Improve SharePoint Online User Interface Design

Designing their SharePoint Online User Interface (UI) is an unavoidable challenge that most firms eventually face when implementing SharePoint. While established best practices exist for designing functional and even customized SharePoint Sites, these practices are more of a list of do’s and don’ts, rather than elegant solutions.

This is why it is worth exploring the world of UI as a Service.

SharePoint Online user interface

Best practices for SharePoint Site Design

There is an entire consulting market that is solely based on SharePoint and the issues related to its usage. Such consultancy is incredibly expensive, nevertheless companies make the investment because of the advantages SharePoint offers overall. However, efficient user adoption barely ever happens, due to the difficulty of working with SharePoint as an end user.

A few tips to get a better overview of one’s work in SharePoint Sites:

  • Start by naming files and folders in a consistent and logical manner, that reflects their contents. If you have multiple document libraries then this could be especially helpful.  This is very important as one must keep the collaborative nature of SharePoint in mind.
  • Create a consistent top link / menu bar. The lack of (easy) navigation is one of, if not the greatest problem users have to overcome in SharePoint. A valuable solution to this can be to inherit the parent site’s navigation through Site Settings > Top link bar, to create an overall navigation tab.
  • Continuing on with the navigation headache, it is a good idea to keep the Quick Launch Navigation clean and simple.  One can easily complement a universal top link bar, by using the left-hand side menu as a local site menu.
  • Using the Promoted Links feature, icons can make getting to the right destination more recognizable.
  • Minimizing the amount of scrolling is also a simple way of making your work more accessible. When working with lengthy lists or huge document libraries, scrolling might take forever to locate a file. Ways to reduce such an eternity are to create further pages to store the data and/or creating custom views that only show a certain maximum file quantity.
  • Lastly, customization can get unnecessarily complicated, so do not get carried away with it.

SharePoint Online design customization

Complications with custom design and branding are very common for SharePoint. First off, even though Microsoft supports custom master pages, it really does not recommend using them. It also continuously releases updates for SharePoint Online and Office 365, which often mess with a personalized design. Therefore, a customized master page requires constant vigilance. Moreover, even if one does customize a SharePoint master page, it cannot carry over to other Office 365 applications.

Though luckily, there are some ways to customize the SharePoint Online user interface. Custom SharePoint themes exist and sites are customizable to a certain degree using SharePoint Color Palette. Other methods include using alternative CSS instead of master pages, JavaScript injection and using the remote provisioning pattern.

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Updated UI – the Modern SharePoint Online User Interface

Microsoft has a new SharePoint Online user interface called the “Modern UI”. Inspired by the user interface of OneDrive for Business, several SharePoint Online features now support this UI update. Such features are Document Libraries, Team Sites and Lists. On the other hand, a substantial list of functionalities still only support the Classic UI. Plus, there are even issues with navigation in the features that are supposed to support it. To view the new UI for SharePoint Online, open your SharePoint Admin Center, click Settings then select the SharePoint list and libraries experience tab. This will provide you two check box options: Classic experience and New experience (auto detect). Just pick the one you wish to view.

View SimplySoView SharePoint

UI as a Service – SimplySo

SimplySo is among the world’s first to offer a User Interface as a Service. It is a transparent interaction layer for SharePoint Online / Office 365. It continues to enable you to work in SharePoint but displays an easy-to-use and simple UI. Users view an intuitive and familiar user interface based on the classic Windows structure. But its boosted with collaborative social features based on Facebook. Nevertheless, it is always possible to view SharePoint native.

The service is subscription based, handles no data itself, and is perfectly mobile. There is no need to pay consultants to implement, maintain or customize it.

We therefore facilitate effective and efficient user adoption through a simple SharePoint Online user interface that employees can actually work with.

2017-06-13T09:34:25+00:00 June 13th, 2017|3 Comments


  1. Carol Guinane 01/07/2017 at 03:58 - Reply

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  2. Helen Lefeber 01/07/2017 at 04:01 - Reply

    Your way of explaining all in this article is actually nice, all can easily be aware of it, Thanks a lot.

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