Customization Best Practices for SharePoint Users

January 19, 2012

SharePoint customization has become a whole world, a whole community unto itself.  The reason is simple, almost every feature of SharePoint is customizable.  Furthermore, many specialists defend that SharePoint is only useful when it is fully customized.  Out-of-the-box, SharePoint is simply a blank slate, an infrastructure.

Gale Pomper offers her insights on the topic in “SharePoint Customization Best Practices.” The piece is a white paper offered through Global Knowledge.  While written before the SharePoint 2010 release, many of the principles still stand.

Pomper gives an overview of what can and cannot be customized in SharePoint:

It might be easier to define what cannot be customized because almost every aspect of the SharePoint implementation can be customized, including applications, look and feel, and web parts. Some of the more commonly implemented customizations are identified in the table below. But first, let’s discuss one element of SharePoint that cannot be customized – the SQL Server database.

Pomper goes on to offer her top ten suggestions for customization, as the case has already been made for the need for customization.  However, the overarching question is why so much customization is needed in the first place. With SharePoint being such a highly used enterprise solution, shouldn’t developers have a good grasp on what is desired and strive to implement those changes?

This brings us to the discussion of third-party solutions.  One we particularly like is Fabasoft Mindbreeze.  Mindbreeze implements smart features out-of-the-box, saving administrators and end-users time and energy.  One smart feature that we will highlight is the Fabasoft Mindbreeze query language.

The Fabasoft Mindbreeze Query Language is a powerful query language by itself.  Users can intersect document hits using an AND expression, join hits with an OR expression, restrict queries to metadata, and much more.  Despite our powerful query language, sometimes you need to customize the query language to your own domain specific requirements. Because of this Fabasoft Mindbreeze provides an API extension point, which makes it possible to transform a given query. The possibilities are manifold: transformations can replace, extend or even remove parts of query expressions.

This is an example of a smart customization option.  What SharePoint offers as customizable features are often features that should be included out-of-the-box.   However, with a smart third party solution like Fabasoft Mindbreeze, customization is optimized for an enhanced user experience.

Emily Rae Aldridge, January 19, 2012

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