PowerPoint presentation”:

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-02.png

Once you have completed your PowerPoint presentation, navigate back to the SharePoint document library using the link in the top-left hand corner:

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-03.png

Click on the ellipsis (…) next to the PowerPoint presentation in the document library and copy the URL:

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-04.png

Embedding the PowerPoint Presentation

Once you have the URL of the PowerPoint presentation (see above), navigate to the page you would like to embed the presentation onto. In this example I will use the hompage.

Once on the page, click “Edit page” in the settings in the top-right hand corner:

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-05.png

Next, click on “Web Part” under the insert tab of the ribbon:

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-06.png

Select the “Page Viewer” Web Part under “Media and Content” and click add:

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-07.png

Click the “open the tool pane” link and click OK to the following pop-up:

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-08.png

Paste the PowerPoint presentation URL into the link field, then click OK:

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-09.png

Now you should have the PowerPoint presentation displaying on the Page Viewer Web Part. However, the Web Part is not large enough to show the entire presentation slides without scrolling.

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-10.png

To fix this we need to give the Web Part a fixed height. To do this, click on the Web Part settings and click “Edit Web Part”.

Under the “Appearance” tab, select “Yes” for “Should the Web Part have a Fixed Height?” and specify 500 pixels, then click OK.

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-11.png

Finally click “Save” in the ribbon:

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-12.png

Your PowerPoint presentation is now embedded on the SharePoint 2013 page using the “Page Viewer” Web Part, as below:

2013-09-10-EmbedPowerPoint-13.png

Display SharePoint Blogs on a SharePoint Online Homepage - Part 2


You may also be interested in: fpweb.net


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Clark is the Marketing Manager for Creative Sharepoint. Follow him @chrisclark005

Intro

In my last blog I explained how to use the Content Query Web Part to display SharePoint blogs on a SharePoint Online intranet site, something that cannot currently be done using the RSS Viewer Web Part.

In this blog we will explore two ways we can build on this feature by filtering the results of the Content Query Web Part.

Firstly, we will configure the web part to only show Featured blogs, e.g. blogs that the blog author has deemed of particular interest.

Secondly, we will configure the web part to only show Popular blogs, e.g. blogs that have a user rating of 4 or more stars out of 5 (on average).

Featured Blogs

In order to display only Featured blogs through our Content Query Web Part we first need to add an additional column to our Posts list on our blog site.

To do this, navigate to your blog homepage and click Manage Posts.

Click List Settings under the list tab in the ribbon.

Click Create column under the columns heading.

Call the column “Feature Blog?” and select column type Yes/No (check box). In the description box you might want to enter a prompt for the user, e.g. “Would you like this blog to be featured? Featured blogs are displayed to users on the intranet homepage”.

It is also worth setting the Default value to No.

Now navigate back to the page containing your Content Query Web Part.

Click on the settings cog in the top-right and select Edit page.

Edit the web part and click Query, then scroll down to the Additional Filters heading. Set up the filter as follows:

Show items when:
Featured Blog?…is equal to…Yes

Click OK and save the page. Your web part will now only display those blogs that your content authors specify as featured.

Popular Blogs

In order to display only Popular blogs through our Content Query Web Part we first need to change the Rating Settings on our blog site.

To do this, navigate to your blog homepage and click on the settings cog in the top-right and select Site Settings.

Click Rating settings under the General Settings heading.

Change the voting/rating experience for this list from Likes to Star Ratings.

Now navigate back to the page containing your Content Query Web Part.

Click on the settings cog in the top-right and select Edit page.

Edit the web part and click Query, then scroll down to the Additional Filters heading. Set up the filter as follows:

Show items when:
Rating (0-5)…is greater than or equal to…4

Click OK and save the page. Your web part will now only display those blogs that have an average user rating of 4 or more stars out of 5.

SharePoint vs. Yammer for Microblogging


You may also be interested in: O’Reilly - SharePoint 2010 at Work


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Clark is the Marketing Manager for Creative Sharepoint. Follow him @chrisclark005

Introduction

In a recent blog I compared SharePoint vs. Yammer for Document Collaboration. Here I will look at the microblogging capabilities of each product.

SharePoint vs. Yammer Comparison Chart

The following chart provides a comparison of SharePoint and Yammer features at a glance. For more details, and to see screenshots of SharePoint and Yammer, click on the feature set headings.

Yammer

SharePoint 2013

Posting
Announcements Yes No
Updates Yes Yes
Files Upload and share Share only
Polls Yes No
Praise Yes No
Events Yes No
Tagging
@mentions Yes Yes
#tags / Topics All users Author only
Following
People Yes Yes
Conversations Yes Yes
#tags / Topics Yes Yes
Files Yes Yes
Groups / Sites Yes Yes
Liking and Replying
Liking Yes Yes
Replying Yes Yes
Sharing
Via Group or Site Yes No
Via Private Message Yes No
Via Link No Yes
Content Preview
Microsoft Office Files Yes Yes, with thumbnail
PDFs Yes, with thumbnail No
Images Yes, with thumbnail Yes, with thumbnail
Videos Yes, with thumbnail Yes, with thumbnail
Internal Pages Yes, with thumbnail No
External Pages No, thumbnail only No
Security
Lock Conversation No Yes
Delete Conversation Yes Yes
Keyword Monitoring Yes No
Other
Embeddable Feed Yes No
Applications iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows 8 iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 8
Hide Conversations Yes No
Follow Up No Yes
Bookmarks Yes No
Friendly URLs No, only remove URL Yes, and remove URL

 

Posting in SharePoint vs. Yammer

Yammer’s ‘Publisher’ tool allows users to share updates, upload and share documents, post polls, praise others, post events and make announcements (administrators only).

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-01.png

SharePoint’s ‘Newsfeed’ has less functionality. Users can hyperlink to content elsewhere (like surveys or events), but the Newsfeed itself is not very interactive.

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-02.png

Back to table

Tagging in SharePoint vs. Yammer

Yammer allows posts to be directed at specific users with @mentions and associated with specific ‘Topics’ (both with type-ahead). Once posted, anyone can add a new Topic to a post.

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-03.png

SharePoint also allows @mentions and uses #tags in place of Topics (both with type-ahead). However, #tags can only be associated to the post by the author ahead of publishing.

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-04.png

Back to table

Following in SharePoint vs. Yammer

Yammer users are able to follow specific people, conversations, topics, files and groups to get updates.

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-05.png

Likewise, SharePoint users are able to follow specific people, conversations, #tags, files and sites.

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-06.png

Back to table

Liking and Replying in SharePoint vs. Yammer

Yammer users are able to flag up useful content by ‘Liking’ it and engage in conversations by replying.

Likewise, SharePoint users are able to Like content and reply to conversations.

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-08.png

Back to table

Sharing in SharePoint vs. Yammer

Yammer allows conversations to be shared to other Groups or to individual inboxes via Private Message.

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-09.png

SharePoint allows conversations to be shared across sites, but only via a hyperlink to the original post.

Back to table

Content Preview in SharePoint vs. Yammer

Yammer allows a range of content (Office Files, PDFs, rich media and web pages) to be shared (with a thumbnail) and previewed within feeds.

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-11.png

SharePoint only provides thumbnails and preview for Office files and rich media within Newsfeeds. Pages and PDFs are shared only as hyperlinks.

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-12.png

Back to table

Security in SharePoint vs. Yammer

Yammer allows authors and administrators to delete conversations, removing them from feeds. It also allows administrators to monitor specific keywords that may indicate misuse.

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-13.png

SharePoint also allows authors and administrators to delete conversations. Additionally, conversations can be ‘Locked’, leaving them in place but disabling further activity.

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-14.png

Back to table

Other features in SharePoint vs. Yammer

Yammer has a range of additional features:

  • Embeddable feeds allow conversations to be integrated into other Line of Business Applications (note there are several third party apps and an API available also)
  • Mobile apps are available for all major mobile platforms
  • ‘Hide’ allows users to remove conversations from their personal view of feeds
  • ‘Bookmarks’ allow users to follow specific conversations directly from their profile

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-15.png

SharePoint also has additional features:

  • Apps are available for iOS, Windows Phone and Windows 8
  • ‘Follow Up’ allows users to create a personal task from a conversation, which will be stored on their MySite
  • Users are able to create ‘Friendly URLs’ for the hyperlinks they paste into newsfeeds

2013-08-26-SharePointYammerMicroblogging-16.png

Back to table

Conclusion

The addition of the Newsfeed in SharePoint 2013 is the most significant addition of social functionality the product has seen. It is well integrated into the platform and provides the simple user experience that employees will expect from consumer products.

However, it does lack many of the ‘Posting’ features found on Yammer (such as polls, praise and events) which make the newsfeed a highly interactive centre for activity, rather than a signpost to content elsewhere. Microsoft’s roadmap will no doubt involve bringing this experience to SharePoint.

Display SharePoint Blogs on a SharePoint Online Homepage


You may also be interested in: fpweb.net


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Clark is the Marketing Manager for Creative Sharepoint. Follow him @chrisclark005

If you’re using SharePoint Online (as part of Office 365) for internal SharePoint sites, you may choose to create an internal SharePoint blog.

In most cases your blog site will not be the homepage for users, however, you may choose to surface your latest internal blogs (alongside news etc.) on your homepage.

Ordinarily you might use the RSS Viewer web part to surface the RSS feed of a blog. It is important to note that there are technical differences between surfacing external and internal blog feeds via the RSS Viewer web part.

Whilst it is possible to set up external blog RSS feeds (e.g. BBC) on your SharePoint Online sites, it is not possible to do so with internal blog RSS feeds (see the table below).

​SharePoint Online SharePoint On-Premise
External Blog RSS Feeds​ Out-the-box​ ​Out-the-box
​Internal Blog RSS Feeds With configuration​ Not possible

If you do try, you will get the following error message:

2013-08-09-DisplaySharePointBlog-01.png

“An unexpected error occurred processing your request. Check the logs for details and correct the problem.”

Thankfully there are other ways to surface internal blogs on your SharePoint Online sites. In this blog I will take you through one alternative, using the Content Query web part, to provide this functionality (as seen below).

2013-08-09-DisplaySharePointBlog-02.png

In order to do this we must do the following:

1. Activate the SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure site collection feature
2. Add the Content Query web part
3. Add new columns to the blog posts list
4. Configure the Content Query web part

Activate the SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure site collection feature

The SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure site collection feature must be activated on the site that we want to display the Content Query web part on, so in this case our intranet site.

In order to activate this feature, click on the settings cog in the top-right and select Site Settings.

Then, under the Site Collection Administration heading select Site collection features.

Finally, scroll down to SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure and select Activate. If the feature is already active, progress to step two.

Add the Content Query web part

Now that we have enabled the SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure feature we have some additional web parts available, one of those being the Content Query web part.

To add the web part, click on the settings cog in the top-right and select Edit page.

Select the zone you would like to add the web part to (in this example we will use the top zone) and click Web Part under the insert tab in the ribbon.

Under the Content Rollup category you will find the Content Query web part. Select this and then click add.

2013-08-09-DisplaySharePointBlog-04.png

Now that we have the web part on the page we need to point it to our blog content. Click Edit Web Part and under the Query section, select Show items from the following list and click Browse.

Using the drilldown find your blog site and select the Posts list within it, then click OK. Now click OK to finish editing the web part and Save the page to leave editing mode.

The web part should now be displaying the titles of your recent blog posts (if you have created any).

2013-08-09-DisplaySharePointBlog-05.png

In the next two steps we will take this basic display and add a summary and associated image to each of the blogs.

Add new columns to the blog Posts list

We need to add the following 2 columns to our blog Posts list:

  • Summary: to display a brief introduction for each blog
  • Featured Image: to display a relevant image for each bog

From your blog site homepage, click Manage posts. Within the posts lists, click List Settings under the List tab in the ribbon. Under the Columns heading click Create column.

For our first column, we will use the Column name Summary and the column type Single line of text. Select Yes for Require that this column contains information and lower the Maximum number of characters to 100. Click OK to add the column, then click Create column again.

For our second column, we will use the Column name Featured Image and the column type Hyperlink or Picture. Select Yes for Require that this column contains information and select Picture for Format URL as. Click OK to add the column.

Before we configure the Content Query web part to display our blogs we will need to add some Featured Images. I would recommend using images in a 50×50 pixel format. For this example, I will use 3 icons which can be downloaded here.

To add your images, click on the settings cog in the top-right and select Site contents and then click on the Photos app. Once you have uploaded your images to this folder you will need to copy the images URLs. You can do this by clicking the ellipsis (…) on the image and copying the URL from the modal.

2013-08-09-DisplaySharePointBlog-06.png

Then navigate back to your Posts list. Edit the relevant blog post and paste the image URL into the Featured Image field.

Once you have populated your blog posts with summaries and featured images you are ready to configure the Content Query web part.

Configure the Content Query web part

To configure the Content Query web part to display our blog summaries and featured images we must navigate back to the intranet homepage (or wherever you have chosen to place your Content Queryweb part).

Click on the settings cog in the top-right corner and select Edit page. Edit the web part and configure the following settings:

  • Under Presentation:
    • Check Limit the number of items to display and set the Item limit to 3
    • Leave the Group style as Default and the Item style as Image on left
    • Set the Image field to Featured Image
    • Leave the Title field as Title [Custom Columns];
    • Set the Description field to Summary
  • Under Appearance
    • Set the Title field to Latest Blogs (or whatever you would like to call the web part)

Finally click OK to finish editing the web part and Save the page to leave editing mode.

Your web part should now display links to your latest 3 blogs, complete with a summary and featured image as seen below.

2013-08-09-DisplaySharePointBlog-07.png

In my next blog we will explore how to filter the blogs displayed in two ways:

  • If the blog is Featured (as chosen by the content author), or
  • If the blog has a 4 star or more rating on average (as chosen by the content readers)

SharePoint Newsfeed or Yammer: Should I Stay or Should I Go?


You may also be interested in: O’Reilly - SharePoint 2010 at Work


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Clark is the Marketing Manager for Creative Sharepoint. Follow him @chrisclark005

Starting in June, Office 365 and SharePoint Online subscribers now have the option to replace the SharePoint Newsfeed in their suite bar with Yammer:

Why the change?

Microsoft’s “big bet” on social is Yammer. Microsoft sees Yammer being integrated not just into SharePoint, but all elements of Office 365 and other products (e.g. Dynamics CRM). Two of the main reasons are:

1. Yammer has experienced great user adoption, something SharePoint (out-the-box) has historically struggled with

2. Yammer has a much broader social feature set than SharePoint (although, of course, Yammer lacks much of SharePoint’s traditional functionality)

When will this happen?

As of recently, the SharePoint team has been pretty explicit about the roadmap and integration details of SharePoint 2013 and Yammer (see Jared Spataro’s roadmap update from March). Due to the scale of the change (both culturally for users, and technically for the product teams), the roadmap has been broken down into three phases:

1. Basic Integration (ETA: this Summer)

2. Deeper Connections (ETA: this Autumn / Fall)

3. Connected Experiences (ETA: 2014>)

The most recent change, the Newsfeed replacement, is the first part of phase 1.

Although Microsoft has provided some useful guidance on how to make the change technically (read this blog), there isn’t much advice out there on whether or not organisations should make the change and what the potential impact of that change could be to their employees.

The aim of this blog post is to provide you with a starting point (and to some extent a framework) to assess that potential impact and help you make an informed decision of whether or not to stay with the SharePoint newsfeed or switch to Yammer.

We will explore:

  1. What happens when I switch?
  2. How can I assess the impact of the switch?
  3. Other considerations
  4. Conclusion

What happens when I switch?

When (if) you make the decision to switch your Newsfeed to Yammer, three changes will be made to your SharePoint environment:

1. The ability to post updates to “everyone” using the SharePoint Newsfeed will be removed

2. The SharePoint Newsfeed link in the suite bar will be replaced by a Yammer link, which simply points to Yammer’s public-facing website (no single sign-on at this stage)

3. The SharePoint Newsfeed will become less accessible to users (it is removed from the suite bar [replaced by Yammer] but can be found under Sites > Newsfeed)

It is worth clarifying at this point that the change does not remove all SharePoint 2013 newsfeed functionality. The only functionality it actually removes is the ability to post microblog (newsfeed) updates to everyone in the organisation.

The biggest impact on the SharePoint newsfeed is that it has become less prominent / more difficult to access.

In this respect, you can view this initial stage of “integration” as the start of a phasing-out of existing functionality and a taster (just a link) of what’s to come.

A brief explanation of the MySite Newsfeed

Before we discuss the impact of the change, I will highlight the functionality of the SharePoint newsfeed for those that aren’t familiar.

The newsfeed sits on what was previously known as a user’s MySite. It offers a personalized view of SharePoint activity. It is not simply a feed of users’ “microblogs” or posts. It updates users on things they are following, which include documents, sites and other users. The diagram below shows just some of the views available on the newsfeed.

The screenshot below shows a SharePoint newsfeed after the switch. As you can see the user is in the “Following” view and is provided with various updates on projects, discussions and document amendments.

How can I assess the impact of the switch?

In order to assess the impact of the switch and make your decision, you must evaluate two things:

1. How are your employees currently using the SharePoint newsfeed to post updates to everyone (as mentioned above, this functionality will be removed)

2. How are your employees currently using the SharePoint newsfeed to follow activities (such as project updates and document changes) (as mentioned above, this functionality will not be removed but will be more difficult to access)

Current Usage Example​ Impact of Switching​
​The post updates to “everyone” isn’t being used at all N/A ​Low
​The post updates to “everyone” is being used, but not in a business-critical way ​Employees occasionally share relevant industry news ​Medium
​The post updates to “everyone” is being used in a business-critical way ​Internal Communications team regularly use it for important updates ​High

 

Current Usage Example​ Impact of Switching​
​The ability to follow content on the newsfeed isn’t being used at all N/A ​Low
The ability to follow content is being used, but not in a business-critical way ​Some employees track documents and departmental updates ​Medium
The ability to follow content is being used in a business-critical way All employees use the newsfeed daily to aggregate information (conversations, document changes etc.) about relevant projects ​High

 

Sources for this usage information include:

  • Speaking with a cross-section of end-users
  • Speaking with the communications team
  • Analyzing the SharePoint newsfeed data (this could be a very laborious manual task)

Once you have the information and you are confident you understand the current SharePoint newsfeed usage, you can begin planning your next steps. The matrix below should help you in making this decision:

If the impact to your organisation is low, you should seriously consider making the switch. Microsoft has openly stated their stance on Yammer and the sooner you can get your users used to the product the better.

If the impact to your organisation is high, consider holding off until deeper integration is available. Although the MySite newsfeed will still exist, it will be confusing for users to switch between using 2 similar products – 1 for company-wide communication and 1 for following business-critical content.

Other considerations

The issues we discussed above are not the only potential impacts of running SharePoint and Yammer side-by-side. Yammer is far more than just a newsfeed for updates. In fact, there are a few areas of functionality overlap in Yammer / SharePoint:

Post conversations on a SharePoint site or post announcements and updates on a Yammer group


Update - SharePoint 2013


Update - Yammer

Add documents to a SharePoint document library or add files to a Yammer group


File - SharePoint 2013


File - Yammer

Add an event to a SharePoint calendar or schedule an event in a Yammer group


Calendar - SharePoint 2013


Calendar - Yammer

Add notes to a SharePoint site OneNote or create a note in a Yammer group


Notes - SharePoint 2013


Notes - Yammer

Conclusion

For those that have not built up a significant reliance on the SharePoint newsfeed then switching is an easy decision to make.

For those that are using the newsfeed, particularly in a business-critical context, the decision is harder.

Additionally, the overlap in functionality between the two systems makes running them side-by-side slightly more difficult.

All of the above means that communication of the purpose of each system is critical. It should be clear to users where they are to communicate and collaborate, in order to avoid confusion and damage to productivity.

Ultimately, it is a change that all Office 365 / SharePoint Online users will need to make at some point. The question is really “should I stay or should I go, now?”

SharePoint vs. Yammer for Document Collaboration


You may also be interested in: O’Reilly - SharePoint 2010 at Work


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Clark is the Marketing Manager for Creative Sharepoint. Follow him @chrisclark005

Introduction

With the SharePoint and Yammer integration roadmap advancing, and Microsoft’s advice clear (Go Yammer!), customers and would-be customers of both products are recognizing overlaps in functionality and asking questions around how the two products could (and should) run side-by-side.

The inconvenient truth, at this stage, is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. How organisations use the platforms side-by-side will depend on a range of unique factors, such as current adoption and levels of customisation. Underpinning any strategy should be a solid understanding of the technical scope of each product, and where that scope overlaps.

There are a range of areas that could be compared, in this blog post I will focus on which each product offers around document collaboration.

SharePoint vs. Yammer Comparison Chart

This following chart provides a comparison of SharePoint and Yammer features at a glance. For more details, and to see screenshots of SharePoint and Yammer, click on the feature set headings.

Yammer

SharePoint 2013

Document Uploading
Via File Explorer Yes Yes
Via Drag and Drop No Yes
Document Versioning
Version History Yes – single version type Yes – major and minor versions
Check In / Check Out No Yes
Content Approval No Yes
Document Commenting
Commenting in Browser Yes Yes
Commenting in Office Client No Yes
Document Co-Authoring
Co-Authoring in Browser No Yes
Co-Authoring in Office Client No Yes
Document Rating
Trending Yes Yes
Liking No Yes
Star Rating No Yes
Document Pinning
Out-the-box Yes No
Custom No Yes
Document Sharing
Share with a group Yes Yes
Share with a user Yes Yes
Share via email Yes Yes
Document Following and Alerts
Following Yes Yes
Alerts No Yes
Related Content
Out-the-box Yes – files, notes and links No
Custom No Yes
Document Metadata
System Defined Yes Yes
User Defined No Yes – including Managed Metadata Service
Document Tagging
Tagging Yes – via Topics Yes – via Tags and Notes
Document Workflow
Approval Workflows No Yes – out-the-box and custom
Custom Workflows No Yes
Document Retention
End User No Yes – Recycle Bin
eDiscovery No Yes

Document Uploading in SharePoint vs. Yammer

SharePoint has a number of options for uploading documents. The most popular option with users is dragging and dropping directly into the browser, as shown below

Yammer is more restrictive, with only one option for uploading, as shown below

Back to table

Document Versioning in SharePoint vs. Yammer

SharePoint has a feature set that allows very granular control over document versioning. Check in / check out can be used to ensure the document is only ever being edited by 1 author at a time.

Major and minor versions can be used to build a detailed history of the document and can be associated with publishing (e.g. users are only able to view published major versions in a library, not minor iterations)

Yammer only offers the ability to download a document and re-upload a new version. All iterations are displayed in the Version History, as shown below

Back to table

Document Commenting in SharePoint vs. Yammer

The majority of document commenting capabilities (e.g. accepting / rejecting comments) in SharePoint are accessed exclusively through the Word client. However, it is possible to add / delete comments, reply to other comments and mark comments as complete through the browser (via Office Web Apps)

Yammer has some basic commenting (with the ability to highlight and draw) through the browser, but these changes are not carried through in the Word client

Back to table

Document Co-Authoring in SharePoint vs. Yammer

Document co-authoring is only available in SharePoint (although it is possible for Yammer users to co-authors ‘Pages’). As with commenting, the majority of SharePoint features (e.g. merging changes) are accessed through the Word client.

Back to table

Document Rating in SharePoint vs. Yammer

Out-the-box, SharePoint users have 2 options for rating documents. These are ‘Liking’ (a document is either liked or not by a user) and ‘Star Rating’ (a document is rated between 1-5 by a user and an average rating is calculated. The ‘Most Popular Items’ feature also allows users to identify popular and trending content.

Conversations around a document, but not the document itself, can be ‘Liked’ in Yammer. Users are also suggested ‘Popular’ content based on system calculated values.

Back to table

Document Pinning in SharePoint vs. Yammer

Out-the-box, SharePoint does not provide a way to ‘pin’ content, e.g. recommend it to users by displaying it in prominent locations over other content. The simplest way to create this functionality would be to add a ‘Recommended’ Yes / No column to a document library.

Yammer allows users and admins to ‘pin’ content as recommended (e.g. to the whole company or to a single group). Documents can also be marked as ‘Official’.

Back to table

Document Sharing in SharePoint vs. Yammer

SharePoint allows users to share content via newsfeeds or ‘Share’ functionality (as seen below). Permissions can also be associated to sharing.

Yammer allows users to share content publicly (to a chosen group) or via a private message.

Back to table

Document Following and Alerts in SharePoint vs. Yammer

SharePoint users can follow documents to receive updates in their activity stream (MySite newsfeed). Alerts allow users to indicate on a more granular level when they would like to be updated, and they can be delivered via email or SMS (which for many organisations will be more prominent than a passive feed).

Yammer users can follow documents to receive updates, but functionality equivalent to SharePoint ‘alerts’ is not available.

Back to table

Related Content in SharePoint vs. Yammer

SharePoint does not have an out-the-box option for users to add related content to a document (although there is a system generated “see also” when users view the document properties. The simplest way to create this functionality would be to add a ‘Related Content’ Lookup column to a document library.

Yammer allows users to associate other files, notes and links to documents as ‘Related Content’.

Back to table

Document Metadata in SharePoint vs. Yammer

SharePoint always captures some system defined metadata for documents (e.g. creation date, last modified date), but also allows users to define their own metadata, as shown below.

Yammer captures some system defined metadata but, unlike SharePoint, does not allow users to define their own.

Back to table

Document Tagging in SharePoint vs. Yammer

SharePoint users are able to tag documents via the ‘Tags and Notes’ feature (as shown below) and tag conversations around documents with #tags.

Yammer users are able to tag documents, and conversations around documents, via the ‘Topics’ feature.

Back to table

Document Workflow in SharePoint vs. Yammer

SharePoint users are able to add out-the-box workflows, such as approval workflows (whereby content changes are automatically routed to defined users for approval), or create and add custom workflows to documents.

Yammer does not support workflow functionality.

Back to table

Document Retention in SharePoint vs. Yammer

SharePoint users are able to restore deleted documents via the site ‘Recycle Bin’ and, for the purposes of legal and auditing, the eDiscovery centre is available.

Yammer does not support document retention.

Back to table

Conclusion

As I mentioned at the start, the inconvenient truth at this stage is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how organisations should run SharePoint and Yammer together. Each product has its own strengths, but a poorly thought out and communicated strategy can mean that users don’t get the best of either.

What is a SharePoint 2013 Community Site


You may also be interested in: Scinaptic OnePlaceMail - Enterprise Email & Document Management for SharePoint


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Clark is the Marketing Manager for Creative Sharepoint. Follow him @chrisclark005

In the words of Microsoft, “a Community Site is a new site template that provides a forum experience in the SharePoint environment”.

There are 4 main components to the SharePoint Community Site that will be familiar to users of any forum:

Feature Description
Discussions Members can post an opinion or question to start a new discussion. Other members can reply to and like the post. The member that started the discussion has the ability to mark a chosen response as the ‘Best Reply’. Moderators have the ability to mark a chosen discussion as a ‘Featured Discussion’.
Categories Members can create categories to organise their discussions. When a new discussion is posted it can be assigned a category which other users can filter by.
Badges and Reputation Moderators can assign badges to members to indicate their status within the community, e.g. Subject Expert. Members can earn reputation by posting in discussions and through recognition by other members of their posts (e.g. when their content is liked or marked as a best answer).
Members A list of all members, including their badges and reputation earned, is held on the community site. Community Sites can be set to allow any new users to join or an approval process can be set to manage new members.

For more technical information on Community Sites I recommend the following TechNet article.

The general benefits of a Community Site, much like other social features, are clear. Again, in Microsoft’s words, “communities promote open communication and information exchange by enabling people to share their expertise and seek help from others who have knowledge in specific areas of interest.”

However, without structure or purpose, communities will fail regardless of the underlying technology. Those that go down the “build it and they will come” route risk damaging the credibility of social technologies within their business when adoption falls flat on its face because users have no idea of where to start.

The purpose of this blog article is to provide 3 use cases of the SharePoint Community Site. In each example, you will see how the SharePoint Community Site template (enhanced by other SharePoint features) can be used in typical business scenarios. Each use case includes actual screenshots of the solution.

Having read the article, you will have:

  • A better understanding of what the SharePoint Community Site is
  • More ideas around how the SharePoint Community Site can be used in a real-world scenario
  • Three, easy to implement, SharePoint Community Site solutions to get started

SharePoint Community Site Use Case #1: Customer Feedback Site

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-01.png

Customers like to share their opinions and organisations can gain value in listening to them. This community site provides customers with a forum to discuss their ideas for your product, a channel to offer feedback and a convenient location to access up-to-date product information.

Features used (in addition to the Community Site template):

  • Promoted Links App (and App Part)
  • Announcements App (and App Part)
  • Survey App
  • Custom List App
  • Document Library App

Sharing product ideas

Clicking on “Share your product ideas” opens a new discussion modal, where customers can start a discussion around an idea for a specific product.

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-02.png

Taking the product survey

Clicking on “Take our product survey” opens a new survey modal, where customers can provide feedback on products, value for money, customer service etc. Customers can only view their own responses.

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-03.png

Checking product FAQs

Clicking on “Check our product FAQs” takes customers to a FAQs page, where they can find up-to-date FAQs grouped by specific product.

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-04.png

Viewing product documentation

Clicking on “View our product documentation” takes customers to a product documentation page, where they can find up-to-date documents (e.g. product manuals) grouped by specific product.

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-05.png

SharePoint Community Site Use Case #2: New Starters Site

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-06.png

On boarding can be a stressful experience for new starters, and an expensive and time consuming one for HR. This community site provides new starters with a forum to introduce themselves, meet and network with their peers and ask questions to designated mentors.

In addition, it holds a range of material for company orientation and automates some generic administrative tasks associated with joining a new workplace.

Features used (in addition to the Community Site template):

  • Promoted Links App (and App Part)
  • Video Snippet
  • Document Library App
  • Custom List App
  • Contacts List App (and App Part)

Introducing yourself to colleagues

Clicking on “Introduce yourself to your colleagues” opens a new discussion modal, where new starters can start a discussion around their new job role, previous experience, hobbies and interests etc.

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-07.png

Reading the employee handbook

Clicking on “Read your employee handbook” opens the document in the browser (through Office Web Apps), where new starters can read the document or download it for offline consumption.

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-08.png

Completing the new starter form

Clicking on “Complete your new start form” opens a new form modal where employees can provide basic information about themselves, such as name, address and emergency contact details. Once completed, the form will trigger a workflow for HR to approve.

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-09.png

SharePoint Community Site Use Case #3: Sales Support Site

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-10.png

Sales teams rely on other departments (e.g. marketing and product development) to support their engagements. This community site provides a sales team with an interface to interact with the rest of the organisation. Salespeople are able to request information and other employees can involve themselves in up-coming engagements and events.

Features used (in addition to the Community Site template):

  • Calendar App (and App Part)
  • Photo Library App (and App Part)

Attending an event

Clicking on an event in the sales and marketing calendar opens a page with more details and a link to a related discussion where employees can register interest.

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-11.png

Uploading a photo

Employees can drag and drop photos from the events they have attended which can then be used for promotional purposes by the sales and marketing team.

2013-07-29-SharePointCommunitySite-12.png

Conclusion

As I warned at the start of this blog, communities without structure or purpose will fail.

Simply providing your employees with an out-the-box SharePoint Community Site and expecting social collaboration to ‘just happen’ is not only unrealistic, but destructive, in that it undermines the credibility of social technologies.

Finding a specific use case for a community, and providing additional functionality to supplement the Community Site Template, will ensure better adoption and higher business value.