What kind of SharePoint site should you create?

Web 2.0 is one of those things everyone is talking about. If you’re implementing Web 2.0 with Microsoft technologies, this usually leads to a SharePoint conversation. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007) includes built-in templates for all the different types of trendy Web 2.0 sites, but which one is the right one for your specific need? Well, that decision is not as easy as it seems.

The main Web 2.0 sites will include Wikis, Blogs, Forms, Surveys and other types custom pages, by themselves or combined into a personal, team, departmental or corporate site. Choosing exactly what fits best to your project will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish. You will need to define the scope of the site. You should also figure out who will create content and who will consume that content. Keep in mind that you might actually need multiple sites, in some sort of hierarchy.

In many cases, you or someone in your group might be experienced with a specific type of site. In that case,  it’s common to try to turn every need into that specific type, even if that’s not exactly what it’s designed for. For instance, if you’ve always liked wikis and have a lot of experience with a specific product that was created around the wiki concept, you might want to design every Web 2.0 site as a wiki. This is not unlike the person that knows Excel really well and thinks of every document as an Excel spreadsheet, including proposals, flowcharts, project plans, data entry forms and presentations.

Wikis are usually targeted at scenarios where everyone can change the content. Blogs are usually more restrictive, with a single individual creating post and everyone else allowed only to provide comments. In a survey, everyone can express their opinion, but within a predefined template. A more classic publishing site will allow a select few to write the content and everyone else can only read.

Type Who can post Who can read Structure Options
Wiki Everyone Everyone Web Page History track with option to restore a previous version
Blog One Everyone Web Page Option to categorize and rate posts, provide comments
Publishing Site Few Everyone Web page Option to approve content before publishing
Document Library Everyone Everyone Files Version control, check in/out
Download Site Few Everyone Files Rate and track number of downloads
List or Form Everyone Everyone Predefined fields Option to filter and sort data
Survey Everyone Few Predefined fields Option to show summary of responses
Dashboard No one Everyone Predefined fields Data gathered automatically

Keep in mind that those are just the typical scenarios. You could certainly have everyone in a team creating entries in a blog and a wiki where just one person can edit the pages. Also remember that the meaning of "everyone" will vary depending of the scope of the site. Speaking of scope, there are typically personal sites, team sites, departmental sites, corporate intranet sites and public web sites. Each one of those lends itself to a specific type of content. Here are some ideas:

Scope Type of content
Personal Site Blogs fit well here, as well as publishing. Some use this as a download site for content created by an individual
Team Site Typically centered around document sharing, with some lists, forms and surveys. Could also work well as a wiki
Departmental site Traditionally a publishing site, with some interaction by surveys, lists and forms. Usually also includes dashboards, links to team sites, directors’ blog and download of documents
Corporate Intranet Publishing is the norm, with feedback options like surveys and forms. Download sites and dashboards are also common.  Typically also includes a search portal and a site directory
Public Web Site Publishing, download site and surveys are typical.

SharePoint includes built-in support and templates for most of the different sites I mentioned above and you can also customize it with workflows, custom forms, permissions and more a sophisticated layout than what’s included out-of-the-box. However, the most important decisions are the kinds of interaction and the scope of your site. And please take everything I shared here just as a starting point in your design. The beauty of Web 2.0 sites is that you can create unique combinations that fit your specific scenario.

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