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It’s all about the brand

by Jose Luis Cortes 28. May 2013 15:10


In my opinion there are many things that can and should be used out-of-the-box when it comes to SharePoint. Experts agree that many developers will try to implement something that SharePoint already has, only because they are not aware that a particular feature is already available within the platform. But branding is not one of them. A SharePoint site coming right out the box will look blue and white.

While it may work perfectly well, it just doesn’t attract the user to work on it; it looks dry.  People may use it for a while because they have to, but the effort could easily die weeks or months later, especially if the site is not being used to post or use new information. So it becomes a catch 22: The employees don’t use it because it has no content, and our experts don’t post content because the employees don’t use it.  How do we break the cycle and how do we prevent it from even starting in the first place?

I believe a good branding can prevent the indifference of the user.

A branded SharePoint site includes our logos, colours and whole corporate image, inviting the user to work with us on a warm, friendly and familiar environment; an environment what will make them feel good.

Some experts will go as far as saying that in a proper branded environment, users will not refer to it as “SharePoint” but will use an internal, relevant name for them. For example in a Record Label, the Intranet could be known as the “Gold Record.”
Branding is a key factor in the user adoption of our platform. It is also something that cannot be improvised. Branding must be planned in advance and several areas may want to participate in the branding effort, such as:

  • Top Management
  • Marketing
  • Graphic Design
  • IT and of course
  • The developers of the SharePoint implementation, regardless whether they are internal or external resources.

The future intranet users from all different companies can also be included in the branding push, in the form of surveys or small competitions where they may win fun prizes in exchange of ideas or initiatives. 

These activities will also help them want and enjoy the Intranet.

In the words of a wise man:

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."


Written by Jose Cortes

Konverge Custom Software - Jose Cortes

Jose Cortes works on Sales and Marketing at Konverge. With more than 10 years of experience in his field, he helps prospects, clients, and friends understand their business needs and define the technological goals that will later materialize into IT Systems. Originally from Mexico City, he has made Canada his new home. You can find him on .


About Konverge Digital Solutions Corporation: With roots dating back to 1994, we are a focused Information Technology consulting firm that provides an unmatched level of personalized service and efficiency. Our mission is simple, to build value-creating applications that eliminate the manual business processes in your organization, enabling your team to achieve and exceed business goals and objectives.
Our company is focused on your company’s ROI.

Managing Productive Visual Design Reviews

by Christine Harris 14. February 2013 09:56

By Kim Cullen from Adaptive Path

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been a part of a design review that included any of the following comments:


[ ] I hate green.


[ ] Can you make it “pop?”


[ ] Just tweak it around a bit and we’ll have another review.


[ ] Make the logo bigger.


[ ] Can you just make it look like Apple?


It’s a common challenge in visual design: creating a feedback structure that respects the subjective nature of visual design, yet also generates actionable items for moving forward. In reviews, clients need to know that their opinions are heard and the design team needs to walk away confident that they have clear next steps. This can be especially challenging when reviewing visual design comps, often considered more subjective then the no-nonsense wireframe.

View the full article:

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Graphic Design

Graphic Design for Sharepoint Customization

by Christine Harris 14. June 2012 10:26


Graphic Design for SharePoint – An Overview

SharePoint 2010 is an extremely flexible data asset management system used by companies for things such as internet sites, enterprise content and document management, extranet and internet sites.  Konverge, a custom software development company and certified Microsoft Partner, specializes in SharePoint customization.  While SharePoint is a popular platform for its functionality, clients come to us with one major complaint: out-of-the-box SharePoint is ugly.  Beautiful design is in demand everywhere and to make the SharePoint user interface look good, you need not only an excellent SharePoint developer, but a designer who is comfortable with design theory, web technologies, and can deal with topics that are traditionally handled by developers.

If you’re coming from a web design background, think of SharePoint as a giant CMS – in order to customize it you’re going to have to override and adjust your design to fit within someone else’s code.  Like other CMS’s, SharePoint includes themes, master pages, content pages, cascading style sheets, and web parts.  Custom design work for a SharePoint site is commonly referred to as “Branding”.

There are a few different approaches for implementing a design or branding a SharePoint site.  Which level of customization you choose will be determined by client requirements. 

Basic - There is a certain level of SharePoint customization that can be achieved by an end user with some SharePoint training.  At this level, users can select master pages and create custom themes for corporate colors and even add a logo.   Themes in SharePoint 2010 can be made with Microsoft Office using Word or Power Point; furthermore, they can be created within SharePoint by modifying an existing theme.  However, the look and feel of the site will still be out-of-the-box SharePoint and modifying a theme does not affect page layout. 

Intermediate - A medium effort project may only require use of SharePoint designer and may involve making basic changes to CSS, HTML, and creating a copy of the out-of-the-box master pages. 

Advanced - The most advanced level of customization includes creating custom master pages, page layouts, cascading style sheets, and web parts.  For this sort of development you would be using a combination of Visual Studio and SharePoint designer.


Becoming a Graphic Designer for SharePoint

SharePoint is used by 78% or Fortune 500 companies and Microsoft has sold over 36.5 million user licenses between 2006 and 2011.  It’s here and it’s clear that it’s not likely going anywhere soon. 

  1. Become a SharePoint user.  Get to know the various features and nuances of SharePoint.  SharePoint has design limitations, like all CMS systems, and a good design for SharePoint must work with a wide range of SharePoint functionality – otherwise functionality will be compromised.

  2. Have the necessary technological competencies – Graphic designers for web technologies not only have a background in design, but also a technological background in at least the basics (HTML & CSS).  In addition, designers will want to be comfortable with XSLT as SharePoint 2010 makes use of it for Web Parts.  You should have a passion for UX.  While you may not have to be a .NET developer, knowing your way around ASP.NET environments is required for Intermediate to advanced customization.  You will need to be able to use Visual Studio 2010 & SharePoint Designer 2010 in addition to design software such as the Adobe creative suite or Microsoft Expression Studio.

  3. Be a CSS guru.  Almost every aspect of SharePoint is styled by CSS.  For the basic level branding mentioned above, CSS knowledge is not necessary; however, this is not the level of project that is likely to be brought to an agency.  The main CSS file for SharePoint 2010 is around 8,000 lines of code – and there are additional CSS files to the main one which brings the count close to 10,000.  CSS is pervasive in SharePoint 2010, which is great for customization.  However, there are some hard coded inline styles to be found which can throw a wrench in design plans if you’re not aware of them in advance. 

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Graphic Design Fundamentals for Developers

by Christine Harris 1. November 2011 16:31

In the world of web development, there is a great perceived divide between the roles of developers and designers. It goes with the common idea that creative people use more of the right side of their brain which is associated with random-intuitive, subjective thinking, and a better ability to look at the big picture. While on the other hand technical individuals are dominated by the left brain which is associated with logical-sequential, rational and objective thinking, and looking at smaller parts of the big picture.

However, developers and designers have a lot of commonality regarding their thought processes when it comes to their work. When a project is proposed to a designer or developer both must break down the project into its smaller parts and build upward in a logical-sequential way. Both must use creative problem solving skills that consider both the big picture and its smaller parts.

What is undoubtedly different are the tools used to accomplish the task. This article is meant to bridge the gap by explaining some design fundamentals for developers.

Layout Principles – The Grid

Grids are made up of horizontal and vertical lines that act as a backbone to page layout. Using grids in layouts has been a fundamental design principle for centuries. Not all design uses a grid; however, for designers to achieve layouts that have structure and consistency, grids are very helpful. Grid layout in web design and web applications are an important part of usability because they create predictability, ease of navigation and make layouts visually appealing.

For web, one commonly used grid is the 960 grid. This width is optimal for 1024 X 768 screen resolution sizes. For most layouts 2, 3 or 4 units are desired; therefore 12 and 16unit grids are ideal because they are easily broken down into these smaller units in a uniform way.

The following images were borrowed from 960 Grids

960 Grid with 12 Columns

960 Grid with 16 Columns

The following are examples of sites that use a grid based layout:



Typography is another important design fundamental and is an important aspect when creating good UX. Typography is not just about choosing a font; rather, it considers things such as typeface, font-size, font-weight, spacing, margins, line height and color. Typography patterns have been established for centuries and because users look for familiar patterns to quickly scan pages good UX integrates these age old patterns. Consider typography commonly found in newspapers: Largest font for the headline often bold, medium size font for sub-headline, smaller fonts for the article copy. It would only make sense that an online news site would follow the same pattern:

It is possible to drive an entire UI with typography alone. Consider the following examples from Google and UX Magazine that have little to no use of images:


Serif versus serif

A short and worthy note for design fundamental for developers is the difference between Serif fonts and Sans-serif fonts. Serif fonts have added detail on the ends of some of the strokes that make up the letters and symbols. Sans-serif fonts are simply fonts that are lacking serifs.

The following image was borrowed from Wikipedia


Time New Roman and Georgia are examples of serif fonts while Arial and Segoe UI are Sans-Serif fonts.



Color is an interesting aspect of design because it can be applied to any element and can create or change meaning for that element.

Color Terminology

Painter Primary Colors – Red, Blue, Yellow

Print Primary Colors CMYK – refers to the four inks used in color printing: Cyan, magenta, yellow, black (key)

Light Primaries RGB - refers to an additive color model where Red, Green, Blue light is added together to produce a broad array of color. Computer screens, televisions, and other electronic systems use this.

Hue – means the actual color name from the pure spectrum of colors such as red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and violet.

Saturation – refers to the dominance of hue in the color. A color becomes desaturated when white is added to it.

Value – is defined as the relative lightness or darkness of a color. Value is significant when it comes to defining form and spatial illusions. For example, a contrast of value separates objects in space while a gradation of value creates contour.

Psychological Implication of Color

Color may imply meaning or emotion but this notion should not alone dictate color choice in a chosen palate. How people are affected by different color stimuli vary from person to person and can be culturally dependent. The job of the designer is to create meaning in colors by how they use them in design.

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Graphic Design