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Top branding features of SharePoint 2013 and Office 365

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If you are looking for better branding possibilities than what you currently have in SharePoint, than you will love migrating to SharePoint 2013 or Office 365. Branding is one aspect of SharePoint that has seen many visible improvements in the latest version upgrade. The most noticeable one would be the disappearance of the Design view in SharePoint Designer.

Summary of new branding features of SharePoint before migrating

Let’s go over some of the new features that have the most impact on our branding possibilities.

The Design Manager
I could probably write an entire article on just this, in fact I wrote a few to help get started with branding. Not to be confused with SharePoint Designer, the Design Manager is more of a set of features than an actual tool. When activated through the Publishing Infrastructure feature, the Design Manager will allow you to:

Convert an HTML page into a Master Page

  • Convert an HTML page into a Page Layout
  • Add code snippets using Snippets Gallery
  • Associate a Master Page to specific Devices with Device Channels
  • Work from Mapped Folder using any HTML editor
  • Create a Design Package to deploy

The obvious change is the one that allows you to use any HTML editor right from your desktop with a mapped drive. Designers can now work with tools like Dreamweaver and build a regular HTML page to be used as a Master Page in the future. Then, upload it and convert it into a Master Page while adding any Code Snippets necessary from the gallery. After all that, the creation of a WSP package to deploy it can be done straight from the interface offering a complete set of branding features of SharePoint to implement. The Design Manager is one very good reason to migrate to SharePoint 2013 or Office 365.

Design View disappearance
It won’t surprise you by now to find out that the Design View in SharePoint Designer is no longer available. There is obviously the Design Manager, that tried to be a replacement allowing to work with other HTML editors. However, if you were using it to edit your XSLT Data View Web Part or apply conditional formatting then you will be disappointed. There is no real replacement for those, though many will argue, the other solutions aren’t as “easy to use” as the Design View was with SharePoint Designer.

Display Templates
Display Templates are a way for you to build a design using HTML, CSS and even JavaScript together as a reusable design for SharePoint. A common use for Display Templates are with the Search Web Parts, you can see my step by step on building an animated menu with SharePoint Display Templates to see what it is. If you are migrating to SharePoint 2013, this is where most of your time will be invested as everything will be using Display Templates.

Are the new branding features of SharePoint 2013 worth migrating?

Definitely one of the main reasons to migrate! If browser support and flexibility of branding is important for you, you will love the new version. SharePoint 2013 has been rebuilt with HTML5 support and works just as well on Safari, Chrome, Firefox and of course Internet Explorer. It allows you to build in HTML and convert it into a Master Page or Page Layout without dealing with pesky XSLT and even allows you to provide reusable templates with almost everything. When I first saw SharePoint 2013, the first thing I did after upgrading was play with the new Design Manager and the branding features available.

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