Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don’t use SharePoint 2010’s mobile view for internet presence sites

SharePoint offers a lot; it’s a platform that provides BI, ECM, Search, collaboration and a lot more including WCM.  It’s the Web Content Management (WCM) component that makes it’s a great platform for internet presence sites and with the more appealing pricing structure available for internet presence, it is becoming the preferred choice to internet deployment.

Without any effort from the SharePoint deployment team, SharePoint provides a “mobile friendly” view of the site been created.  In theory, this sounds great, this means that we can create a SharePoint site, apply a nice appealing brand to it (it is an internet site, so the look is important), spend some time on the structure the content so information can be easily found (very important for internet sites), configure search correctly and then fill the site with information and images knowing that it will automatically work out the best way to display this information on mobile devices, right?   WRONG!



SharePoint offers a mobile friendly version of the site, that is true, but when they created this mobile friendly view, they created it for the convenience of collaboration, and the factors that are important for internet sites were not included in the mobile view.

Here are a few examples:

By default, mobile view does not allow anonymous access, there are ways to override this, but that should be your first clue that the mobile view is not internet friendly.

The look and feel is not displayed in the mobile view, and there is no interface to change the look and feel of the mobile view, meaning that your internet brand will not be viewable in the mobile devices, solutions in solving this problem involves editing files located in the 14 hive folder, and that approach is not best practice, and should be avoided.

Navigational structure and content pages is not displayed in the mobile view, the main part of an internet site is the navigational structure and the content.  Those elements are ignored in the mobile view; instead, the mobile view’s navigational menu provides easy access to SharePoint lists and sufficient control in managing those lists.  So if you have some hidden lists on your internet sites (like a list to store feedback responses) they will be easily accessible in the mobile view.  Also, since the mobile view is focused on list management (and not the displaying of web parts), web parts containing content and information are usually removed from the mobile view.

Search facility is not working in mobile view.  Search is becoming the preferred way to search for information, so all the effort in classifying and indexing your information is rewarded by providing powerful search functionality, this functionality is turned off in the mobile view.

If you don’t believe me, here’s proof.  Go to Microsoft’s SharePoint site, http://sharepoint.microsoft.com, look and the brand, the navigational structure, and the content and the search functionality.  Now go to the mobile view of this site, http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/en-us/Pages/default.aspx?mobile=1, you will notice that you will need to sign in (thankfully, your hotmail account will work), and after you login, look for the brand, the navigational structure, the content, and now try to search for it.  It is clear that this view is not designed for internet sites.



So how can I make my site more mobile friendly?

SharePoint looks at the browser accessing the site and if the browser is a mobile browser, the user is directed to a mobile friendly template.

The file that contains the list of mobile browsers can be edited to stop the redirect from taking place or you can make use of URL rewriting features. This will cause the mobile device to load the standard view of your site and since SharePoint sites are W3C compliant, it should work fine on those devices (but they will probably have to do a bit of scrolling).

Best practice will involve you doing a little work on the standard view, you will need to create a mobile friendly CSS file and with some clever JavaScript you can load the correct CSS that will provide the mobile friendly look on mobile devices.

UPDATE : Mobile Entrée (http://www.mobileentree.com), seem to have a good solution this problem, they created a 3rd party extension of the SharePoint platform that provides mobile friendly sites. 
 

3 comments:

Sharepoint Consulting said...

Excellent post I must say.. Simple but yet entertaining and engaging.. Keep up the awesome work!

Mr R said...

Great article, thanks for that. Definitely agree that Sharepoint's default mobile site is not suitable for external sites. With a bit of tweaking it might be able to serve something suitable up (this guy has a few thoughts http://www.bloggix.com/archive/2011/01/31/introduction-to-mobile-pages-in-sharepoint-2010/) but by default I'd go with your approach of just turning off the automatic redirect.

Anonymous said...

Nice post about the challenges of SharePoint 2010 standard mobile views! You should also check out a solution called SharePoint2Go that I came across recently from a company called Azurati.