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Plan site navigation (Office SharePoint Server)

Office 2007

Updated: February 26, 2009

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

 

Topic Last Modified: 2009-04-01

In this article:

Site navigation provides the primary interface for site users to move about the sites, subsites, and pages that compose your Internet or intranet portal site. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 includes a set of customizable and extensible navigation features that help orient users of your Internet or intranet portal site and enable them to move among its sites and pages.

Office SharePoint Server 2007 bases its navigation model on the hierarchical structure of the site collection. By using the navigation features, you can link to the following:

  • A site's subsites

  • A site's peer sites

  • Sites higher in the site structure

  • Web pages in a site

Additionally, you can create links to arbitrary locations, such as to an external Web site.

Navigation links in Office SharePoint Server 2007 are security-sensitive. If a site user does not have permissions to a site or page that is linked from the site navigation, the user will not see the link. Also, pages and subsites can be configured to be available only to members of an audience. Users who are not members of that audience will not see links to sites and pages targeted at that audience.

As described in Plan Web pages, pages in sites based on Office SharePoint Server 2007 are composed of three elements: master pages, layout pages, and page content. In planning your portal's navigation, you make decisions about all of these elements:

  • You configure global portal navigation elements, and site-level (current) navigation elements on master pages.

  • You can add navigation elements that provide tables of contents, dynamic access to content based on a query, or authored links to layout pages.

  • You can allow tables of contents, dynamic access to content based on a query, or authored links in page content. Note that letting authors add navigation elements to page content lessens site designers' control of a portal's navigation experience.

  • Additionally, you can use breadcrumbs to display a set of links that show the site hierarchy starting from the current page up to the top-level site in the portal.

Office SharePoint Server 2007 navigation is based on the Microsoft ASP.NET 2.0 model which enables you to customize:

  • The site map provider.

  • The data source (which anchors and filters the structure provided by the site map provider).

  • The menus (which control the visual appearance of the navigation elements and how deep a hierarchy to show).

Navigation controls can be displayed on master pages, layout pages, and—by using Web Part zones—directly in a page's content.

A master page defines the outer frame of the Web page in an Internet or intranet portal site. Master pages contain the elements that you want all pages in your site to share, such as branding information, common commands such as Search, and navigation elements that you want to be available throughout the site. This includes global navigation, which is typically constant throughout the portal, and current navigation, which is typically relative to the site that the user is currently viewing.

Master pages also provide the menu style of the navigation controls. You can configure master page menu style by using Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer or Microsoft Visual Studio.

Global navigation, which appears as "top link bars" in default site templates, typically links to the primary sites in a portal site. It is common for the global navigation to appear at the top of each page in a portal site. To give users the flexibility to switch from one primary site to another from anywhere within the portal site, the global navigation usually stays constant in all of the portal's sites and subsites. For example, an Internet portal site that is used to market an enterprise's products could have a subsite for each line of its products. By exposing each product's subsite in the portal site's global navigation, site designers can enable users to easily switch from one subsite to another without having to return to the portal site home page.

By default, all subsites one level below the top-level site of a portal site are added to the global navigation. Site administrators can remove a site from the global navigation by using the Site Navigation Settings page, and they can configure global navigation so that no subsites are displayed (that is, only the home page link is shown). Other global navigation configuration features include:

  • Linking to all of the top level site's Web pages.

  • Linking to specified external sites.

  • Linking to specified sites or pages that are anywhere in the portal site.

  • Organizing links under headings.

  • Manually sorting the items on the global navigation bar.

In a portal site, a subsite's owners can override the global navigation settings of the top-level site and define different global navigation settings for their subsite and the sites below it. All global navigation features, such as linking to external sites and organizing links below headings, can be defined uniquely in a subsite.

By using Office SharePoint Designer or Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, you can further customize the appearance and functionality of global navigation. For example, you can:

  • Customize the cascading style sheets to change the appearance of global navigation.

  • Modify the data source, for example to trim the number of sites shown in global navigation.

  • Modify the menu style of the navigation. For example, you can select fly-out menus or specify how many levels of the site hierarchy to show in navigation.

Current navigation, which is called the Quick Launch in default site templates, typically highlights the important content in the current site and links to related sites. It is common for current navigation to appear on the left of each page in a portal site.

By default, current navigation shows a site's pages and its sibling sites (that is, the sites that share the same parent site). This enables users to explore the content of the current site or move to a site on the same level in the site hierarchy. Portal site administrators can configure current navigation to inherit its navigation items from its parent site. Other current navigation configuration features include:

  • Linking to sibling sites.

  • Linking to all pages in the current site.

  • Linking to specific external sites or to pages in the current site.

  • Organizing links under headings.

  • Manually sorting the items in the current navigation.

As with global navigation, you can further customize the appearance and functionality of current navigation by using Office SharePoint Designer or Microsoft Visual Studio 2005.

Breadcrumb navigation displays a dynamically generated set of links at the top of Web pages, to show users their current position in the site hierarchy. Most master pages have a single breadcrumb navigation control. By using Office SharePoint Designer or Microsoft Visual Studio, you can configure the breadcrumb navigation control. For example, you can specify a custom navigation provider, and you can remove breadcrumb navigation from a layout page.

NoteNote:
The default.master master page, which displays form and view pages, includes two breadcrumb controls, a global breadcrumb which contains sites only, and a content breadcrumb, which contains sites and the current page. Some collaboration site templates, such as the Team Site template, also include two breadcrumbs on all Web pages.

A layout page defines a layout for a Web page by providing Microsoft ASP.NET controls in which the contents of pages are displayed. To customize layout page, use Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 or Microsoft Visual Studio. You can add navigation controls to a layout page to support navigation links in Web pages.

When a navigation control is inserted on a layout page, Web pages that use that layout page will display the control along with the page's contents. For example, you can define a layout page that includes a Summary Links navigation control (see below) so that a set of links to relevant pages and sites always appears when a page is displayed.

Office SharePoint Server 2007 includes the following navigation controls that can be added to layout pages:

  • Summary Links

  • Table of Contents

  • Content Query

The Summary Links control provides a way to add a set of links to a page. You can control the appearance, organization, and presentation of the links that you add to a Summary Link control.

You can add a Summary Link control to a layout page in three ways:

  • You can add it directly to the layout page and configure the links. When you do this, any page that uses the layout page will display the links.

  • You can add it as a field control on the layout page. When you do this, you can optionally configure the links, and you can optionally allow authors to modify the links and add new ones.

  • You can add it as a Web Part to a Web Part zone. When you do this, authors can modify the links, add news ones, and delete the Summary Link control.

For example, in a portal site in which you publish topics from a technical support knowledge base, you can add a Summary Link field control to the layout pages used for articles, to provide links to related sites containing relevant information, and you can permit authors to add links. This enables authors add links to content that is related to a page's content. For more information about configuring Summary Link controls, see the Office SharePoint Server 2007 online Help.

The Table of Contents control provides a way to add a table of contents of all or part of your portal site to a layout page, so that pages using that layout include the table of contents. It uses the same navigation provider as the global and current navigation in the site's master pages. When you add a Table of Contents control to a layout page, you specify which part of your site collection the control should expose, how the links are presented, and how they are organized.

You can add a Table of Contents control to a layout page in two ways:

  • You can add it directly to the layout page and configure it. When you do this, any page that uses the layout page will display the table of contents.

  • You can add it as a Web Part to a Web Part zone. When you do this, authors can modify the scope of the Table of Contents control or it.

For example, if you are presenting a set of articles in an online news site, you can add a Table of Content control directly to the article pages' layout so that users can switch from one article to another from any article page. For more information about configuring Table of Contents controls, see the Office SharePoint Server 2007 online Help.

You can use a Content Query control to link to pages or other items that are displayed based on a query that you design. For example, if you are presenting articles in an online news site, you could add a Content Query control to your site's Welcome Page layout so that new articles are highlighted on that page. You can build complex queries by using the Content Query field control. For example, you can specify which sites in your site collection to query, which lists to use, and what audience to target. You can also filter queries based on lists or libraries metadata.

You can add a Content Query control to a layout page in two ways:

  • You can add it directly to the layout page and configure it. When you do this, any page that uses the layout page will display the results of the query.

  • You can add it as a Web Part to a Web Part zone. When you do this, authors can modify the query or delete the Content Query control.

For more information about configuring Content Query controls, see the Office SharePoint Server 2007 online Help.

A Web Part is a control that authors can insert into a Web Part zone on a page and configure. The Summary Links, Table of Contents, and Content Query controls each have Web Part counterparts that page authors can insert into Web Part zones on pages. The Web Parts have the same configuration features and the same functionality as their related controls, but are configurable when the writer inserts them on the page rather than when the site designer inserts them on the page's layout. To make navigation Web Parts available for page authors to insert on a page, you must include one or more Web Part zones on the page's layout page.

If you allow authors to insert navigation Web Parts onto pages, you reduce the control you have over your portal site's navigation because authors can then control part of the navigation experience of site users. This might be appropriate in a loosely controlled environment such as a collaboration site within an organization, where individual authors need the ability to point users to content related to the author's work. It is less appropriate in a more tightly controlled environment such as an Internet presence site, in which the navigation experience is planned and implemented in a consistent, controlled way by the site's designers and planners.

NoteNote:
If you want to include Web Part zones on layout pages but prevent authors from inserting navigation Web Parts into these zones, you can change the permissions required to use navigation Web Parts in your site's Web Parts gallery to make those Web Parts unavailable to authors based on their permission level.

Navigation planning includes planning the user experience you want to create in your Internet or intranet portal site and deciding whether or not authors will be able to insert navigation elements directly onto their pages.

Your navigation decisions are closely related to your decisions about the structure of sites and subsites in your site hierarchy. For each site in your site hierarchy, you can choose to inherit the global or current navigation from its parent site, or you can plan unique settings. To help record your decisions, use the same spreadsheet that you used to record you site and subsite decisions in the topic Determine sites and subsites.

The site structure worksheet should include a row for each site in your site hierarchy. In the worksheet, record the following additional columns of information for each site and subsite:

  • Global navigation Record whether the site has unique global navigation settings or inherits its global navigation from its parent. If the site has unique global navigation, specify which subsites and additional sites to display.

  • Current navigation Record whether the site has unique current navigation settings or inherits its current navigation from its parent. If the site has unique current navigation, specify whether to display its subsites, its peer sites, or additional sites. Also specify whether to include links to the site's Web pages.

The decisions you make about your portal site's navigation will reflect its unique purpose and structure. When you plan navigation, consider the tradeoff between having too many navigation links, which could make your site confusing, and having too few, which could make it hard for site users to locate critical information. Also, keep the following in mind:

  • Inheriting the parent site's navigation can place the current site in a larger context. In an intranet site, this can help information workers use the other sites in the site collection to accomplish their tasks. On the other hand, if users of a site do not have to go to other sites to complete their tasks, consider defining a unique global navigation at the site so that site users are not distracted by irrelevant global navigation links. For example, records managers using a Records Center site might not need to go outside of the Records Center to accomplish their tasks, and so would not benefit from a set of inherited global navigation links.

  • Showing peer sites on the current navigation can imply that the peer sites have a similar purpose as the current site. For example, in an Internet site that markets a set of products, this can help site users go to descriptions of related products and services. On the other hand, if users of a site are not likely to want to visit peer sites, consider not displaying them in the current navigation. For example, a university's Internet site with subsites for each graduate school could omit peer links from each site's current navigation because students interested in a particular discipline, such as medicine, are unlikely to want to visit sites related to other disciplines.

You can add navigation field controls to layout pages. You can also add Web Part zones to layout pages and allow authors to add navigation Web Parts to these zones. As with other page element planning decisions, you should plan navigation on pages based on how much control you want to have over the page-viewing experience:

  • To tightly control site navigation, you can put navigation field controls directly on layout pages and eliminate Web Part zones from page layouts, or restrict the use of navigation Web Parts in those zones. For example, in a corporate Internet presence site with millions of site users, you might decide to restrict authors from inserting navigation controls.

  • To allow a more varied, albeit less consistent, site navigation, you can put Web Part zones on layout pages and allow authors to insert navigation Web Parts onto their pages. For example, in an intranet portal site in which authors and site users are part of the same workgroup, you might decide to let authors control the navigation experience of their content by adding navigation Web Parts to their pages.

You should plan navigation on pages as part of your general Web page planning. The topic Plan Web pages includes worksheets in which you can record your page navigation decisions for each type of page layout in your portal.

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

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

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