One of my favorite things to do when designing a new SharePoint 2010 branding feature is the planning phase. I know what you’re thinking, “you actually enjoy going back and forth, spinning your wheels with customer design teams who take weeks to make decisions?” Yes, I do.
Before doing any actual design work, I love to use a tool called Balsamiq Mockups (really great, friendly team over there by the way). Using this tool you can quickly and easily make wire frame mockups and review them with decision makers to get your layouts right. I’ve made a template for SharePoint 2010 – screenshot below – you can download free here .
Although it can be tedious and sometimes annoying, it really helps flush out all the bad design thoughts many people have. Believe it or not everyone is an “expert” when it comes to design and the look and feel of their corporate image. I’ve run into a few really good designers or folks with good constructive minds, but more often than not people just want to be a part of it more than actually focusing on the best option.
Anyways… to aid in the process I always recommend going through the same steps to successful design:
- LISTEN: Understand the customer’s needs and really understand their end goal. Remember, budget and timeline often must take priority over extra features, as much as you might want to go above and beyond.
- VALIDATE: Make sure the right key business decision makers have not only reviewed, but also signed off on what you’re thinking. This needs to be done every step of the way really, not just in the beginning.
- INITIATE: Start making layouts! Using tools like Balsamiq Mockups is really helpful here, making simple and quick wire frame designs. Balsamiq is great because it doesn’t focus on style – ignore colors, fonts, images, etc at this point – really focus on the structure. You need the foundation before you build a skyscraper, designing an application is no different.
- STYLE: My favorite part by far, here’s where you actually spend the time to make it look cool. Again, it’s important to validate, validate, validate every step of the way.
- APPROVAL: Of course you’ll need that final approval and sign off from not just the core team, but the business as well. If your main sponsor/contact hasn’t scheduled this make sure you do!
- PUBLISH: You’re live! Consider it closed? Nope, not yet… always remember the post-launch support and tweaks that will follow.