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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Alsup

How to Plan and Design Your SharePoint Site for Optimal Functionality

As an Albuquerque-based Managed IT Service Provider, we understand the importance of a well-designed SharePoint site for Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs). SharePoint is an essential tool for collaborating and sharing information within a company, and it can be customized to meet specific business needs. However, creating a SharePoint site from scratch can be challenging, especially if you don't know where to start.

In this article, we will provide you with essential guidelines for planning and designing your SharePoint site for optimal functionality. But first...


Pro SharePoint Tips From Kosh Solutions

Somethings to look out for are listed below. Here is a link to the official Microsoft documentation for more details.

  • Length of path limitation – 400 Characters

  • Invalid characters

  • 5000 items per document library

  • One Drive is a subset of SharePoint

    • OneDrive is for an end user's personal information. Think of OneDrive as a person’s "my documents"…. Its only for them.

    • SharePoint is for company shared information. Think of SharePoint as a network share, multiple people have access based on permissions set on a management level.

  • To take advantage of SharePoint advanced document features they must be XML format (.docx not .doc, .xlsx not .xls)

    • If not in XML format, documents cannot be modified in a web browser. The document would have to be downloaded > modified > reuploaded.

  • PDF files cannot be edited in the browser, they must be downloaded > modified > reuploaded.

    • One work around is syncing with OneDrive.

  • Databases

    • SharePoint is not for databases and therefore database files like QuickBooks, Access, PST, OST files should not be stored or used while in SharePoint or OneDrive.

  • Sync

    • The majority of information in SharePoint should be accessed via a web browser instead of synced with a local machine. The more information that is synced the higher chance of:

      • Multiple versions

      • Sync conflicts

      • Slow network

      • Slow computer

      • Usage of local hard drive space


Okay, back to the overview of SharePoint creation.

Understand Your Business Requirements

Before you start designing your SharePoint site, you must understand your business requirements. Knowing what you need will help you create a site that works for your business. Some things to consider include:

  • What are your business goals?

  • What are your team's objectives?

  • What are the critical processes in your business?

  • What is the structure of your company?

  • How do you expect your staff to use SharePoint?

By answering these questions, you can begin to identify the features and functionality that your SharePoint site will need to meet your business needs.

Here are some examples of business objectives that your SharePoint site could support:

  • Document management: Your SharePoint site could be used to store and manage documents, making it easier for employees to collaborate on projects and access the information they need.

  • Project management: SharePoint can be used to create project sites where teams can collaborate on tasks, track progress, and share documents.

  • Knowledge management: Your SharePoint site could be used to store and share knowledge within your organization, allowing employees to access information easily and quickly.

  • Intranet: SharePoint can be used to create an internal company portal that provides employees with access to company news, resources, and information.

Plan Your Site Architecture

After identifying your business objectives, the next step is to define your site's architecture. SharePoint is a hierarchical system, and it's essential to plan your site architecture before creating any content. A well-designed site architecture can help you organize and manage your content more effectively. Some things to consider when planning your site architecture include:

  • What is the hierarchy of your site? Consider using a hierarchical structure, with a clear top-level site that contains subsites, libraries, and lists.

  • How many sites and subsites will you need?

  • What are the different site templates that you will use?

  • How will you organize your content within each site and subsite?

Kosh recommends literally getting out a sheet of paper and start drawing the architecture of your SharePoint out. This will help you visualize where files, sites, teams, will be and how they will interact.

Here are some tips for defining your site architecture:

  • Start with a clear top-level site that serves as the main hub for your SharePoint site. This site should contain links to subsites, lists, and libraries.

  • Organize your subsites, libraries, and lists in a logical and intuitive way. For example, if you're creating a project management site, you could create a subsite for each project and organize the lists and libraries within each subsite accordingly.

  • Use descriptive names for your subsites, lists, and libraries to make it easy for users to find what they're looking for.

  • It may help to create a "style sheet" for your planning. The style sheet will help keep naming straight and naming conventions clear.

Determine Your Site Permissions

Permissions are an essential part of any SharePoint site, and it's important to define them early in the planning process. Permissions determine who can access, view, and edit the content on your site. Some things to consider when determining your site permissions include:

  • Who needs access to your site?

  • What level of access do they need?

  • What content should be restricted, and to whom?

On your architecture sketch you can now include staff names or departments that would need access to certain files and areas within SharePoint. For example, HR and Finance should have strict permissions compared to Marketing.

Here are some tips for setting up permissions and security in SharePoint:

  • Define user roles and groups to simplify the process of assigning permissions. For example, you could create groups for different departments or project teams.

  • Use SharePoint's permission levels to control what users can do within your site. For example, you could grant read-only access to some users and full control to others.

  • Regularly review your site's permissions and security settings to ensure that they are up-to-date and aligned with your business needs.

Define Your Site Content Types

Content types define the metadata, workflows, and templates that are associated with a specific type of content on your site. Defining your site's content types can help you manage your content more effectively and make it easier to find. Some things to consider when defining your site content types include:

  • What types of content do you have?

  • What metadata do you need to capture for each type of content?

  • What templates and workflows do you need for each type of content?

This topic can take quite a bit of thought to work out and implement. This step typically gets complex quickly, so be careful not to overdo it.

Here is some more info on SharePoint metadata:

  1. Content Type: A content type is a reusable collection of settings and metadata that define a particular type of content, such as a contract, proposal, or policy document. Content types are used to define the structure of a document, including its properties, workflows, and templates.

  2. Columns: Columns are used to capture specific information about a piece of content, such as its title, author, date created, and department. SharePoint offers several pre-built column types, including text, date and time, choice, and lookup. You can also create custom columns that capture specific information unique to your organization.

  3. Managed Metadata: Managed metadata is a hierarchical set of terms and keywords that are centrally managed and used to tag content. This type of metadata is useful for ensuring consistency and accuracy when categorizing content. Managed metadata can be organized into term sets, which can be used to group related terms and create a taxonomy.

By using these types of metadata, SharePoint users can easily categorize, search, and find content across their organization, improving collaboration and productivity.

Create Your Site Templates

Site templates are pre-built sites that you can use to create new sites quickly. Creating site templates can help you save time and ensure consistency across your SharePoint site. Some things to consider when creating your site templates include:

  • What are the essential features and functionality that you need in your site templates?

  • What site templates do you need for

Types of templates SharePoint provides:

  • Team site template: This template is perfect for businesses that require project management and team collaboration. It includes features such as document libraries, task lists, and calendars.

  • Communication site template: This template is ideal for businesses that need to share information with internal or external stakeholders. It includes features such as news and events pages, and it's designed to be visually appealing.

  • Publishing site template: This template is ideal for businesses that need to publish content to a public-facing site. It includes features such as article pages, news feeds, and content approval workflows.

Customization and Branding

Customizing and branding your SharePoint site is an essential step in the site design process. SharePoint allows for a wide range of customization options, such as custom themes, logos, and fonts. It is crucial to ensure that your site is consistent with your brand's identity to promote brand recognition and enhance user engagement.

Create a custom home page for your site. The home page is the first page that users see when they access your site, so it's important to make it visually appealing and easy to navigate. Consider using web parts, such as news and events, to make your home page more dynamic and engaging.

Test and Refine Your Site

Once you've designed your SharePoint site, it's essential to test it thoroughly to ensure that it's working correctly and meeting your business objectives. SharePoint offers several testing tools, such as the site pages preview and site design preview, that allow you to preview your site's appearance and functionality before it goes live. After testing your site, refine it based on user feedback and analytics to ensure that it's optimized for your business needs.

Here are some tips for testing and refining your SharePoint site:

  • Conduct user testing to get feedback from end-users. This feedback can help you identify areas for improvement and ensure that your site is easy to use.

  • Use SharePoint analytics to track site usage, identify popular pages, and identify areas for improvement.

  • Regularly review and refine your site to ensure that it's meeting your business needs and aligned with your goals.

User training and adoption

So, you built the most beautiful SharePoint site known to humankind one is using it! Of course, training staff is a critical component of any SharePoint implementation. Even the best-designed SharePoint site won't be effective if users don't know how to use it properly. That's why it's essential to provide your users with training and support to encourage adoption and ensure that your site is being used to its full potential.

Here are some tips for user training and adoption in SharePoint:

  1. Develop a Training Plan: A training plan outlines the training needs of your users and the resources that will be used to deliver the training. A good training plan should include training objectives, target audiences, training methods, training materials, and evaluation criteria. The training plan should also include a schedule that outlines when training will be delivered.

  2. Develop Training Resources: Training resources can include user manuals, online tutorials, videos, and live training sessions. These resources should be designed to meet the specific needs of your users and should be accessible and easy to understand.

  3. Provide Ongoing Support: Even after training is complete, it's essential to provide ongoing support to your users. This can include a help desk or support team that is available to answer questions and provide assistance when needed. You can also create a user community or forum where users can share tips and best practices.

  4. Monitor User Adoption: Monitor user adoption of the SharePoint site to ensure that users are using the site effectively. You can use SharePoint analytics to track site usage and identify areas where users may need additional training or support.

  5. Continuously Improve: Finally, it's important to continuously improve your training and adoption efforts based on user feedback and analytics. Regularly review your training resources and support processes to ensure that they are meeting the needs of your users.

By providing your users with effective training and support, you can encourage user adoption of your SharePoint site and ensure that it is being used to its full potential. This will help to maximize the return on investment of your SharePoint implementation and improve collaboration and productivity across your organization.

Other benefits of using SharePoint are the robust integration with all the other Microsoft products!

Enough reading, get building today!

Designing a SharePoint site for optimal functionality requires careful planning, attention to detail, and a deep understanding of your business needs. It can be pretty overwhelming! If you're looking for an IT professional to help you, Kosh Solutions helps SMBs companies plan and implement SharePoint sites. (See our success story with the City of Albuquerque's SharePoint migration.)

Contact us today to learn more.


The information contained in this communication is intended for limited use for informational purposes only. It is not considered professional advice, and instead, is general information that may or may not apply to specific situations. Each case is unique and should be evaluated on its own by a professional qualified to provide advice specifically intended to protect your individual situation. Kosh is not liable for improper use of this information.


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