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Customization scenarios

Office 2007

Updated: December 20, 2007

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

Updated: 2007-12-20

In this article:

As described in the article Determine your approach, depending on your Web site's purpose, the resources you have available, and the skill sets of the personnel available, there are a range of approaches to developing a custom Web site based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. An advanced customization approach is most likely to be used by enterprises for the development of widely used or mission-critical sites, such as corporate Internet presence sites, enterprise-wide portal sites, or sites with unique business functionality such as a financial service's dashboard site.

This article describes the following two scenarios in which advanced customization approaches are used:

  • Corporate extranet portal site   In this scenario, a corporation that provides a consulting service develops an extranet portal that both customers and consultants can access. Customers sign on to a site that presents data and reports generated by the consultants. Both customers and consultants access the site remotely.

  • Enterprise Internet presence site   In this scenario, a corporation's Internet presence site, which is customized for branding and to provide unique functionality, is developed and deployed.

Corporate extranet site: An author-centric scenario

Contoso, Ltd. provides market research consulting services for businesses in the Midwest and Far West. Contoso, Ltd. has over 1,000 employees located at their corporate headquarters and branch offices throughout the United States. The Market Research Group (MRG) at Contoso has 75 full-time team members and also engages external consultants as needed for projects. MRG's IT team is tasked with redesigning and customizing the following two key Web sites, which are based on Office SharePoint Server 2007:

  • Authoring portal site   This site is used to research and write market research reports and to research, draft, and approve new proposals for customer engagements. The authoring site is also used to author and customize the contents of the customer portal site. The site includes a large document center, which is the knowledge base of the organization.

  • Customer portal site   This site is the customer view of the service. It includes a publishing site that contains general information about Contoso's services and a page for customers to log on to the service. When customers log on, they are taken to a dedicated collaboration site that contains the unique data and reports they contracted for.

Customization tasks

There are two types of customizations in the Contoso project:

  • Custom artifacts

  • Custom developed site elements

The custom artifacts developed for the Contoso project create the framework for Contoso's customer portal site. Custom master pages define the outer frame of the site's pages, including navigation elements and branding information. Each custom layout page defines regions in which to display the contents of a particular type of page in the site. Cascading style sheets provide the site's color schemes, fonts, alignment information and other styles that provide the unique look and feel that is associated with Contoso's image.

There are a number of custom developed site elements required for the Contoso project, including:

  • Workflows   For example, a workflow is required to manage:

    • Approving customer reports.

    • Publishing customer reports.

    • Populating the internal knowledge base with the materials developed during the project.

  • Web Parts   Will provide interactive views of report data and provide other customer portal site functionality.

  • Document converters   Will be used to generate reports in various formats.

  • IFilters   Will index specialized documents in the Contoso knowledge base.

The Contoso approach

The Contoso project is a medium-to-large-scale customization project of both a customer-facing portal site and a mission-critical authoring portal site. Because of this, the Contoso IT team responsible for the project decides to take a careful approach that includes using:

  • An integration farm to test developed elements.

  • A software configuration management system to maintain source code.

  • A pilot project to ensure that the customer-facing portal site meets customer needs.

Because the customer portal site is a small site with only a few types of pages and a single master page, the team decides to develop the artifacts in the authoring environment rather than in the development environment. This is an example of an author-centric approach to site customization. For a general description of this approach, see Determine your approach.

The Contoso approach requires the following three environments:

  • Development environment   This includes the developer workstations, the software configuration management system, and an integration farm. Developer workstations are deployed running the Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 development system, the Microsoft .NET Framework version 3.0, Team Foundation Server, and other tools. The integration farm, running Office SharePoint Server 2007, is where developed elements from several developer workstations are tested by using sample site artifacts and content. The team uses Microsoft Visual Studio Team System for software configuration management.

  • Authoring environment   This includes the server farm running Office SharePoint Server 2007, the client workstations used by the site designers and authors, and the client workstations used by the consultants who research and author proposals and reports.

  • Production and pilot environment   This includes two server farms running Office SharePoint Server 2007. The production farm hosts the fully tested and deployed customer portal site and the collaboration sites dedicated to each customer account. The pilot farm is an exact software match to the production farm, with a reduced but similar hardware structure, to test the site in a realistic but scaled-down environment with typical users. The team uses the pilot farm initially to test the site's functionality and its usability. The team maintains the pilot farm to test major revisions to the site's customizations before they are deployed to the production farm.

The following figure illustrates the Contoso team's approach.

Author-centric customization scenario

In the figure, the numbered arrows represent deployment paths, illustrating the various ways coded and authored site elements are deployed from one environment to another:

  1. Developers use the Stsadm command-line tool to deploy their completed coded site elements to the integration farm for debugging and functional testing in the context of sample site data.

  2. Developers check their source code, compiled DLLs, and solution packages in and out of the Visual Studio 2005 Team System software configuration management system.

  3. In the authoring farm, in the top-level site of the source customer portal site collection, designers create master pages, layout pages, and cascading style sheets for the customer portal site. Files are checked in and out and approved by using the document management and workflow features included in Office SharePoint Server 2007.

  4. Designers use custom scripts based on the content migration programmable interface to migrate artifacts and sample content to the integration farm to supply a framework for testing developed site elements.

  5. On the integration farm, developers bundle site elements as solution packages and deploy them to the authoring, pilot, and production farms using the stsadm command line utility.

  6. Portal administrators configure the Office SharePoint Server 2007 Content Deployment feature to deploy the authored customer portal site (labeled "Authoring Site Collection" in the illustration above) to a staging site collection for quality control.

  7. Portal administrators also configure the Office SharePoint Server 2007 Content Deployment feature to deploy the approved customer portal site from the staging site collection to the pilot or production server farm.

Enterprise Internet presence site: A developer-centric scenario

Blue Yonder Airlines is a rapidly growing regional airline that offers regularly scheduled service and charter flights. Blue Yonder has over 20,000 employees and owns more than 450 aircraft. As Blue Yonder becomes a more prominent player in their industry with a growing and increasingly loyal customer base, the business leaders at Blue Yonder engage in a company-wide effort to modernize their corporate image, including redesigning their corporate Web site. At the same time, the Blue Yonder IT department is engaged in simplifying and streamlining their Internet presence infrastructure, which has been based on a patchwork set of technologies and servers. The business analysts and system architects in Blue Yonder's IT department determine that the integrated set of Office SharePoint Server 2007 services, and features, including its broad extensibility, provides the best platform on which to unify and redesign their corporate Internet presence. They decide to rebuild their Internet presence infrastructure and Web site based on Office SharePoint Server 2007.

The Blue Yonder Airlines site must include:

  • General information about Blue Yonder Airlines, including a description of the corporate history, employment opportunities, investor relations information, and general contact information.

  • Descriptions of Blue Yonder destinations, services, and special promotions.

  • Interfaces for booking flights, tracking flights, online check-in, and other flight related tasks. These interfaces require connections to back-end databases.

  • Promotions and unique services for Blue Yonder members, such as frequent flyer miles, vacation packages, and other offerings.

Because it is an Internet presence site, the IT team decides to base the Blue Yonder site on the Office SharePoint Server 2007 publishing model, in which the external facing site is hosted in a separate farm to provide anonymous access to site visitors in an isolated environment. Site authoring will occur in a separate farm that also hosts the Blue Yonder intranet portal site. The primary sites to be designed and built are:

  • Authoring portal site   The site used by the team responsible for authoring the Blue Yonder site. Included in the Authoring portal are two site collections related to their Internet presence site: the site collection in which the Blue Yonder site is authored and the site collection in which it is staged before publication.

  • Internet presence site   The public-facing Internet site collection, including subsites for general information, descriptions of services, flight tracking, and special promotions. Blue Yonder's Internet presence site includes more than 100 subsites.

Customization tasks

There are two types of customizations in the Blue Yonder Airlines project:

  • Custom artifacts

  • Custom developed site elements

The custom artifacts developed for the Blue Yonder Airlines site include master pages, layout pages, and cascading style sheets. Although most subsites will use the same master page, specialized master pages are also needed for some specialized subsites. Each of the hundreds of types of content pages in the site requires a unique layout page. Cascading style sheets provide the site's color schemes, fonts, alignment information and other styles that provide the unique look and feel associated with Blue Yonder Airline's image.

The Blue Yonder Airlines project requires many custom developed site elements, including:

  • Web Parts   Most interactions between site users and the site (and its back-end databases) require custom Web Parts, including Web Parts for booking flights, checking in online, managing frequent flyer miles, and other tasks.

  • Forms   Many site user tasks require custom interactive forms that are integrated with workflows or other custom business logic.

  • Workflows   Many of the tasks managed in the site start custom workflows to manage Blue Yonder Airlines activities. For example, a Lost Luggage form starts a workflow that initiates a series of employee responses.

  • Timer jobs   The Blue Yonder Airlines site requires specialized, regularly scheduled maintenance and security-related processes to be run on the data collected on the site. Custom timer jobs implement the various processes.

The Blue Yonder Airlines approach

The Blue Yonder project is a large-scale project, building a feature-rich, highly customized, customer-facing Internet presence site in an industry in which extremely high performance is crucial. Because of this, the Blue Yonder IT team takes a very careful approach, treating the project with the rigor of a large-scale software development project. This requires:

  • Deploying an integration farm to test developed elements.

  • Implementing software configuration management to maintain source code and site artifacts.

  • Conducting a pilot project to ensure that the site is secure, usable, and appealing to site users.

Because the development of master pages and layout pages is considered integral to the proper functioning of the site, the development team develops site artifacts in the development environment and packages these artifacts in solution packages for installation in the authoring and production environments. This is an example of a developer-centric approach to site customization. See Determine your approach for general information about this approach.

The Blue Yonder Airlines approach requires three environments:

  • Development environment   This includes developer workstations, designer workstations, a software configuration management system, and an integration farm. Developer workstations are deployed running Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, the Microsoft .NET Framework version 3.0, Microsoft Visual Studio Team System 2005 Team Foundation Server, and other tools. Designer workstations include Office SharePoint Designer 2007 and graphics applications for developing site artwork. The integration farm, running Office SharePoint Server 2007, is where developed elements from several developer workstations are tested and integrated with the custom site artifacts. The software configuration management system is Microsoft Visual Team System.

  • Authoring environment   This includes the server farm running Office SharePoint Server 2007 and the client workstations used by the site authors who develop the content for the Blue Yonder Airlines Web site.

  • Production and pilot environment   This includes two server farms running Office SharePoint Server 2007. The production farm hosts the fully tested and deployed site. The pilot farm is an exact software match to the production farm, with a reduced but similar hardware structure, that the team uses to test the site in a realistic but scaled-down environment with typical users. It is initially used to pilot the site's functionality and usability and is maintained to test major revisions to the site's customizations before they are deployed to the production farm.

The following figure illustrates the Blue Yonder Airlines team's approach.

Customizing network - sample farm topology

In the figure, the numbered arrows represent deployment paths, illustrating the various ways coded and authored site elements are deployed from one environment to another:

  1. Developers use the Stsadm command-line tool to deploy their completed coded site elements to the integration farm running Office SharePoint Server 2007 for debugging and functional testing in the context of site artifacts and sample content.

  2. Site designers use Office SharePoint Designer 2007 and other applications to create site artifacts (master pages, layouts, cascading style sheets) in the integration farm.

  3. Developers check their source code, compiled DLLs, and solution packages in and out of the Visual Studio 2005 Team System software configuration management system. Site designers check their artifacts in and out of the same software configuration management system.

  4. On the integration farm, developers bundle developed site elements along with site artifacts into solution packages and then deploy them to the authoring, pilot, and production farms by using the Stsadm command-line tool.

  5. Site authors write the site's content in a site collection on the Authoring farm that is a complete duplicate of the site that is published on the Internet.

  6. Portal administrators configure the Office SharePoint Server 2007 Content Deployment feature to deploy the site to a staging site collection for quality control.

  7. Portal administrators configure the Office SharePoint Server 2007 Content Deployment feature to deploy the approved site from the staging site collection to the pilot or production server farm.

  8. Designers use custom scripts based on the content migration programmable interface to migrate site content to the integration farm to supply a framework for testing developed site elements and artifacts.

Download this book

This topic is included in the following downloadable book for easier reading and printing:

See the full list of available books at Downloadable books for Office SharePoint Server 2007.

See Also

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