Sunday, 27 June 2010

SharePoint 2010 User Experience, a brave new world!

SharePoint 2010 introduces a number of enhancements to the end user experience.

The new SharePoint UI will produce XHTML, presenting content in div tags rather then the nested tables of SharePoint 2007.

This will enhance accessibility to WCAG 2.0 AA standards. Use of Div also enhance the ability of search engines to index data.

The new SharePoint UI brings in AJAX, allowing continual flow back and forth of data from the browser to the back system.

This replaces SharePoint 2007 need to constantly be post back to the server.

The new UI is also more fluid to edit for the user, introducing a Ribbon like Office 2007 for editing and removing the need to work with a set of web parts.

The Ribbon will me that users, and even administrators, will have to spend less time fishing around for the functions they need.

Replacing a page of web parts with a single Office document like design interface will make it easier for users to edit the pages.

Now one of the things we always heard about SharePoint 2003 and 2007 is that users found them very easy to use. So you might wonder why bother make such changes to the UI.

The key element to consider is that a UI should not only be easy to use but powerful as well.

Most traditional EMC systems were powerful but not easy to use. This meant that they were generally only take up by a small set of skilled experts who could do a lot with them.

SharePoint 2007 UI went to the other end and introduced a UI that was easy to use but not powerful. This meant that a lot of staff took up SharePoint, but it limited what could be done with it.

SharePoint systems were often limited to documents shares, WCM intranets, and exposing links and lists of data.

The technology behind the SharePoint 2007 UI made it very difficult to modify the UI. Anything beyond basic branding could be very time consuming.

So though the SharePoint 2007 has proven very easy to use for certain key tasks like document sharing, it has proven hard to enhance to other tasks and hard to integrate to a larger set of system.

SharePoint 2007 has also proven very hard to build rich real time experiences that we see in sites like Flickr, Facebook, any of the other Web 2.0 sites.

Microsoft has clearly taken notice of the rich interface of Facebook and has provided a number of new features to making creating new SharePoint bases interfaces that are more powerful much easier.

These include AJAX, which allows real time flow of information between the browser and the back end data. This will reduce the need for so many post backs. It will also create a smoother experience for the user. And AJAX will greatly increase the power you can build in to SharePoint sites. AJAX means you will be able to interact with several different data sources and systems using Web Services in the browser.

SharePoint now has an extended JavaScript API which allows you to interact with most of the Objects in a SharePoint. Now you can access and manipulate data and objects in SharePoint with JavaScript in the same way you have been able to do in the DOM for years.

Designers will also be happy to learn that Microsoft has introduced new Master Pages including a simple master page which will make it much easier to write custom SharePoint pages. Many developers found it very hard to work with the master page that came with SharePoint 2010.

Also with XHTL using div tags replaicng HTML using tables for layout it is going to be much easier to build sites for mobile devices. Lack of mobile presence has been a read problem with previous SharePoint. With the new SharePoint UI it will be much easier to build simpler XHTML pages that will show up in more mobile devices.

Now nothing comes for free and the main prices many organisations will have to say for SharePoint 2010 UI will be the need to go off IE 6. But given IE 6 security issues this is something that they should do anyways.

Now what about organisations which have invested large amounts in creating rich SharePoint 2007 interfaces: does this mean that they need to simply throw away their work?

Well the answer is no, SharePoint 2010 will continue with a version of the same default master page as in 2007 available. Now this has been altered slightly so you will have to do some test and redesign, but in most cases it will be a migration task rather than an extensive transformation task.

So with the new UI in SharePoint 2010 your developers will be able to create very rich interactive environments that will more closely meet your business requirements. With 2010 SharePoint fully enters the world of Web 2.0 interface design.


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