Wow – That was Easy

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Keywords: User Experience, SharePoint, search, Naviation

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User experience doesn’t always depend upon big initiatives that require moving Heaven and Earth. That’s the lesson I learned yesterday while I was covering the support desk for a while.

One of my coworkers called with a question about something he wanted to do on a SharePoint site that he maintains. The site is organized in support of a facility where he is the account engineer. He has gathered documents, created lists of information, compiled links and a calendar of events; in short, he’s using SharePoint for the things SharePoint is really good at. The facility we insure also has their own document management system (not SharePoint-based) and they have extended access to that system to some of our employees. Accessing their system requires jumping through a few hoops, nothing too difficult, but also nothing a casual user is likely to remember. They gave us a document that describes the login and access process, and my coworker wanted to make that available on the Quick Launch bar.

My first thought was, “stick it in a library called Instructions” but then I thought a little more about his request. It’s not like we have hundreds of sets of instructions, for that matter, it’s not like we have 10 sets or even 2; we have a single PDF file. We have a library already established to hold information we have received from our customer, but it probably wouldn’t be the first place a visitor to this site would look for these instructions. If you’re getting ready to say “search”, yes if you search for the document using the right terms, you would find it, but that doesn’t sound like a solution to me. If you have read my previous blog entries, you know that I am fond of saying that “search doesn’t eliminate the need for well-organized content.” No, the more I thought about this request, the more I realized that my coworker was right. We have a section on the Quick Launch bar called Libraries and this document is our gateway to a large group of libraries; the fact that they don’t reside on our server really shouldn’t matter.

Fortunately, SharePoint’s navigation options let you add a link to a document to the Quick Launch bar. I shared my screen with my coworker, and I showed him how to open the Site Settings, click on Navigation, highlight the Libraries heading and insert a link. I like this option a lot, because it’s one of those places where you get what I’ll call the ‘complete’ link content type. By that I meant the one where you can specify that the link should open in its own window. This is particularly useful for links to PDF documents, because people sometimes forget that the document opened in the browser and they hit the ‘X’ and they’re done. The result of our few minutes worth of work was a solution that is easy to use, fast and most important, intuitive. That’s what a good user experience is all about.

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