Why you should use a Branding Expert for your Design Project

I was recently asked to create an article to show how a person with little to no technical knowledge of SharePoint or branding would be able to create a responsive site in SharePoint. I started writing and the more I wrote, the faster I realized that the reality is that a it isn’t possible. You need to use a developer or SharePoint branding expert or designer to help create your responsive sites for SharePoint. Let me explain why…

Out of the box SharePoint 2013 has made general branding a little easier with the new Themes and Composed Looks. Microsoft even added in the Design Manager to allow for easier creation of master pages and page layouts. Even with these great strides forward, it does not take away the need to have technical knowledge of SharePoint to be able to make a custom branded site, nevertheless one that is truly responsive.

Then we come to Device Channels. Device Channels give the ability to use separate master pages and css for each individual device channel that you set up. Now, they do allow for you to target a specific operating system or device such as an iPad or Windows OS. These can be a great help to a company or person who needs to get something out quick or that does not need to support the plethora of devices out there. Not to mention, the new ones being produced every day. Device Channels are not responsive design. Ethan Marcotte clearly defined responsive design as needing fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries as the technical elements to creating responsive design. If you have never done web design before or maybe you work in the SharePoint Admin side of SharePoint, you may not know what these are or how to create them. I won’t delve into them here, but if you would like to learn more about using these tools, I would recommend reading Ethan Marcotte’s original work “A List Apart“. He explains how these tools are used to create regular responsive websites.

Wonderful, you have read up on media queries, fluid grids and how to make flexible images. Now, you need to learn how to apply them to SharePoint. This is a complicated situation. If you have ever used Firebug or IE Developer tools (F12 on your keyboard), you will notice that SharePoint is comprised of layers and layers of tables. I know, I want to cry too, but how can we target all of these tables and the content within them to now respond the way we want them to? This takes a technical knowledge of SharePoint. You have consider the possibilities for each webpart that is being utilized on the page. Also, the tables that are used within webparts. What if you have an image on a page that needs to draw from the list or a gallery? All of these things require having a technical knowledge of working with SharePoint.

I am not saying it is impossible for an average end-user in a company to develop the skill set needed to create some amazing sites in SharePoint. It can be done. In most cases, you need to realize the ROI on having someone in your organization take the time to learn the skills and find and fix the common problems with the design and development phases before you can release this amazing site or is it easier for you to hire a 3rd-party company or SharePoint Designer to come in with a tool bag of solutions and experience to help make the process easier and more efficient.

What will your branding journey be? Let me know. I would love to hear how your journeys went and what conclusions you came to during these decisions.

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