When venturing into the SharePoint 2013 world, we experienced many growing pains as the product continued to mature. For instance, most of us were aware that Microsoft planned to deprecate both InfoPath for forms services and the SharePoint Designer development tool. While Microsoft announced that both will continue to work with SharePoint 2016 and will support future releases through 2026, they will not continue to develop and expand the capabilities of these products. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much in the promise of replacements for these “old” technologies from three years ago. This poses problems for architects and developers who rely on rapid development to serve their client. It also creates a fluid market for third-party products that bridge these expanding gaps. One of the biggest gaps in traditional SharePoint is the ease of combining data from various sources, from SQL databases to social portals in the
One of the other areas of struggle when it comes to SharePoint is in the area of customized branding on sites. At Netrix, one of the most frequent requests for client engagements is in Intranet Portals. Our clients, especially when new to SharePoint, very often desire to “brand” sites according to very specific site designs and standards. We have successfully continued to work with the Netrix creative team to design the most visually appealing portals for our clients, but have also witnessed the pains of how user interface demands for UI/UX continue to rise with the inclusion of the many devices we use in the business world today—mainly laptops and tablets—and the struggle to have these elements look equally pleasing on these common devices.
With the introduction of SharePoint in Office 365, it has become increasingly apparent that collaboration on a cloud platform makes the most sense. Below is a list of the top changes in the SharePoint Modern experience that address the gaps discussed above.
SharePoint in Office 365 Environment
- Power Apps – The successor to InfoPath. Power users can create apps designed for various devices.
- Flow – The successor to SharePoint Designer Workflows. Flow allows workflows with a vast number of connectors. For example, a simple Flow could be to send an email when you have a post to Facebook. This means SharePoint is only one source of data that can be manipulated with Flow.
- Branding – Detailed branding is not currently supported in New Experience SharePoint 2016. However, light branding in the forms of supplied themes are included. This change encourages clients to spend less time and money on site layouts and branding and invest more time and energy where it matters – content and processes.
- Responsive Design – This approach provides the added bonus of a ready-made, responsive environment.
List and Libraries in SharePoint in Office 365
Microsoft is taking a one-stop-shop approach with everything involving your documents. The goal is for power users to more easily build their data and view that information. The Modern SharePoint Online document library provides a secure, cloud based location to store documents and files. The Modern library allows you and your co-workers to search more easily, work on documents together and access them from any device at any time. Adding files is as easy as dragging and dropping them from one location to another.
Some of the benefits of the Modern SharePoint Online experience include:
- Leverage the power of SharePoint with OneDrive for business usability in document libraries
- Use Quick Edit to add columns and data into one process
- Use Microsoft Flow to automate workflows
- Build simplified custom views
- Experience responsive and accessible design
- Design SharePoint Site contents pages for trending content on the site
- Highlight Important documents easily
- Document metadata inline
- Leverage your existing knowledge of authenticate SharePoint
While this Modern experience has a promising future, it’s still in the toddler stage (just starting to walk), and has a way to go before it can run. Here are a few items that still need to be addressed:
- The mix of the two “new experience” and “classic experience” worlds. Example, Navigation does not work or function the same in a “Modern” view rather than a “Classic” view
- UI/UX experience is limited
- Certain functions, such as Power Apps, still rely on an installed app on the device to operate
- Modern pages do now allow common web parts, such as content query, content search, search, content editor, script editor, etc.
- Power Apps and Flow require licenses to create and run
- Power Apps cannot yet be displayed or run in a classic SharePoint page, but should be available in Q1 2017
- Support for third-party products in the future are undetermined
Expectations and the Future of SharePoint in Office 365
In closing, the biggest question for us is: “How will our clients adapt with the new SharePoint experience?” If they are tech savvy and willing to learn more about Office 365 and SharePoint, then it’s perfect for them. They can manipulate their own data quicker and easier than before, create their own useful apps and flow to distribute to others, and they don’t need to worry about UI design issues.
However, for developers, it’s just not quite there yet. What I would like to see are power apps inline on a SharePoint page, along with something that does the same functionality as content query and search web parts. Also, more flexibility on design constraints. Clients typically are looking for a unique experience and almost always report they don’t want to know they’re in SharePoint when they look at it.
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Written by: Suzanne Weber, SharePoint Architect