SharePoint Branding & Customization Behind the Scenes: MS Secretary of State Website

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Launched August 2014, the Mississippi Secretary of State website was designed and developed by Mississippi Interactive. Team members include: Michelle Pakron – Strategy, Design, Web production, SharePoint integration and Customizations, Mobile optimization, and testing; Jesse Kyzar – Advanced Javascript programming and .NET application development.

The SOS website was built in SharePoint 2010 and uses the Bootstrap 2.0 responsive framework. The masterpage was a modified version of the responsive V5 SharePoint Masterpage created by Kyle Shaeffer. I added in code from Randy Drisgill’s starter masterpage and also altered the ribbon code and the accompanying css and javascript files.

The site uses one custom masterpage and multiple custom page layouts. The home page in particular is a custom page layout without any editable areas. Each piece of the home page is either a data view web part pulling content from a list, or is pulling from an external source via the SPServices Javascript library. This was done to make it as easy as possible for the SOS staff to maintain the site as it is much simpler to edit a list item then to code directly into a page.

Home Page Breakdown

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1: The Featured Services area is an images library pulled into the page via a custom Data View web part.

2: The Slider is dynamically pulling content from another images library and is displayed via SPServices

3: The How Do I area is a Data View web part fed by a custom list

 

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4: The Featured area is fed from an images library via a Data View web part

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5: The Press Releases feed box is fed from an external .NET admin application via SPServices; each individual Press Release is fed into a SharePoint page via SPServices as well.

6: The What’s New feed box is a listing of Pages pulled via SPServices from the root Pages library that uses a specific Page Layout called “News”.

7: The Twitter feed box pulls content directly from the MS SOS’s Twitter Feed via Javascript.

Use of Third Party Web Part

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We purchased the SharePoint Form Web Part in order to create forms based off of lists that work with anonymous access. The Share Your Solutions form was created by first creating a custom list to store the form data. A copy of that list was then created called Archive. I then created a custom workflow that kicks off once the web part adds data to the list that automatically emails the Business Services director the form contents as well as moves the list item from the main list into the archive, which is then secured to authenticated users only. The SharePoint Form web part automatically creates the form fields once attached to a SharePoint list.

If you need simple forms on your public-facing SharePoint site and don’t want to bother a developer, I highly recommend this web part. Just make sure that it is installed and activated on each server before doing a content deploy or backup/restore to a server or it will break your form, even if you activate it after the fact.

View the Site

www.sos.ms.gov

InfoPath Being Retired

http://blogs.office.com/2014/01/31/update-on-infopath-and-sharepoint-forms/

The last project I was working on before I left my last job was a complex InfoPath “app” that had conditional forms, logic, workflows-the works. I was super proud of what I built because it really was a little application, and I built it, and I am no programmer. Since I work exclusively with internet-facing sites at my current gig, I have had to say bye to InfoPath, but hearing that it is being retired makes me a little sad. It will be interesting to see what new solution Microsoft is coming out with to take InfoPath’s place. What I really want to see in regards to SharePoint is a internet-only version with features that make sense for anonymous access sites. It is so painful to not be able to use so much of the power of SharePoint due to those features needing authentication.

Make a Data View Web Part Work on Sub Sites

One of the things about SP 2010 that has driven me crazy is the inability to get DVWPs from one level of a site to work correctly in another level. Maybe you have a list on a subsite and want to surface that content on the homepage, or the list is at the root and you want to use the DVWP on a sub site. I even went as far as having my company pay for Laura Roger’s time a year or so ago to have a web meeting with her to see if there was a solution. What I was told was that there were a few things you can try but there was no guarantee any of it would work, depending on your specific farm setup, etc. I found some instructions on the web with hacks but they never went deep enough and I could never get them to work.

Last night, as I was thinking about another dvwp issue-how to create a dvwp that displays an item randomly-I found a site that had a solution for that issue as well as one for the other issue. The problem was that the instructions still were not clear enough, there were steps that maybe were assumed but that I didn’t know about or understand. So I had to poke it a while but I finally got both issues-the random item dvwp and the make dvwp work anywhere in the site- to work.

I take no credit for these solutions, I only translated them into a more visual language for folks like myself.

>> Instructions for making a data view web part work on subsites

>> Instructions for creating a data view web part that displays a random item

>> Source for these solutions

New Design Blog

I find myself learning fewer new SharePoint tricks and more general web tricks, as I now almost exclusively use SharePoint for internet facing sites. I started a new blog, called I Heart Dragons, where I will post on web design, user experience, photography, and whatever else i feel like talking about. I will try to get some more content o add to this site-once you go anon access, so much of the power of SharePoint becomes unavailable, thus lessening the new awesome things I discover about SharePoint. Le sigh.

Sharepoint Branding & Customization Behind the Scenes: Responsive, SharePoint, the new ms.gov, 2013 Version

Maybe I can get some sleep now… I swear, I have never worked so hard on a project in my life, and I know I will have more tweaking to do before it’s all said and done… We all worked really hard on this and we are very excited to create this site for the state of Mississippi and its citizens!!! SharePoint isn’t perfect yet, there are many things I would add to make SharePoint better suited for internet-facing sites, but I hope this site, along with the others I have posted from our sibling portals, can show you what is possible right now with SharePoint 2010. Maybe for the next refresh we will be in 2013, we’ll see🙂

The goal for this redesign was to be user-oriented and to provide the citizens of Mississippi the content that they routinely search and ask for. We based these decisions off of Google Analytics, customer service feedback, and webmaster feedback. We tried to provide the most used links in a compact design while still providing an attractive interface. We weren’t trying to create a brochure site or a travel-theme site, this is a state website meant for users to come in, get what they need, and get on with their day. We added new content throughout the site, such as the Governor’s Initiatives  and the Mississippi Maps pages. We also rebuilt our Agency Directory, which is the most used feature of the entire site, in .net so that it was easier to update, faster, and with more agency content.

ms.gov

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Highlights:

  • SharePoint 2010 site (Home page is NOT in SharePoint, nor is the Feedback page or the Agency Directory-they are .net)
  • Responsive, html 5 site
  • Sliders are swipable on iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire
  • Uses Google Fonts, Google and Bing mapping technologies, JQuery and SP Services, a hybrid V5 and Randy Drisgil masterpage, and Twitter Bootstrap

Dev Team:

  • Creative Director, SharePoint Branding & Customizations, Data View Web parts, CSS: Michelle Pakron
  • .Net and Javascript Programming: Jesse Kyzar
  • Databases, mobile ms.gov iPhone app development: Spencer Jones

 

Inspiration: New State Websites Made With SharePoint

It’s been a long while since my last post… I have been working non-stop, particularly on the new ms.gov, which is going live tomorrow. I wanted to show everyone some great new state websites, all made by subsidiaries of my parent company, NIC, that all use SharePoint. Hopefully these will provide some inspiration to show what is possible with SharePoint for internet-facing sites.

Texas.gov

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The new Texas.gov is responsive, with a  clean, stripped down aesthetic that loads quickly. It uses SharePoint 2010, along with Google fonts, JQuery, Modernizr, and other goodies, proof that modern web development techniques can work beautifully with SharePoint.

SC.gov

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The new South Carolina state website is bold and bright. It also uses several modern web technologies such as Google fonts and JQuery UI, and responsive design.

Maryland.gov

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The new Maryland.gov is packed with features. It is an HTML 5, responsive site loaded with custom SharePoint developed features-this site is a good example of what you can do if you have dedicated SharePoint engineers.

MS.gov

I can’t show it today or my GM will kill me, but I can tell you it is a SharePoint 2010 HTML 5 site, it is responsive,  uses Twitter Bootstrap, JQuery, SPServices, Google Search and Google fonts, and it is has touch groovies for tablet users. I will post more on it tomorrow🙂