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I've been roped in to do a few bits and pieces on a SharePoint project at work, it's my first SP project.

The project is an intranet for a govt. dept. with a bit of everything: doc mngt, forums, sub-sites for each department etc. By and large SP looks like a reasonable fit to me. However the look & feel for the intranet was outsourced by the govt. dept. to a graphic design firm and our mandate is to implement that on top of SP.

One of my tasks is to get the forums (discussion list) presented in the same look and feel. The problem is depsite days of searching and trying various things out there doesn't seem to be an easy way to get all the forum functionality into a out of the box web part. I can present the discussion list subjects or use a content query web part to get certain messages but there's always a link on a post that ends up back at the default SP view of the discussion list.

My question is whether this project is using SP in the wrong way? By deciding to implement a completely different UI on top of SP most of the effort on the project seems to be to fighting to prevent any way of dropping down into the default SP interface.

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3 Answers 3

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I would approach it a little differently for customizing the display of the forum posts. Instead of using a web part on a page, I'd create custom forms on the forum itself using SharePoint designer. You can navigate to the list in SP Designer and update the aspx pages there.

Just make sure that you do NOT modify the create.aspx page. You need to make a copy of it and modify only the copy, otherwise the list will break. You can specify your new create page by right clicking the list in Designer, going to properties, and changing the default create page. Forgive me if my directions are not the most exact, I don't have Designer open in front of me.

Marc Anderson is right, though. If the design was done without SharePoint in mind, it will be difficult (though not impossible by any means) to get it looking right. You are basically going to have to redo the CSS and Master Pages in SharePoint. If the designer provided splices for you that aren't SharePoint specific, I'd try to get them redone to use SharePoint's class structure.

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Thanks for the pointer on custom forms I'll try that out. With a custom form is it easy enough to use it with our custom Master Page? It along with the CSS has been re-done by some other devs on the team. –  sipwiz Nov 10 '10 at 0:33
    
You can specify the master page for the custom form. –  Jeremy Beckham Nov 10 '10 at 17:29
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You're probably up against two big problems here: your lack of experience with SharePoint and a design which was done without knowledge of SharePoint. Generally speaking, the design is probably possible on some level, but with some trade-offs. It's hard to say exactly without getting into the full details, of course. I do know that a design without awareness of the underlying platform (whatever it is) usually doesn't hold up very well in the details of the execution.

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In theory the person who designed the solution does know SP as he's worked on some big projects in the past. I'm only being used for little bits like web parts. –  sipwiz Nov 10 '10 at 0:31
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Branding can be a challenge, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that a custom UI means SharePoint isn't the right platform. There are thousands of public websites out there that you'd never know were SharePoint until you peel back the covers (http://www.wssdemo.com has a list).

I think you're taking a slight wrong turn with the branding initiative though. I'm not sure why you'd have to create a web part to mimic the forum functionality when any branding initiative would handle it from the bottom up; unless the designer has made extremely significant changes to how the forums are displayed.

Any branding initiative (custom master page(s), graphics and styles) should cover your entire site, including the forums. It sounds like either you're making it harder for yourself, or your designer was just impractical with the forum design.

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