Using SharePoint to design your website – Part 1 of 3

As part of a series of blogs, I will be tackling the topic of websites, and specifically, SharePoint websites.

Can SharePoint build websites? Are they right for my business? Will it be cost effective? These are just some of the many different questions that are often asked about building websites using SharePoint. I want to go through some of the options and decisions that need to be made when looking into SharePoint for your website, while simultaneously dispelling some SharePoint myths along the way.

Therefore, my blog-series will cover the following topics and questions:

  1. Is SharePoint the platform for you?
  2. Choosing the right version of SharePoint for your business
  3. The nuts and bolts of building a website using SharePoint

Is Sharepoint the right platform for you?

Deciding on whether to use a platform such as SharePoint depends on a number of factors, one of the major ones being- is SharePoint feature rich enough?

As a relatively new SharePoint user, I am only just getting to grips with its capabilities as an intranet system, so when I overheard some colleagues discussing its usage as a website platform, I thought I’d do a bit of my own research…

Admittedly, SharePoint does have an image problem when it comes to design- it’s hard to shake off the fact that it originated as a Microsoft brain-child designed for use within a corporate environment.

Unfortunately the first website I came across affirmed this fact: There was a load of negative talk about SharePoint’s ‘heavy page weights’ and ‘bulky front end code’. But don’t get put off, for every negative comment written about SharePoint there are tons of positives.

Stream-lined content management

Using the same system both internally and for your website produces rich and powerful integration, meaning you can easily surface content from your business applications onto your website.

Flexibility

With SharePoint, you can either choose to remain inside the box or go ‘off-road’ and add some third party features that will extend it to fit your desired mould.

Speaking to one of our consultants- Adam- I got a few examples of the most interesting ways in which he has manipulated SharePoint to create web parts. My favourite is one where a ‘latest news’ section is displayed along a section of the screen, providing an up-to-date newsflash area not dissimilar to a news site.

Usability

Social sites like Facebook are flying high because of their attention to user experience. So what does SharePoint offer by way of usability? It allows you to pay close attention to the way your site is used, as the site navigation and structure can easily be changed by a SharePoint Admin whenever new areas need to be created.

From what I’ve found, you can really make SharePoint bend and stretch to your requirements. Adding third party features can ultimately transform your website and increase its overall functionality; and with easy maintenance and good synchronisation between sites, even a novice like me can see that SharePoint is capable of competing with the big boys of the web design world!

The next big decision to make is whether you want to use SharePoint on premise or SharePoint online; a process I will cover in greater depth in my next blog post…