Four Levels of Branding

September 17 2010 54 comments

I want to open up the branding process of a SharePoint 2010 site from a designers perspective. Let’s face it, branding is expensive. Branding takes hours of hard work and with a product like SharePoint, frustration is constantly in the air. I present the idea of using the 80/20, or Pareto Principle on branding the SharePoint.

When branding a site, the most important aspect for the client is that the audience or the end users recognize the brand. Eighty percent of the visitors will be satisfied by using 20% your time when branding the site. To satisfy the remaining 20%, it would require 80% of your time. Usually that is not benefical for your client, your client’s client and yourself. I have divided the SharePoint branding experience to four levels that will help you on your work estimates. Instead of going thoroughly through how the branding on each of these levels is done, I’m just presenting the basics of the concept here:

Four Levels of Branding

Four Levels of Branding - The line should be drawn between System Master and Ribbon

Level One: Logo & Theme

The first step in branding, is of course the logo, typography and color scheme. Uploading the logo, using themable or alternative CSS it’s a maximum of a few days task. Looks terrible but works on intranets and extranets.

Level Two: Modifying the Site Master Page

This is the level where you should usually stop and say: game over. This will satisfy the aforementioned 80% of the visitors. Here you modify or create a site from a mininal master page, use your own styles and override some of the core styles. Style a consistent look for web parts and page layouts and your’re all set. Usually this is a weeks job, depending on the complexity of the page layouts.

Level Three: The System Master

With SharePoint 2010 it’s trivial to use the Site Master as a System Master but the easy part ends there. There is a tonne of new styles to re-brand and you will be moving pixels back and forth a lot. This is where the project starts to fail as this is the first step to re-branding the SharePoint UI. Let your client know that the risk starts here. With work estimates, we’re talking anything from one week to four weeks here and the outcome? A few people in the client’s public relations department will be happy.

Level Four: Customizing the Ribbon & UI

Don’t go there. This is the Ultimate no-no. It’s okay to add or remove features in the Ribbon but if you choose to revamp the whole UI to your branding, you’ve lost it. There’s no way of coming back once you take this step. You will be bombarded with bugs and requests for making yet another button thats visible only on full moon to obey the brand. At this point you may ask yourself; what is the brand and what should it cover? Has the product that you’re using to satisfy your clients demand become your clients product? Not to mention that Piia has a good point here:

“If you change everything, it is harder for end users to follow general SharePoint guides and instructions.”

Work estimate? Somewhere between one month and eternity.

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