Personal Sites or My Sites Customization Options in SharePoint (Part 1 of n)

We all know that the question of how and what should be customized in regards to My Sites in SharePoint often comes up in the branding and customization conversation. I recently had one of those and thought would share my thoughts with you and expand on the subject a bit. I am thinking a couple of blog posts on this one. So here’s the first.

Generally speaking, My Sites or Personal sites in SharePoint have the following characteristics: They are personal sites created by their owner and live in their own Site Collection. Their landing page looks different than your average team site landing page. They have a private view and a public view pages. They don’t carry on the same brand as the intranet and they don’t inherit its navigation. They have their own master pages and page layouts gallery. They have their own web parts gallery. They are their own Site Collection with everything that a Site Collection has. Well… this is scary. Yes, it is and especially when you’re trying to keep things consistent.

So where do we go from here? I say let’s look at what customization really means. Always make sure you define the term “customization” with your customers. It can mean one or combination of the following concepts:

A. Branding – Most of us when we think customizations, we think brand. Brand is all about the look and feel of things; the visuals. It’s about corporate style guides, colors, fonts, logos, and elegance. Brand is everything. Branding includes the following pieces: Graphics, Logos, and Style Sheets.

B. Structure – Is all about page layout. Do page elements need to be reorganized, removed, do we need to have additional zones, header, footer, left navigation, right navigation, etc. Structure is all about the layout of your page. Structure includes the following pieces: Master Pages and Page Layouts.

C. Functionality – This is about what other functional pieces we need to include in our My Site. Functional pieces can be OOB web parts, a custom application page, a pre-configured RSS feed, a links list or a special view of a document library, navigational controls, etc. Functionality can also include third party web parts and features that Users download and add to their pages, or custom web parts and applications developed and deployed internally by IT. Functionality includes the following pieces: Application Pages, Web Parts, Server Controls, Libraries and Lists, etc.

D. Governance and Manageability – This is really about how much control do we want over the security, process, usage, brand, structure, and functionality of My Sites in your organization. This is the scale by which you will be measuring your implementation. Any design decision should go through the Governance filter before heading to development. Governance is talked about in many flavors, but what it comes down to is are we really digging it? How much control do we want our users to have over their My Site or Personal Site? Since each time some creates a My Site, that site becomes their own. Since that’s reality (by default) it becomes hard to control and thus govern.

So now, the question is really what are those requirements for each of the above concepts? Narrowing down those requirements and organizing them by A, B, C, and D can help us look at implementation options later. For now, I will conclude this 1 of many entries by saying that it will come down to Governance and Manageability. Yep, the topic that comes out right after the project is done!

Till next time, take it easy.

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About jharbieh

I'm an IW Solutions Architect with background in requirements gathering, planning, design, architecture, and development (not necessarily in the right order). Currently, my focus is on the Microsoft Productivity and Collaboration space. Hope you enjoy what I write about here. Thanks for visiting. Johnny Harbieh
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