Monday, 12 March 2012

Ten Rules of SharePoint Navigation

Ten Rules of SharePoint Navigation
[If you are visiting this SharePoint blog to cast your vote for this year’s SharePoint Awards please see the blog dated 5th March for information on the finalists and then click here to vote.  But why not read this week’s blog about SharePoint Navigation whilst you are passing?]
One of the important things to remember in any SharePoint implementation is to make it as easy as possible for the user to navigate. I am sure, like me, when you drive one of the most annoying things is lack of signposts. When you are unsure which way to go and come to a T junction you expect a signpost showing you where each road will lead you. I am still very wary of Sat Navs because I always think what if the Sat Nav is lost itself or suddenly goes out of range. So I like a good old fashioned signpost. The same is also true for me within SharePoint where despite the modern way being to use the ‘Search’ I still favour simple navigation. The Search in SharePoint is good and has advanced a lot since the early versions of SharePoint, but still it is prone to finding excessive amounts of results and relies on the author having used the correct terms in the document.

So I want to share with you a few basic rules I use when creating navigation within SharePoint. These aren’t defined ‘Best Practice’ just a few rules that have helped me over the years. Now, before I list the rules let me just clarify the terms used for navigation in SharePoint. If you are using Windows SharePoint Services, SharePoint Foundation or a Team Site on SharePoint Server navigation comes in two parts. These parts are called ‘Top Link Bar’ and ‘Quick Launch Bar’. They can be accessed by Site Actions – Site Settings.  Very simply ‘Top Link’ is along the top and ‘Quick Launch’ along the left-hand side. It is though possible using SharePoint Designer or different Page Layouts to change the position of these around. You might be the kind of person who likes their ‘Quick Launch Bar’ on the right of the page. We are all different.
Microsoft don’t make it easy though, because for SharePoint Publishing Sites they change the rules and rename the ‘Top Link’ and ‘Quick Launch’. They package them together under the term ‘Navigation’. I suppose they are now thinking more about Websites than basic collaboration sites. But then to make it even more confusing they call what we know to be the ‘Top Link Bar’ the ‘Global Navigation’. I suppose the idea is that this is the navigation that everyone sees. Well, as long as you don’t stop using navigation from parent site. The side navigation that we called ‘Quick Launch’ is on Publishing sites called ‘Current Navigation’. I suppose the idea is that this navigation just refers to the current site you are on. Although, yet again you can select ‘Display the same navigation items as the parent site’.  Well, I hope that all made sense. Now we can get on with my rules (for these rules I will call them ‘Quick Launch’ and ‘Top Link’;
1.       Never have an item listed in both the ‘Top Link’ and ‘Quick Launch’ navigation.
2.       Try to have a consistent ‘Top Link’ throughout your sites. Inheriting from Parent site wherever possible.
3.       Never have more than eleven items in the Top Link Bar. If you have to scroll right you have too many.
4.       Try and make the names of the items on the Top Link Bar a similar size (probably no more than 20 characters including blanks) and consistent with terms used in your organisation (for example use common names for departments of products).
5.       In Quick Launch bar use meaningful headers. Change the standard headers like ‘Libraries’ and ‘Lists’. Headers need a URL though so a cheat I often do is to add the URL of the Home page of the site so clicking on it doesn’t take you anywhere.
6.       Order the Headers in the Quick Launch Bar so the section that will be used the most is at the top. Try to keep these headers and the order of them consistent on other sites.
7.       Move the links in the Quick Launch to under the appropriate Header.
8.       Add links to the Quick Launch that go to different Views and also links that open New Forms. To find the URL for a new form just open a form, right-click and copy the URL until the end of the NewForm.aspx. In SharePont 2010 copy url for 'All Items' view and then replace the part all%20items.asox with Newform.aspx.
9.       Keep the labels for the links on the Quick Launch meaningful but short. They should not wrap over more than two lines.
10.   If you have to scroll down the page to see all the Quick Launch items then there are too many.

Example of SharePoint Site using Andy's 10 Navigation Rules

As I have stated these are just my guidelines and rules that I myself stick to. Yes, I do mention them in my SharePoint Training session and workshops for SharePoint Administrators and I am more than happy if anybody wants to use them. If you would like to discover more about my onsite Training courses in the UK please email

The SharePoint Awards 2012 are certainly going well with staggeringly over 5000 votes cast in the first week. If you haven’t yet cast your votes please read the list of finalists in the post below.

I shall end this week’s post with something I have never done before. I am going to congratulate Villa Manager Alex McLeish on helping Villa win against Fulham last Saturday and going along way to keeping us in the Premier League. His substitution might have been greeted with cries of ‘You don’t know what you are doing’ but when substitute (and future star) Anders Weimann scored the winner with the last kick it had Villa Park rocking. Maybe , just maybe there might be a future at Villa Park for Mr McLeish.



Binary Republik said...

Sharepoint workflow is a technology developed by Microsoft to automatically move the business documents through a sequence of business process to handle and complete business project task.

Sharepoint Consulting 

IanLewisInWales said...

Nice blog Andy - As a SharePoint Solution Architect at my Organisation, it's good to know my methods are in line with other SharePoint experts :-)