SharePoint is Here but Adoption is Not: 9 SharePoint Features That Improve the User Experience

By John Harach, Consultant

John started his Consulting journey back in 2009 with SharePoint 2007 and 2010. Consulting to a large number of clients across the public to private sectors, he focuses on document management and delivering business solutions.

In many cases, businesses implement SharePoint and staff are expected to use it without the correct roll out. As a result, adoption is slow and staff are not comfortable with the application due to the lack of effective planning, phasing, testing and training.

The roll-out is a fundamental component. It should be carried out in a way that helps staff understand SharePoint to be an essential and effective improvement rather than 'harder than the previous application'. Implementing SharePoint should make work easier and more productive for staff. Read about the features of SharePoint that make it especially user friendly in this blog post.

Below are a few out of the box simple features and benefits that will assist with adoption and uptake, whether it's used for educating staff or making processes more efficient. Make sure your staff are aware of all the great features SharePoint has to offer. After all, it's designed to make everyone's lives easier. 

1. Branding and Design

SharePoint has now made branding easier for businesses to update. The ‘out of the box’ SharePoint branding is clean and light, allowing a blank canvas for businesses to make it their own. Updating the SharePoint branding gives businesses their own identity, allowing the environment to be more suited to the business. Branding also provides a more familiar environment to look at. Utilising the out of the box features will allow the business to add their own logo and change the colours of the Navigation Bar and App Launcher (see examples below).

New 'Modern Pages' have recently been introduced to SharePoint Online. The new look and feel is more intuitive to the classic SharePoint we are used to working with and Modern Pages comes with a range of new webparts for end users to benefit from. It is also a responsive design that caters to all monitor sizes and devices. In addition to making the out of the box changes you are also able to utilize third party add-ins like ‘LiveTiles’. LiveTiles is a simple drag and drop design tool which allows non-technical users to expand on branding by creating more exciting SharePoint sites within minutes. Businesses who are considering branding are already on the right track to greater user adoption.

2. Metadata

A key feature within SharePoint is “metadata”. Metadata is a ‘buzz’ word used when explaining benefits of using SharePoint. Metadata is nothing new, however SharePoint has now made managing and creating new metadata easier. 

Put simply, metadata is information about information. The title, author, date created, date modified etc. are all items we are familiar with and find within our network drives at present, however SharePoint has now made it easier to create your own. The idea is that metadata is tagged or attached to a file to make sorting, filtering, grouping, and searching more simple. In creating metadata, we are essentially building an information architecture. This can take some time, but getting this right with help achieve long term user adoption. For instance, when uploading a file to a finance document library, being instantly requested to add a 'Financial Year' will save the users time when later needing to find the file. The user can easily sort, filter or search on the 'Financial Year' tagged to the file.

3. Quick Edit

Quick edit is a great feature used to update metadata in bulk. It changes the list or library to a datasheet view. This works in a similar way to Excel, allowing for easy dragging and dropping and bulk imports of metadata.

4. Version Control

Version Control is a breeze in SharePoint. Users no longer have to manually create new versions of documents (e.g.  Filename v1, Filename v2) as this is an automated feature within SharePoint. A simple activation of this feature can be carried out by the administrator and the business will benefit as follows:

  • Minor and Major Versioning
  • Tracking of versions
  • Who last modified and when
  • How many versions
  • Single document
  • Previous versions
  • Viewing of previous versions
  • Restoring an older version as a new version
  • Delete of older versions
  • Capturing comments when creating new versions

5. Edit/Read Documents Online

If staff members are not in the office and are unable to update documents, SharePoint has now made this possible. Depending on how the administrator has configured this feature, documents can be stored and accessed from any device with an internet connection. Reading/editing the documents no longer requires a full install of Office as it all happens within the browser.

6. List/Library Search Box

Finding files within a standard shared network structure can be difficult. Most users might find themselves in the correct folder but are still unable to locate the file they need due to the amount of content captured over the lifetime of the organisation. SharePoint now has a Search Box located within the library you store your documents making finding documents very straight forward.

7. In-Browser Drag and Drop

Getting content within SharePoint can be a troublesome job, especially if this is left to end users. The standard upload, navigate through the existing folder structure, then uploading can often frustrate users. SharePoint has introduced solution, an ‘In-Browser Drag and Drop’. Uploading documents has never been easier, you are able to now literally drag and drop the file from within the Share Network folder structure directly into the SharePoint webpage. This process now takes 2-3 seconds for the files to be uploaded.

8. Search

Everyone knows what a search is (or is meant to) achieve, however running a search query on a shared network drive can be difficult. Rather than the end user running the search, sifting through hundreds of documents and only being able to sort and filter on basic metadata, SharePoint search queries the file name of the document. It also queries the content within the file and metadata tagged to the file. Search refiners can also be configured to further improve this feature. Search refiners are pre-defined filters which allows the user to refine the search results based on the selected filter with one click. This quickly narrows the search down from thousands to tens of files. This is where SharePoint Search has the upper hand and can really make a difference to staff's search experience.

9. Mobile App

Informing users of the ability to access their content at any time is an important factor for improving user adoption. Although SharePoint is easily accessible via any device with an internet connection, Microsoft has also introduced a new SharePoint app for mobile, which supports both iOS and Android. The SharePoint application prompts users to login using the same details used to access SharePoint via PC or Laptop. This makes it easy to access and work on important documents while away from the desk.