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.

Intranet governance and contributor engagement

Dan ends our video series by exploring the people elements of intranet governance. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more.

Dan Hawtrey, Managing Director
+ 44 20 7471 8500 | [email protected] | LinkedIn

Governance is a big word. It carries connotations of centralisation, power, control, and authority. But actually I think it’s perhaps a bit of a misnomer because today’s intranets are very social systems with ownership distributed across many different people.

Yes, you do have to define a strategy, put in place a steering team, think about policies and processes; I’m certainly not trying to downplay those pieces, they’re very important. But getting governance right is also about putting the right support structures in place, in particular support for content owners and site administrators.

The key aim of modern intranets is to get plenty of contributions from lots of different people. On top of that you want contributions to be high quality, so that they’re engaging and useful. But that’s only half the battle, you also want your content owners to keep things up-to-date and to continue contributing after their initial burst of activity. It’s all about maintaining high levels of enthusiasm.

Stats graphA great way to do this is to share with them analytics about how their section is doing, and perhaps even show them how it’s doing versus other people’s sections. After all, who wouldn’t be interested in knowing how many times their piece has been read.

You could give them a login to Google Analytics, but I’ve always found that GA is pretty opaque to people who aren’t familiar with it. A better way to do it, is to take the time to create a report yourself, something that is going to be quick and easy to read and digest, rather than letting them drown in data.

Giving support and analytics on a regular basis to your content owners is not only providing positive reinforcement, but it’s also giving you a chance to keep up the dialogue between you and them. This is going to help reduce the chances of empty sections and content growing old and outdated.

View Joe’s previous video: making life easy for your content contributors.
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A 7-point framework for employee engagement in the digital workplace

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Making life easy for your intranet content contributors

In our eighth video, Joe argues that publishing content should be as pleasant as browsing content on a well designed intranet. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more.

Joe Perry, Technical Manager
+ 44 20 7471 8500 | [email protected] | LinkedIn

We don’t just design and build intranets, we also run them.

We have a number of clients who rely on us for the day-to-day management of their intranet; this is not just technical work, but also content planning, publishing, and design.

This means that we have intranet managers and content editors who are not developers.

Just like our clients they need administration interfaces that make publishing information as easy and as fast as possible.

We involve these team members in every project to help us make better choices about how our intranets will be managed. We don’t want our clients to be in a situation where they need a developer every time they want to make a simple change.

This is especially important when an intranet has many content owners and contributors, often across many countries. Things need to be designed so that they’re not only efficient, but also intuitive, and require little or no training.

This is an important tip for anyone designing an intranet; when you think about your users, don’t forget about your administrators and your contributors.

View Joe’s previous video: SharePoint — out-of-the-box and customisation.
Browse all ‘intranet planning’ videos.
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SharePoint user adoption tactics

Planning meetingLaunch of any new system or process can be a huge effort, as we discussed in our previous article about big bang intranet launches. Once youve launched SharePoint intranet, youre bound to see a lot of people trying to figure out how to make best use of its many features. These high levels of attention wont last.

The curious but conservative will return to previous systems, like email, and the interested but untrained will find their every task and interaction with SharePoint to be frustrating.

SharePoint roll out isnt about the technology, or the new features; its about change, communications, engagement, and new ways of working. It is, succinctly, about people, and your organisations goals.

Lets take a look at some adoption tactics you can use to make your SharePoint roll-out a success.

Adoption tactics

Review these practical ideas and decide which match your needs.

User research

Nobody should design and build any kind of platform or service without diving into the user experience and doing copious user research.

But beyond the incredible value of such research, you can also treat every interaction with colleagues as an engagement activity. Every survey, every interview, every real-life or online exercise is an opportunity to explain the vision for and how SharePoint will meet peoples needs.

Someone who has been involved with research is likely to feel more enthusiastic about the intranet, and talk about the research with colleagues, helping to create further awareness.

Stakeholder mapping

There are different kinds of stakeholders not every stakeholder is a decision maker. That said, you should still understand the needs and expectations of stakeholders. This could be about creating accurate personas and / or developing use case narratives that show what your colleagues do in their work, and what they need from your collaboration platform.

Many developers and UX practitioners write their stakeholder mapping notes privately, because such notes may contain personal observations about specific individuals. Stakeholder mapping can include logging an individual stakeholders attitude regarding the vision and purpose of your SharePoint implementation, so that you can adapt your approach when asking them for support. These kinds of notes are the dirty secret of stakeholder management.

The sponsor show and tell sessions

Assuming you have a sponsor from the leadership team (perhaps the HR director, rather than the IT director or CIO) youll want to involve them in your pre and post-launch communications.

Rather than only relying on intranet articles and newsletters from them, consider running several show n tell sessions around your organisation, inviting stakeholders and end-users from different departments, and ensuring invitees know the sponsor will be present.

Authors, contributors, content and site owners

Even if your intranet governance is heavily centralised, you will still need competent site owners for the many collaboration Team Sites and even for Yammer Groups maybe.

If your governance model is collaborative or decentralised, then you may well have hundreds of authorised contributors. Be clear about who owns what on the intranet and provide support to owners and contributors by publsihing guides, tips, and examples of good practice. Explain roles and responsibilities, and provide regular training sessions through the year.


Finding, engaging, and training authors and site owners should not be seen as an onerous process to get through as quickly as possible, but as an opportunity to build on-going relationships. Rather than automate the process (providing online guides etc.), have such contributors develop their skills and knowledge within a dedicated Team Site. Youre now a community manager, able to support peer-to-peer learning, and you can communicate progress and changes effectively. Use SharePoint and Yammer to engage your contributors; dont revert to email.

Share progress

Run a pre- and post-launch blog, to keep everyone involved and interested. Blog articles can show progress, share challenges, and explain how and why tough decisions were made. Your SharePoint project is not a secret its a business led improvement programme, and progress should be shared.

Your network of contributors should be kept in the loop and completely involved with your launch communications.


Hold workshops across your organisation for contributors and champions. Ostensibly, its about classroom training, but in the early stages its about engagement and explaining the vision and purpose of the intranet, and presenting how features will work.

Training for site owners and content contributors

First theres the governance and administration of team sites, and all the buttons, processes, workflows, and configuration that SharePoint needs.

Then theres how best to use the functionality of SharePoint and how to write material that suits readers.

Many people will feel more confident once theyve had some real-life mentoring or training, even if you provide how to guides online. Content owners and contributors may well need training in order to become competent.

Manage the community

Have a central person for contributors to contact. If youre the sole intranet manager, this may well be you! As a community manager (supporting contributors) youll want to be available for any query. Help contributors rely on their dedicated Team Site or Yammer Group dont simply respond to emails, but take questions and answer them online, so that everyone benefits and can continue the discussion.

Offline comms

Naturally enough, a great deal of intranet news is communicated via the intranet. But to reach field workers, engineers, and customer service people, various channels are needed.

Consider print materials and desk drops explain key benefits, and how to contact the comms team / the intranet manager. Consider mouse mats and pens if appropriate to your org culture; some people see squeezy stress-relievers as gimmicky, others appreciate the token of a tiny box of chocs.

Identify resistance

Focus your initial engagement efforts on the people who are unsure of the benefits of new ways of working, but open to getting involved. Dont (yet) engage those who appear to be dead set against change or anything social or online. Embrace early adopters, but work closely with those who are ready for SharePoint but unsure where to start.

Once youve gained a critical mass of users, it will then be time to develop tactics to reach sceptics, ultra-conservatives, and general laggards.

On-going training

Dont only provide classroom and online training at launch; new people will join your organisation and your community of contributors. As new starters come in, arrange for the right level of SharePoint training as soon as their account has been set up. Consider putting links to intranet training and support materials in a prominent place weve come across some intranets where they opt to put it as a primary item on the main navbar.

Dont turn every feature on

Its tempting to launch with a big bang, showcasing every feature, every whistle, every bell. SharePoint is a big system; beyond the home page and department team sites, theres a lot going on. While youve spent six months planning and learning, many of your colleagues will feel overwhelmed by all the features of SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint Online.

Seeing as every feature should meet a business need, ensure the functionality you launch with matches your stakeholder expectations, and that end-users have been briefed and involved with the design of any new ways of working.

If a feature isnt absolutely needed at launch, consider only turning it on a few weeks later. This drip feed of functionality will demonstrate that youre continuously improving the intranet and in control of the roll out. Many organisations launch SharePoint with Yammer, but you can roll out and integrate Yammer later.


Whenever you enable a new feature, be sure to communicate its purpose and how people might use it. Over months, share tips and examples of how colleagues are using SharePoint features, highlighting the end result.

SharePoint isnt one single thing people experience it differently depending on their role and needs. Highlight the functionality and the many different use cases throughout the year, encourage questions, and dont be afraid to repeat messages over time.

Leader boards

Publish details and stats about the most read articles each month. Perhaps split the leader board up to show reference articles and blog articles separately. Departments should be interested in what material people are making use of, and individual bloggers will be pleased to see their work is appreciated. (Blogs are a great way to share expertise, and guidance for the many systems and processes your organisation uses).

Beyond leader boards, share relevant stats with your community of contributors.


What tactics have you used to support your adoption strategy?

Whether youre a proponent of Kotters approach to change, or a fan of the Kubler-Ross change curve, the Rogers technology adoption lifecycle, or Downes and Nunes shark fin model, youll want to have a pre, post, and on-going adoption strategy.

What tactics have you used to support adoption? What should be on this list? Please let us know in the comments section.

Photo credit: Montgomery County Planning

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