SharePoint 2010 comes with sufficient branding features to help you apply your corporate branding standards to any type of SharePoint site.
Adapted from “Pro SharePoint 2010 Governance” (Apress, 2012)
Before starting a branding initiative with a new SharePoint environment, it’s important to understand the needs of the business and its requirements around branding. As with any other project, gathering and analyzing requirements is essential.
It’s important to involve stakeholders up front in the process, especially those who could potentially influence the project in the later stages. This will decrease the chance for those painful, costly changes late in the game that can cause larger issues.
Most companies have branding standards. These typically consist of guidelines on the colors, fonts and logos the company uses. Obtain these guidelines as early in the process as possible. Not following them from the start could require some rework down the road.
A common approach to determining branding needs is to create a wireframe of the homepage, and any supporting page within the environment that doesn’t follow a typical SharePoint layout page. The goal of these exercises is to determine what level of SharePoint branding is needed. Determining these needs up front might save lots of unneeded customizations to master pages or CSS files later on.
In today’s global world, sites within your farm may have to support the local language at the farm’s location. SharePoint 2010 uses language packs for both SharePoint Foundation 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010.
Every Web front end in your farm will need the appropriate language packs installed. Installing language packs lets you create new sites in a local language, as well as translate the existing site’s interface based on the language the user chooses as the default. After installing the language packs, the Multilingual User Interface appears with a language settings option in the site settings menu of each site.
If multilingual support is a requirement within the environment, it’s important to plan for it accordingly. Ask the following questions:
Supporting multiple languages in SharePoint 2010 isn’t complicated, but proper planning and determining the level of language pack integration are necessary for successful implementation.
When you’re considering your organization’s branding needs, it’s important to know which version of SharePoint with which you’re working. SharePoint Server 2010 includes the Publishing feature, which is helpful for branding projects for the following reasons:
Even if you don’t wish to use the Publishing feature throughout the entire site, it’s a good idea to create the top-level site collection using the publishing site template. This allows for easier manipulation of the master page and supporting CSS.
Publishing also lets you delegate work. For instance, if you have a SharePoint developer working on the master page while an interface developer works on the CSS, they can do this work independently and later have it pulled together and published through an approval workflow. The workflow could include key members from the marketing team and those necessary to ensure you’re meeting company brand standards.
You typically deploy SharePoint in one of three types of Web sites: public-facing Internet sites, internal-facing intranet sites or a combination of the two (an extranet). The use of each site varies, and therefore the branding of each type of site will also differ.
Another important decision you’ll need to make is to determine which browsers will be hitting your SharePoint site. While this might be easy if you’re administering an intranet site, it’s obviously more difficult for an Internet or extranet site. The popularity of browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari changes monthly, so before undertaking a branding effort, we recommend that you visit a site that publishes browser statistics.
SharePoint 2010 doesn’t support older browsers such as Internet Explorer 6. If you’re supporting an internal SharePoint site and determine that users are still hitting your site with Internet Explorer 6, it might be helpful to display a message stating that their browser isn’t supported and it’s time to upgrade.
Work with your internal infrastructure team to ensure that browsers supporting SharePoint 2010 are standard, or will be available to those users that interact with SharePoint 2010. For a complete list of features supported within each version of Internet Explorer, visit the Microsoft article on planning browser support.
While developing the brand and layout of a new site, it’s important to be aware of trends with other popular public-facing sites. While your brand might be unique, the layout and structure of the page should be familiar to users that visit other popular sites. These companies have spent time to understand branding trends and to research how the users view the different sections of a page when it first appears.
For instance, take Facebook.com or Bing.com. Notice how the user sign-in information is in the upper-right corner. Notice how the logo appears in the upper-left corner. These are common trends across public-facing Web sites, and your users will expect the same from internal sites as well.
Review the sites you visit often and see if this holds true for those sites as well. To get a better idea of how some trends are being utilized in SharePoint sites, check out these examples of SharePoint 2010 public-facing sites. You’ll notice that these Web sites follow the common layout patterns as described earlier.
Given the different elements involved in a SharePoint effort, it’s important to understand all the options for creating a branded SharePoint site. Typically, you can break down SharePoint branding into three major approaches, ranging from simple to complex. As the branding scope increases, so do the skill sets needed to complete the branding effort. Let’s take a look at a breakdown of the three branding approaches:
Now that we’ve talked about the different levels of effort depending on the branding need, we’ll discuss each of these topics in more detail to get a better feel for the needed branding approach. SharePoint themes are by far the easiest option for creating light branding on a SharePoint site. Themes let you apply 12 colors and two fonts to any SharePoint site. Microsoft completely revamped how themes work in SharePoint 2010, making theme creation much easier than it was in SharePoint 2007.
Unlike in SharePoint 2007, where theme-related CSS files would be added after the core CSS, SharePoint 2010 actually looks for a special type of CSS comment. Then it injects the CSS into the core CSS, so the browser only has to load one file. SharePoint 2010 themes don’t have the ability to define an image, in contrast with SharePoint 2007 themes.
SharePoint 2010 simplifies the theme-creation process by letting you create themes directly within SharePoint. You can use Word 2007, Word 2010, PowerPoint 2007 or PowerPoint 2010 to generate a Microsoft Office THMX file. These applications provide the 12 colors and two fonts as well, which are then packaged up in the THMX file, uploaded into SharePoint and applied to any site.
After you’ve created the theme, simply navigate to the Theme Gallery at the site-collection level and upload the newly created theme. After uploading and saving the theme, it will appear in the Site Theme menu as an available theme you can apply to any site.
SharePoint 2010 gives you a number of themes out of the box. While you might find one that exactly fits your needs, it’s more likely that one or more of these will come close without being an exact fit. It’s possible to take an existing theme and change any of the 12 colors or two predefined fonts.
Similar to how master pages work, if you create a site with a publishing template, you can apply the theme at the site level. You can also reset all sub-sites with this new theme as well. Themes within SharePoint 2010 are self-service, meaning someone with the appropriate permissions could apply a new theme or make changes to the current theme. While this may seem like a good idea, letting users modify themes can cause a branding disconnect between sites and raise issues in terms of not following corporate standards.
Themes are clearly an effective and straightforward way to apply branding to your SharePoint sites. Determine the corporate standards and work within those standards, and the SharePoint branding features can help you give your sites a clean and consistent brand.
Corey Erkes is a manager consultant for Sogeti USA LLC in Omaha, Neb. Erkes has worked with a wide range of companies at different points in the lifecycles of their SharePoint implementations. He is also one of the founding members of the Omaha SharePoint Users Group.
©2012 Apress Inc. All rights reserved. Printed with permission from Apress. Copyright 2012. “Pro SharePoint 2012 Governance” by Steve Wright and Corey Erkes. For more information on this title and other similar books, please visit apress.com.