my world of work and user experiences

November 30, 2012

What happened to the Title?

Filed under: SharePoint,Usability — Tags: , — frederique @ 22:24

SharePoint document libraries have separate fields for the file name (Name) and for a Title. That makes perfect sense to me, because they have different requirements:

  • The Name needs to be a unique file name, so that you do not overwrite a previous document.
    So for libraries with many documents and especially libraries with many contributors, we recommend a naming convention such as including your initials and the date. This is the ‘system field’
  • The Title need to be clear for people who try to find the file and to determine if this is the file they want to open.
    So you should enter a clear and clean title that does not contain codes and additions that make it less readable. This is the ‘people field’.

In “old” SharePoint, the Title field was clickable
We used the Title field in all views. The reader could click on the Title to read the file, the contributor could open the item menu from the Title to edit it in MS Office. The unique but unwieldly Name was invisible to normal users.

In “new” SharePoint, it is the Name field that is clickable
You have no option but using the .Name field in all your view, because otherwise nobody can read or use the file in any way… The only use I see for the Title field, is for the search engine.
This is the case in SharePoint 2010 but also in SharePoint 2013. I do hope that it is a temporary mistake in the trial cloud that I am looking at.

The file Name and Title

The Title is visible, but it is the Name that is clickable

In the SharePoint 2010 Online version that we are working in now, the Title field often is mandatory, because it is important for the search. But users are getting rather annoyed, having to fill in a field that has no immediate use in the site itself.

I know that there are scripts and workarounds to get a clickable Title field. But I would rather stick with out-of-the-box functionality than risk inconsistency and unstability from some band-aid.
What I don’t know why it is now the Name rather than the Title that is the active field.

What happened to the title? Why did it lose its clickability and – basically – its usefulness?

June 30, 2012

How many people visit what – Intranet statistics

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: , — frederique @ 21:29

The first parts of our new SharePoint Online intranet are in use, so we want to know what works and what doesn’t. We ask our users what they think about our new intranet. But we also want some statistics, such as: how many people visit which sections of the new intranet.

Unfortunately, Office 365 does not have analytics functionality at this stage. Third party tools like Axceler’s ControlPoint cannot offer these analytics until Office 365 makes the numbers available. And we’d rather not let Google enter our secure intranet to do its analytics.

Until we have something better, we have some usage details per site

  • Unsupported – These are not supported and not entirely correct. At the very least the page views and visits per day are sometimes shifted a day. But they give us some sense of the site usage.
  • Shortcut – As they are unsupported, there is no link in the site settings, so we use a shortcut:
  • Seperately per subsite – You need to check the usage details separately for every subsite.
  • Last 30 days only – The numbers are only available for the last 30 days. So we copy them to a file to keep a longer sense of our intranet history.
  • Numbers of page views and of unique visitors– The usage details tell us how many visits we get per day in the different sections, and that they are  increasing.

    Usage details - Number of Unique Visitors

  • Top pages– We can see which news articles, which videos are viewed most.  Blog articles and discussion items are not pages, so we can only check how often their overview page is visited.

    Usage details - Top Pages

This gives us some sense of site usage. But we are definltely looking forward to some serious analytics that are less time consuming and more informative.

May 31, 2012

Just asking our users with a SharePoint Online survey

Filed under: SharePoint,Usability — Tags: , , — frederique @ 22:55

From time to time, we just need to ask the users what they think of our intranet. A survey is a nice tool to get some answers. We don’t aim for scientific accuracy, but for a sense of the intranet’s usability, what works for the users . In a previous post, I discussed a survey we set up when we started developing a new intranet. That survey was implemented in a standard survey list template of WSS2, the SharePoint version 2003.

Standard survey in SharePoint Online

Now we wanted to ask some follow-up questions. And by this time, we have entered the cloud. So we created a survey using a standard list template in SharePoint Online. And that is definitely better:

  • The survey questions open in a dialog box, so that the user concentrates on answering them, instead of getting distracted by the context and risking to lose their answers when they leave the form.
  • Branching depending on the answers the user gives, so that you get different follow-up questions when you answer that yes, you do us some section of the intranet
  • Better exports to spreadsheet of the results
Respond to survey

Respond to the survey, in a dialog box

Linking to the survey

Once we had set up the survey, we wanted to invite our users to respond to the survey and explain to them what it is about and why their feedback is important, in an invitation e-mail and an article on the intranet. With a link to start the survey right away. However, that was not as easy:

  • The direct link leading to the questionnaire form (/ResourceSurvey/NewForm.aspx) opens it in the context of the list

    O365-Survey in list context

    NewForm opens in the list context

  • Adding ?IsDlg=1to the url (/ResourceSurvey/NewForm.aspx?IsDlg=1) removes the background, but now the survey form looks lost and when the users has finished the survey he actually is lost: he ends up on a blank screen.

    O365-Survey no context


  • It does work if you put it in a script:
    <a href="javascript:var options=SP.UI.$create_DialogOptions();
    options.height = 400;void(SP.UI.ModalDialog.showModalDialog(options))">
    <strong>Start the survey</strong></a>

    However, if we put this on a news article page, SharePoint automatically strips out the code.

So we put the code inside a Content Editor Web Part on the news article page, so that the script remained intact and worked!

By the way, this method implies that we had to use a news article rather than a blog post, because we could not insert a web part in a standard SharePoint blog post.

April 30, 2012

Anywhere – SharePoint Online on my Windows Phone

Filed under: Interaction,Office365 — Tags: , — frederique @ 22:18

We are always on, always connected. And we expect to be able to do that on our mobile devices. But we’d better manage those expectations.

Nielsen, in his latest Intranet Design Annual, laments the fact that very few intranets have a mobile version. Recently, I looked into SharePoint Online on my iPad and I was only moderately enthusiastic. Now let me take a look on my smartphone – a Windows Phone, so it is Microsoft all around. Today, I focus on the interface in the mobile Internet Explorer.

Bottomline: Again, quite a lot actually works, but not everything…

What works:

  • Announcements, Links, Custom lists
  • Tasks, including views like My Tasks and functionality to update tasks.
  • Blogs: read the post, read the comments and add a comment
  • View pictures in a library, including their thumbnails and a screen-filling version

What works somewhat:

  • Adding a task worked, because I saw the new task appear on my computer. Unfortunately I did not see it appear on my phone…
  • Calendar is present but unpractical: no weekly or monthly overview.
  • Document libraries: I can read documents – though not in a very practical way on such a small screen. But I cannot add or edit them in the phone browser: there is no Upload document button. For that, I need to open the Office Hub.
  • Picture libraries offer a button to upload a picture, but that did not work for me – I could not activate the Browse option.
  • Movies (mp4) played from their library, but the media webpart to play it from the page does not work.
  • Publishing page libraries show the table of content, but the pages themselves do not open.

What is missing entirely: the more interactive features:

  • Discussion Boards: Missing from All Site Content and I cannot switch on the mobile view in the list settings
  • Surveys: Idem
  • Rating: I can see the rating stars but I cannot rate a document on the phone

Below, you will find some screenshots and other details…

‘Table of Contents’

The Windows Phone wisely does not attempt to display the site in its big screen view, but more like a table of content. The All Site Content overview is your friend, as other navigation options – like the tabs – are missing.


Homepage on my Windows Phone

All Site Content

All Site Content


I can read blog posts, read the comments and add a comment using my Windows Phone.

Read a blog post

Read blog comments

Add comment

Managing my tasks works

I can view the tasks that are assigned to me, update their status and other data, and switch to the view with all tasks. For the selection fields, this is the Windows Phone method.

My Tasks

My Tasks

Edit Task

Update my task

Edit Task - Selection list

Select a status

The reader can consult the information in document libraries and picture libraries. Talking back is more difficult in the windows phone browser: I cannot upload or edit the files.

Document Library

Document Library



Picture Library

Picture Library

By the way, I have made these screenshots using the Windows Phone Emulator of the SDK (Software Development Kit) . I am not planning any real development myself, but I have not found an app or any other tool to shoot the screen of my Windows Phone directly.

February 29, 2012

Anywhere – SharePoint Online on my iPad

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: , , — frederique @ 23:54

One of the selling points of SharePoint Online is that you can access it anytime, anyplace, anywhere – where you have an internet connection. Not just in the office, but also on the train, on your couch at home. And in the board room. That flexibility rimes with iPad for many people these days.

I’ve heard from several executives that they prefer to work on their iPad. They don’t want to waste money and trees on paper prints and they also don’t want to lug around a heavy laptop. So they asked their teams to send documents for meeting as pdf by e-mail, allowing them to read on their iPad. But sending documents by e-mail is soooo last century. We prefer sharing such information in SharePoint teamsites.

My question then was: can you actually use a Microsoft SharePoint site on an Apple iPad or do they just clash?
The answer fortunately is: quite a lot actually works, though not everything.


On the iPad, I see the document library and I can read a document in the browser. But I was unable to upload a document.

Homepage of an out of the box teamsite on the iPad

Read an Office document in the browser

Uploading a document did not work

Task list and calendar

I can add and edit items in lists like Tasks and Events on the iPad. The interface in the pop-ups looks a bit different, but they seems to work anyway.

Adding a task that depends on a selected predecessor

Adding an event to a calendar

Comments and notes

I can read a blog post and its comments, and also comment on a blog post. On the My Profile page, I can update my status. But I cannot publish a note in my Note Board.


Commenting on a blog post

Updating my Profile status works, but adding a note to the Note Board not.

No silverlight

The one gaping hole on my iPad is Silverlight. Because of that, I cannot play video in the official video web part. And I cannot view the spiffy version of the organisation chart in My Profile. The page does offer me a link to download and install Silverlight, but that soon hits the ‘Download failed’ wall, as there just is no Silverlight for the iPad.

I cannot install the Silverlight required for the nice organisation interface

The video web part requires Silverlight, so the video is not played within the page but opened on the iPad itself via the link.

Also, my iPad only plays videos in mp4 format. I know there must be apps that allow me to view wmv videos for example. But until then I am restricted to mp4.

July 31, 2011

[SharePoint] Check permissions the easy way

Filed under: SharePoint — Tags: — frederique @ 20:45

Sometimes simple features can make your life a lot easier. What makes me happy just now, is the option to check easily if a particular person has access to the documents I want her to read.

In older versions of SharePoint, I have to look manually, to see if the person is listed in the permissions overview. But that may require a lot of clicking and digging, if the permission structure of the site is complex: opening a dozen site groups to see if the person is in one of them.

In SharePoint 2010 there simply is a button Check Permissions that tells me exactly what permissions the person has in at the level where I am checking, because they are a member of which site groups.

As a site owner, click in the ribbon Page > Library Permissions

SharePoint 2010 Ribbon: Library Permissions

SharePoint 2010 Ribbon: Library Permissions

Click Check Permissions

SharePoint 2010 Ribbon: Check Permissions

SharePoint 2010 Ribbon: Check PermissionsSharePoint 2010 Pop-Up: Check Permissions

Enter the name of the person and click Check Now. Then you’ll get an overview of the person levels given to that person, and through which group they were given that permission.

SharePoint 2010 Pop-Up: Check Permissions

What dampens my spirits a bit, is that I still don’t see an overview at the site level of the separate permissions the user has on ‘disinherited’, specifically secured lists and libraries. The result of the Check Permission just mentions a Limited access, which implies that the group has specific access to a particular list or library. But it does not tell me which library and what permissions. Oh well…

October 31, 2010

Why that default Overwrite in SharePoint 2010 Document Libraries?

Filed under: Interaction,SharePoint — Tags: , , — frederique @ 23:05

There are some things that make me go “Hmmmmm…”

What happens

When you upload a document in a Document Library in SharePoint, the option Add as a new version to existing files is checked on by default. In 2003 this was called Overwrite existing file(s)? So it is very easy to accidentally overwrite an existing document. That happened in the old SharePoint. And still happens in SharePoint 2010. Hm…

Upload document with the default option to overwrite the current file

Upload document with the default option to overwrite the current file

Why is that a problem

That accidental overwriting happens a lot, especially in large libraries, where many people contribute. The users who upload similar documents do not pay attention and give their document the same filename as an existing document.

The stakeholders of the old documents call me, to ask what happened to the metadata of their documents. They see strange descriptions, the status field is incorrect, and so on. And when they open their document, panic really sets in. Then I do some archaeology in the library, only to find out that this is another document altogether. Fortunately the version history allows me to see what happened and to retrieve the old document.

Of course we try to mitigate this problem. First and foremost, we ask the users to respect a naming convention for their files. Also, in several sites we use InfoPath with automated name fields and Excel files with macros that automatically include the date and in some cases also the time in the filename, so that we can ensure its uniqueness.

Still, users have are hard time trying to understand why they have to be so careful with their filenames. Especially the users who know that usually the Title field is displayed, while the Name remains invisible as just a technical filename.

Any old Windows Explorer will warn you when you try to save your document with an existing filename, and ask you politely whether you actually want to overwrite or if you want to save it under a new name. So why is our smart SharePoint system so stupid about this?

What do I want

The interaction that would serve me best, is for the overwrite option to be governed by a setting in the Document Library. I can determine whether or not I want content approval, versioning and many other options on my library. I want an additional setting, determining whether the overwrite option is enabled or disabled by default.

In most cases I would select the setting to disable the default overwrite option. We have trained most users that want to edit a document to actually do that within the site, via the option Edit in Microsoft Word. So they don’t upload a new version and don’t need that overwrite option anyway. This implies that the documents that most users upload are actually new documents.
The required interaction there, is that the library warns them that a file with that name already exists, allowing them to change the filename. And the last thing we want the library to do, is seamlessly overwrite the existing document. Absolutely not.

I would still want to see the checkbox on the upload page, so that power users, who know what they are doing, can deviate from the default. Most users don’t even see the checkbox, but there is always the happy few who do want something non-standard.

Well, I’ll have to figure out what will be my best practice to deal with this issue in 2010….

Document Library settings in 2010

Document Library settings in 2010

September 29, 2010

[SharePoint2010] Ribbon context sensitivity includes the browser and windows version

Filed under: SharePoint — Tags: , , — frederique @ 21:27

Hey, what happened to that ribbon option I used yesterday? Now it’s greyed out and I get a message that ‘This control is currently disabled’. What happened?

Library ribbon in Firefox

No Upload Multiple Documents in Firefox 3.6

What happened is that I was working on another computer yesterday, that has another browser and windows version.

At first sight, SharePoint 2010 seems to work just fine in any of my environments – at least after I stopped trying in Internet Explorer 6. Which made sense, as I had heard that SharePoint 2010 works with different browsers. But I hadn’t looked at the fine print yet.

So I was surprised to see that, for example, in Firefox 3.6 the Datasheet view, Open in Explorer and the option Upload Multiple Documents do not work. Also, the Sync to SharePoint Workspace and Connect to Office do not work on that machine, maybe because it is running Office 2003.

Library ribbon in IE8, Office 2010 and Windows 7 versus Firefox, Office 2003 en Windows XP

Library ribbon in IE8, Office 2010 and Windows 7 versus Firefox 3.6, Office 2003 and Windows XP

Another example: In Windows XP, the option Upload Multiple Documents does not offer drag & drop functionality. That does not depend on the browser, as my IE8 didn’t help, but on the Windows Explorer functionality of Windows itself it seems.

Upload Multiple Documents by drag& drop works in IE8 Windows 7

Upload Multiple Documents by drag& drop works in IE8 Windows 7

And I am still not sure why the options E-mail a link, Download a Copy and Send To are disabled when I select more than one document in the library or a document set. Even in IE8 and Windows 7. Didn’t these work in the beta? Am I doing something wrong or have they been disabled by design?

At least now I know that the ribbon is not just sensitive to the context IN the site, but also to the context OF the site. And if I really want to see what my options are, I take my newest computer, with IE8, Office 2010 and Windows 7.

For the details, see this Technet article Plan browser support (SharePoint Server 2010).

August 31, 2010

[SPD2010] Conditional formatting – highlighting what’s hot

Filed under: SharePoint — Tags: , , — frederique @ 20:59

As I’ve said before: SharePoint lists are powerful, and we use them to great effect, for example, to keep track of our tasks in project sites.
On the homepage, we typically display the tasks that are most relevant for the user: the tasks assigned to me, the ones whose deadline is nearest displayed at the top. High priority tasks are either in a separately filtered webpart, if there is enough room, or mixed in with the rest and hopefully the displayed priority label draws enough attention.

However, any users, especially ones familiar with Excel, have asked me to highlight the overdue high priority tasks. Or to highlight the status of projects that are in trouble in a long programme management list. Good point. And fortunately, in 2010 I have that in my toolbox: SharePoint Designer 2010 that is.

Conditional formatting with SharePoint Designer 2010
SharePoint Designer 2010 allows me to highlight list items that are important according to my criteria, as a no-code solution, without any programming. Just follow the wizards.

  1. Open the page where you want to highlight these important list items. In my example, I open the task dashboard page.

  2. I put the cursor in the task list, and the ribbon displays the option Conditional formatting.

  3. I want to highlight the task that is important, so I select Format Row.
    Conditional formatting: an option in the ribbon for the selected list

    Conditional formatting: an option in the ribbon for the selected list

  4. In the Conditional Criteria pop-up, I set the criteria for the tasks I consider important enough to highlight: overdue high prio tasks. So Priority is High and the Due Date is less than the current date.

  5. Click the Set Style button, to determine what these overdue high priority tasks should look like.
    Condition criteria pop-up

    Condition criteria pop-up

  6. In the Modify Style pop-up, I set the background color to red and the fond type to bold, so that these tasks will really stand out. At the bottom of the pop-up, I can see a preview of the result.
    Modify style pop-up

    Modify style pop-up

  7. I already had some tasks entered in my project site. So as soon as I click OK, SharePoint Designer shows WYSIWYG what those tasks look like; you don’t have to go to the browser. But you can also see it in the browser.Br>
    Conditionally formatted list seen in the browser

    Conditionally formatted list seen in the browser

In this manner, you can combine criteria. In my example, I made sure that overdue high priority tasks are bright red, and overdue tasks of lower priority are a lighter color, but still more visible that the standard white tasks that haven’t met their deadline yet.
It took me a few trials and errors to find out would be most clear, but fortunately, you can easily change the conditional formatting.

Changing the conditional formatting

Changing the conditional formatting, based on the WYSIWYG presentation in SharePoint Designer

In the example discussed above, we highlighted entire rows, drawing attention to an important task as a whole. But you can also apply this conditional formatting to specific fields, which correspond to cells in the displayed list.

For example, in a project lists we consider the status of different aspects, such as the schedule and the resources of a project. These add up to an overall status, but we also want to see immediately what the status of these aspects are. For that, we put conditional formatting at the level of the cell: instead of indicating that we want to format a row, we select the TD cell element and then choose the option Format selection. And then we can set the style to visualise literally of that aspect of the project is in the red.

Conditional formatting on specific fields

Conditional formatting on specific fields: is this specific aspect of the project in the red or is it green?

A nice way to help the users handle their information overload, by ensuring they see what’s most important for them.

July 23, 2010

[SharePoint Designer 2010] Alternative options for list forms

Filed under: SharePoint — Tags: , , — frederique @ 23:33

SharePoint lists are powerful. For instance, team members can enter their tasks in a task list on their site and update them as they go, so that the entire team can monitor how they are doing. In another example, we created a projects list, where projects managers entered the main information about their project and updated the status of their projects regularly. That allowed higher level management to keep track of the program as a whole.

In these lists, we can include many fields, to capture all relevant information. Great.

However, if you are not careful, you end up confronting the poor user with a huge edit form, even if he only needs to update a status field at that time. In the old SharePoint, we could only change the order of the fields and add descriptions to give the form some structure and highlight the fields that are most important most of the time.

In 2010 (not just the year, I mean the SharePoint), we can create alternatives for adding and editing these list items, in addition to the default forms. We can even promote our new edit form to the default option. Also, we can put a version of the form to create a new item directly on the homepage of our site.

How to create alternate edit options
For instance, we need a short version of the form for editing tasks, that the team members can use to do a quick update, without being hampered by fields that are irrelevant at that point. How to do that?

Open the site in SharePoint Designer 2010 and click to the tasks list. On the right hand side of the summary page, you see the forms that are available in the list, such as the default edit form EditForm.aspx.

Summary of the Tasks list in SharePoint Designer 2010, with  the Forms section

Summary of the Tasks list in SharePoint Designer 2010, with the Forms section

Click the New button in the forms section and enter the settings of the new edit form we want:

  • An edit form,
  • Set as the default, so that the edit icon in the list opens this new Update Task form.
  • Select ‘create link in the list item menu and ribbon’ so that this option also appears in the list item menu, in addition to the standard Edit Item. And type in the label that should be displayed in that menu.
Settings of the new list form in SharePoint Designer 2010

Settings of the new list form in SharePoint Designer 2010

When you click OK, UpdateTask.aspx is added under the heading Forms. To determine what the user should see in that Update Task form, click that form name.

To remove unwanted fields, click Add/Remove columns in the ribbon. Or simply remove that row in the table. In addition, you can format the form to highlight the most important field, such as the status label in the screenshot below.

Customizing the new list form in SharePoint Designer

Customizing the new list form in SharePoint Designer

Once we have saved this customized form, it is available in the site.

The new edit option in the list item menu in the site

The new edit option in the list item menu in the site

And clicking on the edit icon opens the short form we just created.

The customized short form Update Task in the site

The customized short form Update Task in the site

How to put the New item form directly on the page
For the edit options discussed above, the user has to click an edit icon or open the list item menu to start editing. For creating new items, we sometimes want the user to start typing directly on the page, without clicking any New Item buttons.
SharePoint Designer 2010 allows us to do that: insert the actual form on the homepage of your site or on a specially created dashboard page. How to do that?

Open the page where you want to add that new item form in SharePoint Designer (Edit file).
Put your cursor where the form should appear, click Insert > New Item Form in the ribbon, and Select your list.

InSert the new item list form directly on a page in SharePoint Designer 2010

InSert the new item list form directly on a page in SharePoint Designer 2010

Then you can customize the form that has landed on the page. The default version of the ne w task form is very sober, so we add the field Assigned To. We remove the fields Modified and Modified by in the same pop-up window.

Adding and removing columns to customize the form on the page

Adding and removing columns to customize the form on the page

Once you save the page, you see this quick form for creating new tasks on the page.

Quick form for new tasks directly on the page in the site

Quick form for new tasks directly on the page in the site

So with SharePoint 2010, we can give users options to add and edit their tasks and other items more quickly and easily.

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