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Function trumps form when SharePoint stakeholders consider how best to provision technical training content to end users

Branding should be an important consideration for SharePoint functionality wherever possible. A voluminous quantity of usability research has demonstrated the comparatively greater usefulness of technical features branded to appeal to end users. But for end users in need of technical training content to help them successfully complete work in a SharePoint computing environment, it may make more sense to eschew branding in lieu of greater functionality.

Our VisualSP help system for SharePoint is a case in point. Out-of-the-box, the in-context access system of our product amounts to the tab it creates in a SharePoint 2010, 2013, or Online ribbon. But sometimes end users may struggle to find the tab. This difficulty is more likely to arise where they have already been instructed to use either the circle with the question mark at the upper right of the out-of-the-box SharePoint user interface, or the search box prominently displayed on each page.

For these users, asking them to now look for a different on-screen emblem, this time a tab in the ribbon labeled “help” may amount to asking a bit too much. So the best solution for these users is to implement our VisualSP web part. This web part can be added to any SharePoint page. We provide some branding controls for our web part. The web part can even be implemented to over ride the ribbon tab with content unique to a page, site collection, or even a web application in SharePoint.

But it may be a right decision to opt to expose the content directly on the SharePoint page, where users can’t miss it. Perhaps it would be better to brand just how the technical training content end users require is actually, and finally, presented to them. But with the content plainly visible on the web page, the likelihood of someone informing a support team they can’t find it, should be “slim to none.”

Sacrificing design for functionality makes sense if end users have a burning need for the kind of on demand technical training content best suited for an in-context method of exposing it to them, like our VisualSP product. If branding is a very important consideration, perhaps designers can build an attractive (and prominent) box for the content exposed by our VisualSP web part directly on the page.

Please contact us if you would like to learn more how this method can benefit your organization.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved

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