Tag Archives: Branding

The “Hybrid” SharePoint Online Model

Hybrid

The hybrid approach is not merging information from two different site collections into one. Or making sure an on-premise document library has the same content as the document library in an online environment. So what does hybrid technically mean then? It basically means we have two separate environments that act and operate completely independent of each other.

SharePointOnline
SharePointOnline

 

Even the SharePoint service applications such as the user profile service, managed metadata service, and search cannot be shared between the on-premises farm(s) and SharePoint Online environment. Instead, administrators should choose to either fully deploy a service application in only one location, or configure an instance of the service in each environment. But still there are ways to integrate functionality between the two environments.

The idea is that you first segment the different workloads from SharePoint across the on-premise and online environment. You often see that the commodity services like collaboration on team sites, news sites, projects sites and so on are stored in the Online environment, while the more advanced scenario’s often remain on-premise (think of BI capabilities, Fast Search or advanced custom solutions).

 

So where does the hybrid word come from then? It basically means that we stitch these two environments together using the same look and feel, so that the end users have a complete transparent and rich experience and do not notice the difference between working in the on-premise environment or in the online environment. They can only see the difference by looking at the URL.

Single Sign On

In order to have such a complete transparent and rich experience from an end user perspective, it is important that the end users only need to authenticate once. This can be accomplished by implementing and configuring single sign on. Once this has been set up there is a trust relationship between the on-premise and online environment. This will make sure that if the end users that already authenticated in the on-premise environment (Active Directory), don’t need to re-enter their password in the online environment. So navigating between the on-premise and online environment will be transparent without password prompts. Should you require more information on how this technology exactly works or need more information on how to implement it, please see the following links:

 

How Single Sign-On Works in Office 365
http://community.office365.com/en-us/w/sso/727.aspx

Prepare for Single Sign on:
http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-enterprises/ff652540.aspx

Plan for and deploy Active Directory Federation Services 2.0 for use with single sign-on
http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-enterprises/ff652539.aspx

Single sign-on: Roadmap
http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-enterprises/hh125004.aspx

Deploying and Configuring ADFS 2.0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwHIKlAPV0g

Questions about Single Sign On (SSO) with Office 365 for Education
http://blogs.technet.com/b/educloud/archive/2011/09/23/questions-about-single-sign-on-sso-with-office-365-for-education.aspx

Video Screencast: Complete setup details for federated identity access from on-premise AD to Office 365
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/plankytronixx/archive/2011/01/24/video-screencast-complete-setup-details-for-federated-identity-access-from-on-premise-ad-to-office-365.aspx

Branding

So how do we give these two environments the same look and feel (branding), so that the end user doesn’t notice the difference? This is not as simple as it sounds. In order to make the environments look and feel the same, you would need to design and apply the same master pages, use the same icons, images and style sheets. Next to that you need to make sure the global navigation of both environments will integrate seamlessly by linking to each other’s environment.

clip_image001

More detailed information and things to consider when branding a SharePoint Online environment can be found here.

Search

Search is one area which has some integration capabilities. Thought the integration is not ideal, as we can’t share the relevance of the search results between the two environments. But what we can do is to have either two search boxes, one for on-premise content and one for the online content, or use federated search. With federated search you can do one search query, but get two separated results from two difference content sources showing up in two separate result sets. Below is a screenshot of search results from SharePoint and search results from Bing.

clip_image001[6]

Obviously you can customize the search results page and its layout so that it will fit your needs. Bear in mind though, that you can only setup federated search in an on-premise environment and is not available in the Online environment (see also the Microsoft SharePoint Online for Enterprises Service Description). More info about the search integration capabilities can be found in the whitepaper “Hybrid SharePoint Environments with Office 365”.

 

 

User profile

A user’s my site and my profile should exist in a single environment only to ensure that there is a single correct and complete source of user data. Although the user profile service cannot be shared between environments, it is possible to link on-premises SharePoint User Profiles to Office 365 and vice versa. So whichever environment a user is currently browsing, if they access their own or another user’s profile, it will redirect to the environment that is hosting the service. More information on how to implement user profiles and my sites in a hybrid environment can be found in the whitepaper “Hybrid SharePoint Environments with Office 365”.

 

Business Connectivity Services

Since the November update of SharePoint Online, we can connect to Line Of Business (LOB) data stored in either your on-premise environment or in Azure using the Business Connectivity Services (BCS) component. As long as you have your LOB application exposed to the web, you should be able to hookup the data into SharePoint Online. For more information about BCS in SharePoint Online, please see the following resources:

Introduction to Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint Online
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh412217.aspx

What’s New for BCS in SharePoint Online
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh418045.aspx

SharePoint Online Developer Resource Center
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/gg153540.aspx

 

 

 

Integrating other components

Though it can be challenging to accomplish forms of integration for other SharePoint components between the two environments, there are techniques and strategies to take into account when you are planning and designing for a hybrid environment. A lot more detail about these techniques and strategies can be found in a blog post soon to follow on the power of Prointsm in SharePi

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Provides a complete set of filters without cluttering list views and keeps your list views clear, concise and speedy. Enables you to filter SharePoint using columns which aren’t visible in list views.

Refine filters and save them for future use, whether private, to share with others or to use as default filters.

FREE Metro Style UI Master Page

 

Screen Capture Medium

Modern UI Master Page and Styles for SharePoint 2010.

This will give the Metro/Modern UI styling of SharePoint 2013 to your SharePoint 2010 team sites.

Features include:
– Quick launch styling
– Global navigation and drop-down styling
– Search box styling and layout change
– Web part header styling
– Segoe UI font

SharePoint 2013 Basic Search Center Branding Problem

So, I had thought we were in the clear from the old 2010 Search Center branding disaster.

For the most part custom branding applies pretty easily to search sites in SharePoint 2013 thanks to the fact that it just uses the default Seattle.master for search branding.

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However there is a gotcha, specifically related to the Basic Search Center template. I think the problem is only this one template, but maybe there are other areas affected. I tested the Enterprise Search Center and the default search and neither had issues.

Basically what happens is when you are creating your custom branding, chances are you will be applying a customized master page (one that is edited with a mapped drive or SharePoint Designer), and the Basic Search Center uses a snippet of code block to try to hide the ribbon when the Web Part management panel is up (I have no idea why this was so important but I digress).

Okay, “so what” you might think… well code blocks are not permitted to run by default in customized master pages. They will work just fine in a custom master page deployed with a farm solution (according to comments below a sandbox solution will not fix the problem) but they will fail miserably in a customized master page like this:

4-27-2013 4-05-07 PM

So, how do you fix this problem. Well, easiest solution is to package your custom master page into a farm solution and apply it to the site. The error should go away immediately. That doesn’t really help if you are still iterating in development or if you are using SharePoint Online (farm solutions are not allowed there).

Another option is to edit the aspx files on the Basic Search Site. From a mapped drive or from SPD you can edit default.aspx and results.aspx removing this StyleBlock section:



  <SharePoint:StyleBlock runat="server"> 
    <%          
    WebPartManager webPartManager = SPWebPartManager.GetCurrentWebPartManager(this.Page);
    if (webPartManager != null && webPartManager.DisplayMode == SPWebPartManager.BrowseDisplayMode)
    { 
    %>#s4-ribbonrow
    { 
    display: none;
    }
    <%                                          
    }
  %>

Note: one gotcha you may run into with this method is sometimes the search web parts will error on the page when you refresh it. You can fix this by removing the old web parts and re-adding them. I’m not sure why you have to do this sometimes, but it’s a relatively painless fix.

For some of you, editing these search files won’t be an acceptable solution. I’m hopeful someone will create a nice sandbox solution to fix the problem like we had in 2010…

Great tool available for Responsive Web Pages in SharePoint!!

Web designers are crucial for a successful SharePoint implementation. We all know that. With this in mind, I wanted to write an article for our SharePoint web designers out there. Not being an authority on the subject, I decided to ask someone who has been working in web design for some time. By asking my contacts, I got the email address of an expert in SharePoint branding and UX customization. Eric Overfield was the name on the contact card. I set up a conference call, and very soon we were chatting and discussing UX, branding, artists, engineers, and SharePoint.

The conversation quickly turned to devices and how to make SharePoint work as well as possible in this new and changing set of displays. Eric’s answer was: responsive web design. Responsive web design allows us to look at a site like a fluid grid. The fluid, dynamic grid adapts itself to fit the information in display resolutions as different as those in a phone, a tablet, and a full desktop monitor. Keep in mind that the mix of display resolutions doubles if you consider landscape and portrait orientations available in all these devices.

The author of the original post about responsive web design, Ethan Marcotte, provided a reference site to demo the concepts explained in his post. In this demo, you can observe how the elements in the page rearrange themselves to fit the current resolution as you resize your browser window. The demo left me wondering how a SharePoint website would react to different resolutions by using the fluid grid characteristic of responsive frameworks. Fortunately, Eric, along with some other people, developed Responsive SharePoint. Responsive SharePoint is a CodePlex project that you can use to try responsive frameworks on your SharePoint website.

I followed the provided instructions to install the resources by using Design Manager on an out-of-the-box publishing site. In no time, I was looking at how the site dynamically reacted to different resolutions as I resized my browser window. I decided to test the project by using the following display resolutions:

  • 1200×1900 (desktop, portrait orientation)
  • 768×1366 (tablet, portrait orientation)
  • 480×800 (smartphone, portrait orientation)

The results were amazing. Within 10 minutes, I had a SharePoint website that automatically adapts to display resolutions commonly used in devices. The following figure compares the website in commonly used display resolutions:

Figure 1. Comparison of resolutions of the SharePoint website using a responsive frameworkFigure 1. Comparison of resolutions of the SharePoint website using a responsive framework

How is this achieved?

In this post, I can only explain that Responsive SharePoint uses media queries to match the width of the display in the device and then applies a set of styles to present the content in the available space. For this to work, you need a browser that supports media queries. The latest version of the major browsers support such functionality. The following code example shows how to declare media queries:

@media (min-width: 769px) and (max-width: 979px) {
    /*
        Styles for display width 
        between 769 and 979 pixels
    */
}

@media (max-width: 768px) {
    /*
        Styles for display width 
        equal to 768 pixels and thinner
    */
}

@media (min-width: 1200px) {
    /*
        Styles for display width 
        equal to 1200 pixels and wider
    */
}

Of course there is much more to it. You can learn more by browsing the Responsive SharePoint CodePlex project.

The new design and branding features in SharePoint 2013 make it easy to create and edit your web design, including responsive designs. You can even use the tools you are familiar with by mapping a network drive to the SharePoint 2013 Master Page Gallery. In my case, I used Microsoft Expression Web 4 to browse and edit the master pages and CSS files.