I’m borrowing the lyrics from Natalie Merchant, 10000 Maniacs – Candy Everybody Wants because nobody actually writes music about SharePoint. But, I can’t think of a more important message for anyone building out a SharePoint server.
In our rush to deploy sites, encourage self-service sites and support the ‘growth’ metric, we rely on templates. Sometimes we build custom templates but sometimes we fall back on the tired collection of templates Microsoft packaged with the product. In addition, we’re quick to put things in the “Win” column. Someone asks for a site, we build it, they are happy with how fast we set them up and we click the box next to “Satisfied Customer”. But are they?
Often, if you go back a few weeks later and ask how that site is working, you hear comments about unused Web Parts, empty lists and links to nowhere. If the page has a lot of unused items, it looks like an vacant lot in the section of town people avoid. We now try to sit with the prospective user ahead of time, explore the templates and customize them up-front. The resulting sites are easier to use, so they are used and the look vibrant.
While that’s an easy step to take, sometimes the user throws a curve ball. Last week one of our users asked if we could add a piece of metadata to a folder entry in a document library. The goal was simple: “the folder has a few documents but we want to also link to Web resources that include additional documents.” If you haven’t tried adding metadata to a folder, don’t – folders are locked, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. SharePoint allows you to create custom Content Types and you can build a custom folder that does allow metadata. We created a Content Type modeled on Folder and added a column called “InfoLink” which holds a hyperlink. Adding the Content Type to the site causes this new folder type to be displayed on the “New” menu.