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Take your SharePoint HR Portal to the next level: Branding tips for a winning user interface experience

Amber Rasmussen July, 2014
SharePoint HR Portal

SharePoint has some amazing features that make it ideal for training and development managers – from rich content organization capabilities to collaboration and project management. A SharePoint HR Portal can play host to all of this vital information in one spot. But, a portal without great design and functionality is doomed to fall short of goals and expectations.

A great HR portal is personalized, provides a robust search engine and fresh information updated regularly with information your employees want to hear about. It should also be well organized and easily connect them with all the services they need including new employee information, policies and procedures, and the latest news to name a few. Employees should also be able to go to your SharePoint HR Portal and easily open a help ticket, look up paid time-off balance info, or complete an employee evaluation
 

SharePoint HR Portal Branding Tips

Creating a visually appealing SharePoint HR Portal is an undervalued skill set and is in high-demand.

“A word is a word, and a picture is worth a thousand…but a brand is worth a million.” Tony Hsieh

Branding is the graphics, colors and logos that provide the visual presentation of the site but it goes far beyond that. Branding is how you wish to be perceived by your employees, customers and investors. Having a well-thought out branding strategy provides motivation and direction to your staff and tells them how to act, how to win, and how to meet your organization’s goals. So, why not start with your SharePoint HR Portal?

There are some HR managers out there that will say “I would love to make my site look better but I’m not very tech savvy,” or “that’s just too complicated.”

Branding your HR Portal on SharePoint can be as simple as changing the site image and a few colors or it can be quite extensive using HTML, CSS, master pages, page layouts, scripting languages, custom Web parts and controls.

Generally, there are three levels of approaches to branding your SharePoint HR Portal with varying permission levels needed. At its simplest, you’ll need design access and know some basic HTML, CSS and Javascript. Advanced techniques will require the permission level of a site collection administrator. A site administrator is the highest level user account and they have the ability to change the settings to either enable or disable the use of Microsoft Designer as well as customize master pages and layout pages. As an administrator, the hardest part of setting permission level is not in the technical but instead interpreting business requirements to discover who needs access to what.

  • Level One - low effort: This approach uses out-of-the-box SharePoint master pages, CSS files and themes to create a simple SharePoint branded site. To make code changes, you will use SharePoint Designer, which is ideal for creating new master pages or modifying existing pages. It is the recommended tool for customizing user interfaces and doing a majority of the tasks that aren’t code heavy and logic heavy. This approach won’t require any additional skill sets or resources outside of the SharePoint administrator to apply the theme or master page.
     
  • Level Two - medium effort: This approach utilizes the out-of-the-box SharePoint master pages, but also custom or alternative CSS files to provide a more customized brand. This approach is common for intranet sites that require a more customized look and feel. For those larger deployments that focus on content publishing, this level of branding effort might be considered high. It will require a person with Web design experience, or at least experience with CSS files, to create the custom CSS files needed.
     
  • Level Three - high effort: This approach includes custom master pages, custom CSS files and potentially custom page layouts. This approach is common for public-facing sites or those internal sites that require a more polished and directed look and feel. This effort will require someone with traditional Web design skills or knowledge of how master pages work in ASP.NET.

           

Designing for a user-friendly SharePoint HR Portal

Making your HR portal visually pleasing is important but another key area to consider is the design of your user interface. In fact, it is probably one of the most important parts of any program because it determines how easily you can make the program do what you want. A powerful program with a poorly designed user interface has little value. But, if done correctly, it can drive organization effectiveness and employee engagement.

Keep these tips in mind when designing your SharePoint HR portal:

Tip #1: HEADER

The header is the umbrella of your SharePoint site. It should contain all of the global functions a user would need to access anywhere in your site. Standard SharePoint headers contain a logo (linking back to the home page), primary navigation and search.

Tip #2: DROP-DOWN MENUS

If the site is designed for desktop interfaces which utilize a mouse, then a dropdown menu (activated on mouse hover) could be used to display navigation links. Although dropdown menus work well in this scenario they are not too effective when using touch interfaces. The word on Web is that the functionality can irritate visitors, and therefore damage the quality of the experience.

Tip #3: SEARCH AREA

In a solution where usability is the focus, aligning the search to the right of the header is the best choice as this is where people normally look for this kind functionality.

Tip #4: WEB PARTS
Too many Web parts on a page will clutter up the interface and effect navigation efficiency. As a rule of thumb, it is wise to incorporate a maximum of 4-6 Web parts on a page.

Tip #5: IMAGES, GRAPHICS, AND TEXT

Visitors should be able to tell the difference between links and read only text. Assigning one color to links will help visitors differentiate between text types. Keep read only content in gray or dark gray. Solid black on paragraphs text can be visually hard, and studies have shown that this can (in some cases) slow reading speed, so keep this in mind when you are designing content appearance.

If done properly, a well-designed SharePoint HR portal can be a powerful tool for you to provide better HR service. It doesn’t take a tech savvy manager to design a great and useful SharePoint HR Portal. With the right permissions, anyone can create a site that will represent the company “brand” while also providing crucial employee information.

 

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