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Five Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making in SharePoint

Aaron StearnsAaron Stearns/Full Stack Developer
Amanda AalpoelAmanda Aalpoel/Full Stack Developer
April 19, 20185 min read

SharePoint’s extensive feature library can be overwhelming, and users often get entangled in the features that Microsoft continuously deploys and deprecates. The time and resources required for upgrading and maintaining these environments can be onerous, and employees can find the processes confusing and tedious.

If SharePoint is to add value to a company, users must understand the environment and its capabilities. Users must also avoid careless mistakes, such as:

 

1. Letting Content Get Stale

Gartner and IDC research indicate that between 80-90% of the information corporations have spent billions collecting and entering in IT systems over the last 30 years is inaccessible to most workers who need that information. If you fail to manage content in your SharePoint environment and fail to make that content readily available, users will become frustrated. They will default to old versions of documents stored somewhere in their inboxes. This leads to duplicate content and, worse, multiple, slightly differing versions of essentially the same content. This will make your environment difficult to use and maintain, especially if SharePoint is your Document Management System.

The simplest solution: Dedicated content managers who update content regularly and do so under a governance policy. Low content quality contributes to poor search results, which is why a good content governance strategy is so important. Also consider creating a governance committee, a group comprising content managers, executives, and SharePoint administrators. They should meet regularly to discuss content organization across your site and design and publishing guidelines.

 

2. Neglecting Search Administration

Many administrators erroneously assume that their search service will just work as expected. In fact, knowledge workers currently spend the equivalent of one day per work week looking for information they need, according to Forrester Research. Out-of-the-box search service is not ideal in SharePoint. It falls short of Google’s and Amazon’s search engines, which set the standard.

You can improve SharePoint’s search performance substantially by taking a few simple steps.

“The ramifications of poor search results range from employees wasting precious time in order to find what they need to their acting on inaccurate content.”

- Kara Pernice, Nielsen-Norman Group

Bad content management leads to poor search results. Strong content governance strategy improves both the content users seek and their ability to find it. In conjunction with the governance strategy, administrators should apply a standard set of managed metadata across the site collection. The metadata can be managed in one place, reused across custom lists and document libraries, and available in the search interface to filter content in a more meaningful and useful way.

You can create a set of Promoted Results (formerly called Best Bets) for a search phrase that applies to frequently accessed content. The administrator can customize to account for similar or partial phrases and common misspellings.

 

SharePoint Search 

A promoted result for a commonly accessed document.

 

Modifying or creating new master page layouts, to be used by the search service, will help create a more consistent user experience across your site collection.

 

3. Letting SharePoint Look Like SharePoint

SharePoint’s default styles are not likely to engage users. Improve the SharePoint experience; don’t allow the environment to appear as if it came straight from the box. You can do this in various ways, all of which are easier with the help of a professional designer or developer.

Implement a theme, in your custom style sheets, that aligns with your company brand guidelines. Use your company’s public website as a model, or as a starting point, for the appearance of your digital workspace. Companies typically streamline user experience on their public websites; internal digital workspaces don’t always get as much thought. But they should -- internal users are still your users. Think of them as your internal customers. They need positive user experience in order to work efficiently. Establish design guidelines to make sure that good design decisions hold across all your sites.

 

 

Out-of-the-box Styles

 

 

Custom Styles

 

People are more connected to work than ever, through mobile as much as desk-top devices. That fact dictates mobile-friendly digital workspaces. Most versions of SharePoint were not designed to be mobile-friendly. Implement custom themes and follow responsive design guidelines to fill that gap and make your digital workspace useful across devices. This takes significant time and planning, but empowering your users is well worth the effort and cost.

 

4. Relying on Obsolete Features

SharePoint features once loved and heavily used in large and small companies alike have been deprecated in newer versions. Consider InfoPath, which enabled users to build list forms on the fly. Microsoft has deprecated InfoPath and will cease to support it in 2026. Designer will also lose support in 2026. Both developers and power users who rely on it should look to PowerApps and Flow in the next versions of SharePoint. Develop migration plans for deprecated features, and do it sooner rather than later. Start now, not in December of 2025.

Deprecated features can bring upgrades to a halt. Unplanned, emergency re-writes of features are costly and time consuming. If you lack a migration plan, you could find yourself stuck late into an upgrade and faced with the loss of a crucial feature.

 

5. Using Too Many Third-Party Solutions

Picking the wrong feature can force your business processes to conform to the limitations of that application or plugin. SharePoint has an App store, similar to iTunes or Google Play, with thousands of applications and plugins available for immediate use. Before making the easy, impulsive choice to install them because they seem to offer something that SharePoint doesn’t, consider their potentially costly impact on future SharePoint migrations or upgrades.

 

 

 

Also, be aware of the level of support for any third-party web parts and apps. Is the source stable? Companies can be merged, bought, sold or dissolved, and support for their products can dissolve, too. Think long term; instead of buying solutions, consider solving your business problems by means of lists, libraries, javascript, and the REST API.

Aaron StearnsAaron Stearns/Full Stack Developer

Aaron Stearns a full-stack developer with a knack for quickly making sense of complex technology and business process scenarios, planning, and executing from inception to delivery. With a strong focus on user experience, mobile-friendly design, and JavaScript API development, Aaron provides customers with robust and capable web sites and tools. These techniques have tamed SharePoint environments, automated multi-level enterprise workflows, and delighted users with interactive dashboards.

Read Aaron Stearns's Blogs
Amanda AalpoelAmanda Aalpoel/Full Stack Developer

Amanda is a full stack developer and analyst with a talent for improving interface designs as well as navigating the complexities of business intelligence reporting processes and simplifying web interfaces for both usability and mobile functionality. She has applied these principles to SharePoint intranets and public websites alike.

Read Amanda Aalpoel's Blogs

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