In part 6 of our SharePoint Branding Series, we looked at custom widgets and how they can be added to your SharePoint site to personalize your environment while, at the same time, improve functionality, drive productivity and increase user adoption in the long run. Since widgets are fully customizable, the possibilities of what you can add are endless. The post then went on to explore some best practices that we have observed and the seven different types of widgets that we believe will help you achieve your goal of increased user adoption.
In part 7 of our 8-part branding series, we will look into the idea of building your SharePoint site to be responsive. We know that user behavior has changed in recent years–most online activity now takes place on a mobile device, with the majority of that being a smartphone. Does that same data apply to a SharePoint environment? Will your users require the same mobile considerations as a general website? It is important to ask these questions as you are planning and building your site in order to create an environment that meets the needs of your users.
In general, mobile web traffic has seen a rapid rise in recent years and still continues to grow. In 2017, mobile users accounted for over 50% of global internet traffic according to Statista.com. Forecasts for 2018 expect this number to grow even further as smartphones and tablets become the go-to option for busy consumers. To meet this demand, it is essential that all websites are responsive and smartphone-friendly. This means everything on a site should be visually appealing and be fully functional for both traditional desktop viewers and mobile users. Likely, your users will be hopping from one device to another and will expect the same functionality.
Things to consider when building a responsive SharePoint site
We know that users expect the same functionality from a website regardless of the device they are using. This expectation does not change for your SharePoint environment. Traditional models of an employee sitting at a desk all day no longer apply. Businesses are global, mobile and need to offer technology that compliments that.
One direct benefit of building a responsive SharePoint environment is that it alleviates the burden of having to build multiple versions of your site to support different devices. The built-in responsive grid system will automatically format your pages and optimize to whatever device is being used. That being said, there are best practices to follow when designing your environment:
- Browser Consideration - When designing a responsive website, most modern browsers do a good job of adapting and adjusting to different devices for personal use. For enterprise use, however, it is important not to overlook Internet Explorer (IE). It is still a major player in that space and can be a bit of a headache to troubleshoot if you haven’t planned for it ahead of time.
- Simplicity - Limit the number and size of graphics that your mobile users will have to load. As you’re building your site, it can be beneficial to output a mobile design that excludes certain elements that either slow downloading speeds or limit functionality. Your mobile users are likely using a WiFi connection, which tends to be slower in general. This means you need your site needs to be optimized to load quickly and deliver the information that your user is looking for.
- Specific Devices - It has become nearly impossible to keep up with the latest devices and new ways that people are connecting to the internet. Make things easier for yourself and stop worrying about how your site looks on certain smartphones, tablets or even TV monitors. Instead, focus on content and usability so you don’t have a nervous breakdown every time a major tech company has a press conference. Abandon the old ways of approaching web site design and adopt new methods that allow you to move and adapt with the ever-changing device market.
- Use CSS whenever possible - It can be tempting to modify the master page of your site to suit your specific needs, however, we do not recommend doing that. The more you add modifications, the more issues you are going to encounter along the way. For optimal responsiveness of your branded SharePoint site, only apply changes that are absolutely necessary to your master page. Also, make an effort to use CSS as much as possible using a custom CSS file.
- To hide or not to hide - Reworking the sidebar column can easily take hours of your day. Alternatively, you can save that time (along with your sanity) and hide it in the first place. Your mobile users will not want to navigate through it on a tiny screen anyway. Keep this and other functionality in mind as you encounter roadblocks while building your responsive site. Put yourself in your users’ shoes–the solution just might be to eliminate and make things easy.
Knowing that our long-term goal with any SharePoint environment is to maximize user adoption, it is important as you are planning and building your site to take time and examine how your users will be accessing the information. If it is well planned and convenient for them, you will enjoy the benefits of a higher adoption rate over the long-term.