Joel Oleson asks an interesting question:
Why don’t we have a community around our masterpages and themes?
It’s a good question. I can download a million and one WordPress themes, but very few SharePoint ones. Why? Well, I like to answer a question with another question, so here’s a few:
- What’s the market? Who want’s ’em? Well, amongst our customers, corporates mainly. These are the chaps who have expensively developed corporate brands. Off-the-shelf brands and themes aren’t going to meet their expectations.
- Are there small organisations? How many small/non-corportate SharePoint systems are there? The reason so many WordPress themes get written is that there are a lot of WordPress bloggers out there, and lots of hobbyists. How many SharePoint ones are there? Yes, WSS3 is inexpensive – but to work with it, you’re raising the bar on technical expertise requirements. Most blogging plaforms – simple. SharePoint – colossal. And SharePoint Designer costs money – most of the other’s need NotePad, or have a built in editor. Once you’ve started to get into spending money like that, either companies go with the out of the box branding (“we just want the functionality”) or pay (“it must be our brand”).
- Why is it so freakin’ complex? Core .css is 81Kb and 4350 lines long. That’s before you start looking at the other CSS files that you typically need to change – like Controls.css, Calendar.css, Portal.css, DatePicker.css, the HTML editor ones, the menus … ! My styles directory holds 220Kb’s of CSS! Compare that to a WordPress blog. I get why designers and hobbyists build WordPress themes – but what sort of masochist is going to write a SharePoint one for fun?
- Which Master Page? The Default Master? What about the Meeting Workspace Master? And, not wanting to scare anyone, but Application.master and Simple.master, which you can’t change (but can redirect – with code). And your users will see pages that use the Application.master – document upload, recycle bin, viewing all site contents. So a ‘new master page’ is not just one, it’s many, and it takes technical cleverness to replace some of the master pages involved. Most designers are into technical cleverness – nor should they be, it ain’t there job.
- Themes? Themes are good, but limited – there’s no out-of-box way to apply them to a hierarchy of sites, and they can’t make major structural changes to pages. Sure, they can be used sometimes, but again, takes technical expertise. And they don’t style the Date Picker; for some obscure reason, it’s not coded to support themes.
So, I guess in summary, it’s too complex for the typical design crowd, and way beyond the general Web Dev hobbyist community. Most of the designers who can do this sort of work are already doing so – for large companies who pay to have their brand, and don’t want an off the shelf one. I mean, I reckon I can rebrand a SharePoint site pretty completely – though I’ve never tried My Sites (another complexity!), and by the time I’ve done the images, the styles, changes to the master pages, tested it all, wrapped in a feature, you’re looking at, well, days, probably more than a man week, for someone who knows what they’re doing, isn’t aiming for accessibility, and is clear about their objective.
All in all, it’s harder than it oughta be.