Options for Branding SharePoint

Okay, so I’ve been tasked with looking at branding in SharePoint – again! What do I know about branding? I can change some colours and CSS, but that isn’t the same thing.

Anyway, I’m increasingly taken with Themes over Master Pages. You can do a lot with a theme, and one of it’s main disadvantages as far as I’m concerned (the inability to apply a theme across a hierarchy) can be overcome with extensions (though I’d prefer a Site Admin page option).

Another thing that I recently realised (and then discovered that I’ve probably read about too) is that you can ‘apply’ a theme to all subsites by setting the ‘Alternate CSS URL’ on the Site Settings > Master Page page. You can find the URL to a theme on a site that has that theme applied, and then paste it into the alternate CSS URL field, and apply to all children. Cool! And if you apply a theme to one of these children? Well, the theme will override the Alternate CSS – so your theme will apply.

All of which kind of confuses the heck outta people. You’ve got styles coming from, potentially, the CORE.CSS, alternate CSS, themes, masterpage’s CSS files, the master page itself, and the page. I think it works out as:

CSS Inheritance in SharePoint

…where the lower items win. It’s worth noting that the overriding of styles isn’t that fixed – your master page could pull in the themes, core.css, etc. in a different order if you wanted it to, but this is typically how it seems to be. Just remember that last wins.

And the best bit – generating Themes now has tools, such as SharePoint Skinner, and Serves SharePoint Theme Generator (though it’s more about just the colours).

New Master Pages are just awkward, though – so many required placeholders, CSS and structural quirks, controls generating things that they shouldn’t. I don’t think I’d go there again unless 1) it’s a WCM site or 2) I really need to change the page structure.

Options for Branding SharePoint

SharePoint Branding or "Pimp my SharePoint"

One of the things that customers appear to want, and will like about SharePoint is the ability to ‘brand’ or ‘skin’ it. For some reason, it’s something that people always get hung up on – what it looks like, not how it works – and I don’t expect we will have many projects that don’t have the question of branding/skinning/customisation. But what does this mean, how does it work, and what are the limitations? Continue reading “SharePoint Branding or "Pimp my SharePoint"”

SharePoint Branding or "Pimp my SharePoint"

SharePoint Skinner

Themes in SharePoint are tough. I think this quote describes it nicely:

If you have attempted to override the styles on an out of the box SharePoint site, you know that it isn’t a very easy thing to do. The core.css file that contains the basic rules has 979 different style rules.

The core.css file uses a palette of 132 colors and 143 images.

The default page of a newly provisioned team site uses only 61 of those rules.

So, unless you have branded a lot of SharePoint sites and are intimately familiar with core.css and the default master pages and page layouts, just figuring out where to start modifying can be a daunting task.

So Doug has built SharePoint Skinner to make that easier. I’ve not tried it (yet) but I like his thinking…

SharePoint Skinner

MOSS, themes and master pages

So, Joel Oleson has blogged a bit about master pages and themes in MOSS. This is an area I think that the SharePoint team have the right idea, but execution is a little short.

My problems are that we have master pages – which is great. And we’ve got seperate master pages for standard pages, and administration pages. Okay, I’m happy with that. However, there is a mechanism for changing the master page for normal pages – but nothing for administration pages. ‘Cos nobody will ever look at them, right?

Then there is the question of master pages and themes. I really like some of the themes that come OOB, much more so than the default ‘blue’ (I like ‘Simple’). But they can only be applied on a site by site basis; there is no inheritance mechanism. And if you use a master page, it’ll probably override the theme anyway. So why have themes? Why not just use master pages?

MOSS, themes and master pages

No Theme Inheritance in SharePoint

Bit of a shocker – no inheritance of themes through a site hierarchy in WSS3. There is of Master Pages, but not of themes.

Given that you can do all of what you do with Master Pages it does make me wonder – what are Themes for?

Updated: Heather Solomon has looked at it, and her suggestion is to just put your styles in the Master page.

Updated again: Or just use the Alternate CSS URL for your site.

No Theme Inheritance in SharePoint