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We are going to use SharePoint for our intranet. The perception at my office is that SharePoint is too complicated for average users to learn. There are many different ways to do any given task, and we are looking to simplify the interface to boost user adoption.

For example: a document library, a web part showing the contents of a document library, and a wiki page library. They are all similar yet different, and our users get confused about where they are and why different options are available from each place.

What can be done to make SharePoint simpler for end users?

Is there a (3rd party?) solution that will "put users in a box" ie limit what or how they can do things? Is this possible and/or even advisable?

I haven't found a solution so far in my research; most people who said SharePoint was overwhelming advocated training and/or incremental release of functionality. I would appreciate any suggestions.

UPDATE: Here's a better analogy of what I'm looking for: Imagine an airplane cockpit with hundreds of buttons. Then imagine a giant piece of cardboard that covers up everything, with a few holes cut out for the most important buttons. Is there an equivalent to this in SharePoint? Something that hides almost everything?

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+1 for the metaphor –  matt wilkie Feb 1 '13 at 17:42
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Last year, Microsoft launched a dedicated site for SharePoint user adoption which can be a good place for you to start with.

With addition to the above, I believe your prime concern should be planning a collaboration roadmap on SharePoint.

This will essentially include high level areas like
Current use of Office 2010 products within your organization and how sharepoint service applications(word , access , excel, infopath ,etc.) can be leveraged accordingly.

Define the information architecture.

Identify the need for Document Management and Content Management and come up with optimized strategies.

Some other quick points can be

  • To streamline user experience , you can certainly prevent yourself from feature bloating as SharePoint comes with multiple of them. Just activate only those features that are needed.

  • Keep all the landing pages for top site collection least flooded with webparts. Initially avoid putting up list or library views in the pages. As an alternate you can use some user friendly icons linking to the corresponding list/libraries.

  • Use minimalistic site templates , avoid having multiple pages library.

  • Make the power users use the "Export to Excel" option on Lists. That will familiarize them with the similarities of table-like list and an excel sheet. They can rather visually map a few things in their minds corresponding to the list like calculated columns, type validations,etc.

  • Always have a sticky dedicated training site link appearing on the top navigation. This can prove a major benefit if it contains screenshot/video based basic sharepoint usage like adding items , using the ribbon options , deleting items , traveling between pages , downloading a local copy of the documents , using lists etc.

  • Initially encourage users to use explorer view for document libraries but they need to be using the ribbon after sometime and the adoption strategy must revolve around the same.

  • Keep wiki and blog sites running on different site collections than your primary team sites for document management.

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Excellent link! I had never seen that before. –  ToddersLegrande Jul 5 '12 at 15:48
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SharePoint is complex but the average user never even has to know what a web part is, so focus on the biggest bang for your buck. If 95% of the user base is just looking for a place to create lists or store documents, you can explain that in under 10 minutes. There are countless videos on the web that show this and there are even third party solutions that are available that can offer as little or as much detail as you like.

The remaining 5% are will require additional training in the more advanced concepts in SharePoint, like WikiPages, web parts, page layouts, etc.. Since this is a much smaller group of people, the company can likely afford to send them to the more specialized training. If your company is large enough, they can even have the trainers come in and teach at your facilities.

However, to your point, to simplify SharePoint a bit, try this :

  • Disable Unused Features - by default, SharePoint may have enabled more features than you are using. For example, if you are only using SharePoint for Collaboration then make sure the Publishing features are disabled. This will eliminate some of the options that appear in various dialogs
  • Limit the types of sites that can be created in "Page Layouts and Site Templates" - this will also help keep your users focused.
  • Check your List Templates to make sure that there are no templates in there that are not needed.

All of the above can be set through Site Settings at the Site Collection level.

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