Customizing SharePoint Portal Server 2003

While browing posts yesterday I noticed an article on customizing SPS 2003

In the article Luis talks about customizing the SPS.CSS style sheet located on the file system.  I just wanted to note that editing default files is unsupported due to the possibility of service pack overwrites etc.  As such, the team was kind enough to leave us with OOTB functionality allowing us to point to another style sheet.  This eliminates the need to edit default files but also allows us to do some of these customizations that Luis has pointed out.  All you have to do is add one easy extra step.  First “Copy/Paste” the SPS.CSS file and rename it.
To point to a new style sheet in SharePoint Portal Server 2003:

  1. Copy/Paste and Rename the SPS.CSS style sheet
  2. Click on site settings
  3. Select Change portal site properties and SharePoint site creation settings (under the “general heading”)
  4. At the bottom you can point to your new style sheet.

It’s great to see people starting to post about SharePoint Portal Server 2003 customization as I’ve had a lot of requests for information on SPS 2003.

I hope this tip helps,

Adding a company logo to a WSS v3 site using CSS

I feel as though I must be missing something, actually, I really hope I’m missing something obvious.

The problem: I create a WSS v3 web/site and now want to add my company logo. If I open the default.master to add this to the page I will unghost it. I see no other “easy solution” for such a simple and common task.

When I came upon this today it was a deja vu moment as I travelled back in my memory to an almost identical post I made when I encoutered this with WSS v2.

Just as you could in v2, you can hide the default site logo and add a custom logo with a little CSS. The idea is you use the company logo as the background and hide the default. Notice: This is a temporary “hack” and problems can potentially crop up.

For those that are just experimenting or need a temporary yet nifty and NON-unghosting way to add your company logo to the page, read on.

In your WSS v3 Theme,

/* Custom added class to hide the 4 little men – Shane */
#GlobalTitleAreaImage img { display:none; }

/* Adding the company logo as a background image – Shane */
.ms-sitetitle {
color: #e42330;
height:82px; /* The height = the height of the image */

Feed issues (teasers)

It’s come to my attention that in my *ahem*  tweaking of my feeds via feedburner I managed to click something which may be causing you to see only a little teaser text and be forced to view my site to read the rest.  This is not my intention and I’m working to fix it right away – sorry for the mix-up. Thanks to Andrew Connell for bringing it to my attention

This is as good a time as any to reiterate the fact that people should move to my feedburner feed, one of two available when you subscribe to this blog.

Understanding customer needs and business value in WSS v3 customization

I wrote an article recently which questions the architecture of WSS v3 master pages, more specifically the shortcomings of WSS v3 customization when it comes to the application pages which reside in the _layouts folder. I was happy to see just how much discussion this has generated as this was my intention from the start.

I wanted to build on my original post a little by showing (at least from my customers perspective) the business value in having the ability to fully customize a WSS v3 web/site on a site-by-site basis. Understanding how your customers wish to utilize their WSS v3 environment is the single most important factor in making it successful from every standpoint – customization included.

To better explain, here is an example of how I see WSS v2/v3 being used by customers every day. The following assumes an organization is using WSS v2 or v3 and each separate team within the organization uses a different sub web/site.

Most organizations have several unique teams within them, each of these teams have a very strong sense of identity and as such request completely different customizations. For example: Within Microsoft it’s quite likely that the Vista Team would have a totally different collaboration web/sites than say XBOX 360 (You can thank Amanda for that analogy).

In the above situation I would be called in to completely customize (visually and functionally) the XBOX 360 and VISTA sections of the WSS environment.

The problem arises when clicking through the web/site and the customer says; “Hey Guys, there are several sections of our site that do not have our teams common look and feel that we paid you to customize for us, our cool header and other visuals are missing from a whole bunch of pages, what gives?”

Someone (likely a project manager) is then stuck with the daunting task of trying to explain to the customer that you can only share a look amongst all those pages within their otherwise unique web/site.

Obviously waiting until the last minute to spring this on the customer would not be good for relations so the reach widens even more, now reaching the sales team whom must explain this to a customer up front and ultimately lead to a harder sell.

The reason I wanted to explain this scenario is because I’ve been hearing a “solution” to the original problem as - well you can customize the application.master page. In the scenario outlined above which I assume is fairly common for many others, this simply doesn’t work. Many customers don’t have the means to have separate WSS installs for each team.

It all comes down to understanding customer needs. I’d love to hear more about how you and your customers have leveraged WSS solutions – leave a comment.

How to live happily with a great designer (By Seth Godin)

For those of you that strive to create a pixel based purple cow each day, you should appeciate this article by Seth Godin dubbed How to live happily with a great designer“.

The only thing I would do differently is bold #8. After almost 15 years of designing professionally for the web I have come to the conclusion that contrary to popular, everyone is not an artist.

Xbox 360: Frogger Love

While I have quite a full plate this weekend working on some of our various SharePoint 2007 projects, I did decide that I also had to fit a little Xbox 360 luvin into my schedule.  Thanks for the reminder Matt! 

I just downloaded Frogger from the Xbox Live Marketplace.  How cool is that?!?  I have to say I am really becoming a fan of these simple arcade games that are available in the marketplace.  I spent about an hour earlier this morning playing Condemned and then started to feel real guilty for not working so I had to quit on a scene that really could have used more time.  But I took a 20 minute break just a few minutes ago (OK 25 minutes counting the time it is taking me to write this post) and I didn’t have to feel guilty at all.  The arcade games make it easy to waste 15-20 minutes without becoming too much of a time suck.

See here for more of the arcade goodness coming down the pipes.  I can’t wait for Pacman!

There’s a new “Online” RSS Aggregator on the Block, Newshutch

I noticed this will browsing around one of my favorite online application developer sites, 37 Signals.  Newshutch is a very clean RSS aggregator, very nice execution thus far.  I just hope the aggregator performs faster than the website, it’s getting muchos traffic right now.

Sign up for your own free account and take a look at Newshutch


MOSS 2007 Customization: Content Types, Columns and Page Layouts Explained

When I started blogging a couple of years back, I made my entry with a very unorthodox way to create a WSS v2 website that looked like “a real website”. I promise I won’t make you endure that length tutorial again.

Staying true to my “designer” root, this article outlines some of the MOSS 2007 terminology, and how they relate to a “regular website”. In the end you should have a slightly better idea on how to leverage the power of MOSS 2007 to create robust and fully customized web applications.

Disclaimer: This is based entirely on my own research using beta 2, not all information may be correct, and all is subject to change.

As with any successful venture, planning is key. Here are a few tips for planning your publishing site in MOSS 2007:

1) Plan your content types and columns: In it’s simplest form, a website is made up of a group of pages, each containing content. Keep this concept in mind when planning your MOSS 2007 content types and columns.

A content type would represent a unique “page” in your website such as an “About Us” page, while the “columns” represent a bit of content on a particular page.

For example: If you had a website with an about us page, this page would likely have a title stating about us, some content about us and perhaps a company photo. In this context, you would create a content type for “About Us” and columns within this content type for “About Us Title” “About Us Content” “About Us Image”.

When you select a column remember that with the power of WCM (Web Content Management) you are able to give users with appropriate permissions the ability to edit these columns from within the browser as they view the site. When you are planning and selecting columns pay close attention to what you would/wouldn’t want editable in a WCM sense. You will notice “publishing enabled” next to the columns that allow this functionality.

To recap, a content type is a unique page within a site and a column is a unique bit of content within a page. Not too difficult when you look at it that way.

2) Planning and creating page layouts: Page layouts are created “based on” content types. In a regular website design scenario, you would likely have a “skeletal” page based on your great design which you can use to quickly create for example sub pages such as “about us”. This is much the same way page layouts work only much, much better.

When you create a page layout, users with proper permissions can select create page from the browser and then select your page layout as the starting point.

The idea here is you decide up front what unique pages you figure you will need (content types) Example: A sub page. Then you decide what type of content should be on there (columns), and which of these should be editable by the user. Then you create a page layout (using the Browser, or SharePoint Designer 2007) by associating it with a content type. That then says this page layout will show up in the gallery for “create page” and when the user selects it they will have that skeletal starting point for a new page.

To really leverage the power of this you want to create a fully customized set of page layouts, taking advantage of master pages and adding your own custom layout and graphics.

In the end you have the power to empower ANY USER to click “Create Page” and have a fully customized UI pop up with editable features and if you wish areas to add web parts. This in my opinion is where MOSS 2007 really shines for a designer.

I hope this article has helped you understand a little better, the terminology of MOSS 2007 and how content types, columns and page layouts relate to one another, and more importantly how you as a designer can relate to them in a “regular website” context.

Have a question? Leave a comment or email me, shane @ my domain

Designing yourself into obscurity

Just to show that I hate all technologies equally, I decided to touch briefly on an issue which in my opinion is becoming epedemic across design-land. That is the utter lack of creativity with websites.

From blogs which do nothing but point to existing content to templated platforms like community server, the lack of design is becoming more and more evident. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of community server – I sat through a BOF with Rob Howard and Sean in Boston, great bunch of guys, but I have to agree with Andrew on the lack of creativity.

This is most evident across the land of CSS, where every second site looks exactly the same. Guys, it’s “not” cool to put 1/2 the content in the footer and you don’t have to use the same color pallette.

It seems people have forgotten about design and content usability. I cannot help but wonder how big a factor RSS plays in all this? Why design when your content is 80% consumed through RSS aggregators? Where’s the business value?

One thing that I know for certain is that the more one design is based off the last the less it stands out. For those wise enough to get the message, it should be really easy for you to make your sites unique and stand out.