I have the pleasure of interacting with lots of people who work with SharePoint while delivering my courses and sessions at conferences. One thing consistently comes up when I talk to people: Their organization paid for SharePoint, but they aren't using the publishing features within SharePoint. Ack!
There is definitely a time and place for both publishing and non-publishing sites. However, when I talk further with those individuals, nine times out of 10 they could reap huge benefits from publishing features. The “why” behind the lack of use commonly falls into one of two categories:
- You don't know what you don't know: SharePoint is huge and consequently it is really hard to fully appreciate and understand everything available to you when it comes to features and functionality.
- "The IT department said we can't use it so we don't know anything about it." This is the one that makes me trot out my publishing soapbox and start singing the praises of publishing benefits.
So here are the main points of my spiel on why publishing is totally awesome and (potentially) the right solution for you. Also, this is not a rehash of stuffy articles already on the web.
Consistent content display
Does your site have 17 product pages? 439 press releases? 11 global office locations? 82 departments? (Insert staggering number) here of (XYZ content)? Meet your new best friend: SharePoint Page Layouts.
Your website needs to have a consistent look and pages of related content need to visually match. SharePoint Page Layouts are here to make your life much easier by creating a content template that can not only have content, but also hidden metadata (make your search and rollup web parts more powerful), security-trimmed content (kick the ribbon to the curb), and device-specific info (promote that new iPhone app to users). All of your web pages of a certain type (products, releases, locations, etc.) link to the shared content template giving you one stop editing ability. Edit one file → affect hundreds.
Does your dream site have different header images, colors, graphics, layouts, logos and more as you move from section to section? Not a problem with publishing sites. Create a sub site for every section (SharePoint works well this way) and assign branding differences per section. Non-publishing sites are like Indonesia: lots of islands that share a common thread yet are uniquely different and on their own. A publishing site collection is like floors in an office building: They work together to make the structure whole, and you can run up and down the stairs from level to level that are each decorated differently, all the while still connected to the main foundation.
Content owner permissions
HR has no business in the marketing content, and vice versa. Using the sub sites you created for content structure, you can also restrict access to editor rights and even assign available content layouts. You don't need a template for a press release sitting out there as an option for executive biographies. Control and fine-tune who has access to what, and streamline your content editor training plus reduce confusion about how to work "this crazy SharePoint site you are making me use."
Edit now, edit later
Speaking of content editors, publishing sites give you the ability to work on page content changes, get up and go home, come back days later, and pick up where you left off. No more instant updates like you experience with non-publishing sites. These updates can also run through an approval process (workflow), be managed by users added to helpful permission groups (Approvers, Hierarchy Managers, etc.), and even have set dates for when content is posted on the site and (optionally) removed.
The big brother of team sites
I use the term "non-publishing," which is accurate, but lots of people think in terms of team sites. At the end of the day, everything you can do in a team site you can do in a publishing site, but with more whiz-bang features. So why not use publishing instead? Plus, you can always create team sites under a publishing site. A big benefit with that is the non-publishing sites can piggyback on some of the publishing functionality, such as branding inheritance and a globally shared navigation bar.
Managed navigation... 'nuff said
Let's break it down... You get two options for SharePoint navigation. Show them what you got, in the order that it is in. Or pick and choose like in a retail store and present your finest wares. A single navigation bar can link to a sub site, a web page, an announcement and a form, all in one. Managed navigation is very handy to tailor your site navigation to meet the needs of your site visitors.
So what now?
Don't take no for an answer and insist on learning more about and utilizing publishing features in your SharePoint site. Your ace-in-the-hole argument is that you already paid for it! On top of that, it can streamline your site editing process, quicken your branding deployment, expand your content options and overall make your SharePoint environment easier to manage. So provide a more powerful website to your users. You have a right to use the tool your organization paid for and you’ve been handed to manage to its fullest potential.
Heather is a Web designer with more than 10 years of experience designing and deploying online applications and sites. Specializing in SharePoint branding, layout and usability, she has extensive experience with SharePoint technologies and Web content management.