Sue wrote last month about intranets based on SharePoint that “don’t look like SharePoint”:
“I’m spending this weekend hunkered down with the 433-page Intranet Design Annual 2011 from Nielsen Norman Group featuring what they consider this year’s 10 best intranets. As in the previous several years, about half the winners (5 in the current edition) use SharePoint as a foundation for the entire intranet or a significant component. However, unlike some previous years, unless you read the detailed descriptions of the technology behind these award-winning intranets, you would never know that they are built on SharePoint. I often hear clients say, “I want to use SharePoint but I don’t want it to look like SharePoint.” As these winning intranets demonstrate, with a little time and effort (and money, of course) this is definitely possible.“
She talks about three ways to make SharePoint not look like SharePoint – (1) branding, (2) information architecture, and (3) customization.
1. In some ways, this is a really weird sentiment. We don’t hear it with other Microsoft products – “I want Outlook, but I don’t want it to look like Outlook,” “I want Excel, but I don’t want it to look like Excel,” etc.
2. Sue’s comments should come as a very strong warning that given (a) Microsoft has created SharePoint as a “platform,” and (b) many people hate / dislike / are turned off by the out-of-the-box SharePoint experience, then it follows that more money will have to be spent to make it work. SharePoint is expensive just to buy the box; doing something with it is going to cost a lot more. The statistic of last year was something like “for every $1 a firm spends on SharePoint licenses, they will spend another $6-$7 to make it work.”
3. SharePoint is not the only tool on the market, and before you go and spend heaps on SharePoint, evaluate the alternatives. If users don’t want to know it’s SharePoint, and don’t want it to look like SharePoint, perhaps you can give them something other than SharePoint.
4. It’s still a weird thing to say.