SharePoint Navigation: A Path To Success

SharePoint navigation…  What is the first thing that comes to mind when I say those 2 words?  If I had to take a guess I would say that global navigation (top navigation) and quick links (left navigation) crossed your mind.  Reason is as those are the most commonly used pieces of all sites and not just in SharePoint sites but all web based sites utilize some form of them.  However, is that SharePoint navigation in a nutshell or is there more?  What could we possibly be missing?

The definition of site navigation provided on the internet is “That which facilitates movement from one web page to another web page”.  I also noticed that the definition was posted in 2000 so how accurate do you think it is now in 2016?  Is site navigation only the ability to navigate between one page and another?  I would have to disagree with the definition now in 2016 however, but back in 2000 the definition was spot on.  Site navigation has evolved through the last 16 years and in a remarkable way; as it has evolved to make things easy for users to find what they need and in a lot less time.  With the time they have gained back we also notice they are spending more time on sites learning or staying up to date on the latest trends and celebrity gossip :).  In other words, great way for me to say change has helped increase and build user adoption.

The main reason user adoption has increased is because site navigation is no longer just moving from one page to another.  Instead when you are accessing a site you can move from page to page but you can also select a link to a view within a list or library within the page that contains information you care about.  More to the point and less time dealing with the things you don’t care about.  Great concept right?  Talk about making sure your users more focused on what is important :).  Hard not to be focused if all you have to focus on is exactly what you are looking for and need to complete your tasks.  The bonus is less complaining as this is exactly what they have always wanted and been asking for.  It’s a win win situation!!

Site navigation has evolved through the years and definitely for the better.  I actually believe the name is more fitting now than it ever has been in the past…site navigation.  To me I read that and say “The whole site is navigation”!  I believe this because it is absolutely correct; everything in a site is navigation.  You have the old standbys of global navigation and the quick links (left navigation).  However, what about everything else on the page?  If you have headings on the site for Announcements, Calendars, promoted links, etc. what do you think those are?  Yes they are lists or libraries that contain the information your displaying but they are so much more.  On the page you are adding web parts for each of the areas…correct?  Why are you doing that?  The answer is because you want the users to be able to easily NAVIGATE to them…right?  Those areas are the most important to the that department or team  in question so you are adding web parts or links so they can get there easily.  Never thought of it that way before have you?

Now that you understand that your site is navigation you have to start looking at it as “Can the users find everything easily on this site”, “Do the web parts and links standing out so they are easily seen?”,  “Are the users going to find this information or look right over it?”.  These are all good questions you need to ask yourself when creating any site (intranet, team site, etc.).  Remember humans read left to right so make sure the things you really want them to read or find is in the top left.  Then make sure the things you are positioning in the bottom right are things that are going to draw their attention to that area.  In other words, spice it up and make an impact on your site.  An example of spicing it up might be when you create an announcements app most just call it Announcements…right?  However, what if you call it “HOT OFF THE PRESSES”?  Do you think that might get their attention more than just Announcements?  I’m think 100% absolutely it will draw in your users.

Another thing to keep in mind when setting up a site for your users is to keep in mind that not only do executives like the pretty pictures.  Everyone loves pretty pictures!!  Utilize the app called Promoted Links, which utilizes pictures for links to sites, pages, views, forms, etc.  The percentage of  users selecting images over text is astronomical and on a site this will be a huge user adoption builder.  If you just simply updated sites from the out of the box link web part to the promoted links web part I guarantee you will see an increase in usage.  So think about promoted links and images as you are building your sites or even creating site templates.  A promoted links web part with links to most commonly used apps (expenses, benefits, vacation, etc.) on all sites will go a long way in an organization.

As you will see in the presentation (link below) I enjoy giving way freebies as much as possible.  The hope is that the attendees and readers will be able to immediately return to work and start implementing what they have learned.  For one it will show management the value of the event you have attended, two you get to immediately show an impact to your organization, three it builds user adoption in your SharePoint implementation and the best of all you have pro of that you deserve a BIG raise!!

The link to my Navigaton presentation (Freebies Embedded) can be found here  If you have any issues downloading the freebies feel free to send me an email and I will make sure you get them.  Hope you enjoyed the blog and I hope you enjoy and grow your SharePoint environment with the freebies that will take your implementation to the next level!!

Have fun and remember to make your site your own, make it make an impact and EVERYONE loves pretty pictures 🙂