SharePoint page editing – Improving the experience for content publishers

SharePoint 2013 does not provide a great experience for content publishers out-of-the-box.

This is something that we need to address in nearly every intranet project we deliver.

There are two main approaches that can be taken:

  1. Add some custom editing elements that simplify the experience, but are hyper-focused on a few key editing tasks.
  2. Use a third party add-in to provide a better user experience across a broader set of features and content types.


Custom editing elements

Content publishers can click an onscreen element like this one.

The editor can then add information to the page by filling in a simple form.
This avoids any of the out-of-the-box SharePoint interfaces which can be confusing and overwhelming.

We have provided a demo video that shows an example page content editing task. See video below:

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Drastically improves the experience for content publishers
  • Reduces or completely removes the need for training
  • No on-going licence fees
  • Restricted to a small number of important areas (otherwise costs can quickly add up)
  • Requires additional budget to maintain and enhance these features over time


Third party add-ins


There are many options when it comes to third party add ins for SharePoint.

Some are aimed at enhancing every aspect of SharePoint like Wizdom intranet-in-a-box.

Others are aimed at enhancing things like page editing and design. A good example of this type of product is ShortPoint.

Products like these still require some training for content editors, but offer an improved experience and greater flexibility when maintaining intranet content.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Improves the experience for content publishers
  • Reduces the need for training
  • Has a wide ranging set of features (depending on the product)
  • On-going licence fees (often fairly significant ones)
  • You may be paying for features you dont need
  • Requires support from the product vendor or consultancy



Improving SharePoints content editing interfaces is not easy and comes at a cost regardless if you take the custom or prebuilt route.

Therefore, it is important to identify and prioritise the areas where you want to give a lot of control to content editors. Typically more options for ways and styles of publishing = greater cost.

By limiting the control given to content owners and making things as template driven as possible, you can keep costs more reasonable.

A positive side effect of a template driven approach is often a cleaner, more simplified experience for your intranets end users.

More recently, a significant way to improve the user and editor experience for SharePoint is to move to SharePoint Online as part of Office 365. SharePoint Online has a completely refreshed interface which makes things a lot easier for editors.

Align your internal and external communications

Apple and orangeWhich of the following scenarios is best?

Your company announces an innovative partnership with a major brand the press release goes out, and the newspapers are engaged. The BBC website mentions your initiative within its business section.

From which of the following routes might your colleagues discover the news?

  1. Your websites home page;
  2. The BBC;
  3. The newspapers (tomorrow / next week);
  4. A link on your intranet to your websites news;
  5. An intranet story (the press release);
  6. An intranet story (custom written for employees).

Which comes first? The internal intranet story, or the external press release / content marketing?

If were frank, the purpose of a press release is to catch the interest of journalists or publishers and give them something they can easily edit or readily publish. The original press release might not be all that interesting to consumers and employees press releases can feel a bit formulaic.

If the marketing and internal comms teams are well aligned, it may be that employees can be provided with details days before the press release is published. This shouldnt be seen as breaking the embargo, but rather as good, normal internal communications and employee engagement.

In the example scenario, the partnership would have legal caveats involved, meaning that details could not be released, even internally, beyond those who need to know. But once the agreement has been reached, staff should be informed, and the innovative initiative explained. This could be done through several internal news stories and blogs from the project leaders.

The project leaders might want to focus on the marketing value of their initiative, and the announcement, so the internal comms team might not even hear about the project until the press release is published. This seems backwards, and shows a disconnect within the organisations culture.

Employees can be your brand ambassadors if they have marketing campaign details and the permission to share. If the marketing and comms teams had good inter-team communications, they could each find more and better stories to share, and work together to create more impact with little extra effort.

How to align the internal comms and marketing teams

In some companies, it can seem that the internal communications team and the marketing team are combined and separated every five years! But alignment doesnt have to mean amalgamated.

Comms and marketing may well report to different directors, but theres no reason why team members cant sit close to one another. Would you consider sharing space with the other team? If not as a whole team, what about hot-desking as an individual? It may be useful to invite a member from the other team to monthly meetings.

Not all teams can sit together, or even work in the same location. For good inter-team communication, digital channels are needed, and so a collaborative intranet platform can be invaluable. An intranet that supports private or open Team Sites would allow each team to invite the other to take part. It may not be about collaborating together in the first place, but simply giving sight of your work to the other team will raise awareness and trigger conversations. Those conversations can happen within document comments, discussion forums, or on the internal social network (if you have an ESN).

When considering how to publish material, create a shared process where each team agrees with the order and style of news publishing. It may be that you agree to publish a custom written news story for the internal audience a day or an hour before the press release is externally published. This internal-only story will need to go through its own approval process, without causing any delay to the external comms, so an agreed schedule is needed so that everyone can be involved at the right time.

In other words, its nice to put employees first, so the internal comms story will need drafting and approving in sync with the drafting of the press release. Its not like the marketing team should just hand over the details on the day of release the internal comms team should be fully aware of the subject in good time, just as the marketing team is. This will help both teams keep an accurate calendar of news stories, even if it is the marketing team that sets the dates for release.

The work of each team can remain separate, but shared objectives (like supporting business goals) can be better addressed; specifically, employee engagement, campaign impact, revenue, and ideation. Getting more people involved at the opportune time can be a force magnifier for your marketing campaigns and employee engagement. By making better use of the intranet, you can involve both internal comms and marketing people without inadvertently releasing information early, or creating misinformation on the grapevine.

Your intranet platform should support the separate needs of teams, but also foster inter-team collaboration when needed.

Comms and collaboration are conerstones of a good intranet — take a look at our case studies to see how we help clients.

Photo credit: John Lodder

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