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Christmas has come early!

#SharePoint, #Content management

Author: Jonathan Stuckey


After (many, many) years of waiting while Microsoft grads churn through the backlog of features for SharePoint Online we finally have usable versions of key publishing and content management features!

Yay!


Now I know the cynical amongst us could be a little bitter because this is merely returning to us the useful features and capability they took away going from Classic when Microsoft launched the Modern UI in 2016.


...but it's got shiny wrapping paper, and a ribbon on it so I'm not complaining.

Collapsible page sections (a.k.a. accordion, or concertina)

after several false starts this year, including crashing your browser if you open/close the page section more than 4 times in a row, Microsoft has updated the page section management feature in general release. Microsoft 365 Roadmap | Microsoft 365

Amazingly, it seems to have even been tested with (most) of the webparts that Microsoft provide and the paranoid in me had to make sure before I talk to customers about it - so I tried sections with following webparts:

  • Text

  • Image

  • Highlight

  • News

  • Quick links

  • Call to action / Button

  • YouTube

  • Embed

…just to be sure. It works!

web part section which expands and collapses
User experience of collapsible section on page

Image embedding

The crippling lack of basic content presentation style for images on the modern UI, i.e. text wrap-around or in-flow referencing, has put this capability high on the wish-list. A feature that every player in content management sphere has had (including SharePoint Classic) since forever.

In the release of modern, we have to manually craft page-layout actions to mimic image-embed or wrap around options, and drop-in image and text parts because basic content controls were mutually exclusive on a page.


Well it's here - and this works too! Well sort of… well not really, but Microsoft have generously removed the need to "add image webpart" and then click "upload image" when you cut-n-paste on to a page. Its better than a poke-in-the-eye. I'll take it!


Note: Microsoft's article (Add text, tables, and images to your page with the Text web part (microsoft.com)) shows true image-embedding, but as of 13th October its still not here.

Image editing

The introduction of simple image editing utilities into web-parts, but more so into the library management for content has been agonizingly slow, but most recent release (preview) of common editing tools into OneDrive for Business finally brings a degree of usefulness that basic content management can finally be controlled within Office 365 (online)…. Yes been available on the desktop for years, I know

When these also (eventually) make it in to SharePoint libraries it will reduce the dependency on range of desktop tools with greatly-varied output experience.

What we are still lacking is proper web-part image management in anything other than the Image web-part - but as Microsoft is overly fond of doing - 1-step at a time - just hopefully for not as long a wait please.


OneDrive’s new photo editing features and more - Microsoft Tech Community

Highlight webpart - KQL

The option for using KQL for generating a query has be on the High-light webpart UI for about 18-months, but it has only really supported near full range of KQL calls, and CAML since June.

The positive is that while the out-of-box user of filters is broken for content attributes other than system properties i.e. Date created, date modified, author etc - KQL gives us the power to use metadata properly


Example KQL - reference content from another hub, in Highlight web-part:

ContentTypeId:"0x010100678F0F4D29279C429C725BFF462D80A000E5075629CAA591428F917CEA90A34944" AND RefinableString00:"Health" AND Path: https://organisation.sharepoint.com/sites/Resources/Policies/

...where we had setup a mapping for Category attribute to a refinablestring, and then constrained result location (using Path)


note: ContentTypeId 0x01010 - is the base Microsoft document CT, and the above Id is our example contenttype which extends this.

- Oh and it’s the only way to surface cross-hub content (today) without add-ons, or development. Nuts.

Search - Refiners (pending)

I'll believe it when I see it, but I've had access to early preview so I'm more inclined to be this will arrive …some time. Feature 57024 is due to release Feb. 2022.

Here's to hoping it's less basic like this:

and more flexible like this:



Boxing-day blues

The sad thing is that it does make me happy to finally see these features make a comeback. These, and other recent updates, are paving a way for a better, simpler experience for all users.

I feel guilty though, I shouldn't be happy about receiving basic content management tools which have been available across CMS platforms for over 20-years. Microsoft's release approach of take it away and drip-feed you it back is not innovation - it's often just smoke-and-mirrors. Just a touch of gloss over something less capable than before.


For many people just coming into their own in organisations and business commoditisation of functionality - which was specialist at best - is hugely beneficial.

So if you are a small - medium sized organisation, and have a skilled person in house who understands use of colour, imagery and page-layout for good user-experience, you can actually create a really sweet content-centric intranet. For the rest of us who have never been good at art, or don’t understand the basics of page/colour composition - it's still hit-and-miss on the end result.

Addendum

the roadmap also promises to bring in something useful proper design, and usability - because we can provide better information design. Including:


Hub-to-hub association (a.k.a. the Hub of Hubs)

After only 2.2 years since the feature was added to API and PowerShell ...and then disabled, this will arrive shortly! Giving us real options for translating Information Architecture into site-structure and search experiences.


Linking Hubs together is giving us essential plumbing-work and the pipes which allow for the equivalent of Targeted search-scopes, integrated access-model across zones and so on.


It has great promise, but I suspect we'll see a "Microsoft version 1" approach for a while yet.

Microsoft Connect

This is unfortunately, the mangled satsuma in the bottom of the stocking of presents. Introducing ways to create cross-platform or system presentation layer for user, with a "self-service" model for showing what I want, how I want it… or at least that's what the marketing tells you.

While it foretells of great promise on the roadmap, it’s barely a basic developer tool (surface) for embedding content, and in preview is worse that rudimentary.


Not going to hold-my-breath here, but will see if we get a decent set of upgrades for it next year.


If you want to talk about getting more from your intranet, and content publishing on SharePoint Online, contact us at: hi@timewespoke.com