Using quick guides for training SharePoint End users

Showing people how to use SharePoint either as site owners or just as general users has always been a tricky thing at the best of time. Whether it’s the SharePoint ribbon, the interface itself or just end user impatience, it’s always being a challenge for any intranet or SharePoint manager.

One solution I came up was to create quick guides to using SharePoint as an Announcements list. It only contains 7 items dealing with the most popular uses of SharePoint (uploading documents, setting alerts, integrating with Outlook and so on). More can be added of course. There are two options as to how you can implement it on your site.

Option 1: Save the list as template
This list is then saved as a template in the team sites site collection and can be added to any team site by a site owner to help their own end users and have quick access to help guides when they are in the site. Because the content is fairly fixed and we deal with a small number of sites, updating the template and re-doing it on a site is not a big issue.

Of course, you can have a large help section on a site, but I’ve found from experience that most people don’t use it. I worked on a large global SharePoint intranet which had an extensive help section, a Q&A discussion forum for queries but the Google Analytics metrics told me the visitor numbers were low. Perhaps it needed to be more visible and promoted on a regular basis! Probably.

Where I currently work we have a lot of team, project and business process sites (a new intranet is being built) where people would spend their time. If they have a quick guide in a site it’s easier for them to find and site owners can promote it to their users.

Option 2: For those with bigger sites and more updates
Another option for more control and regular updates is to use a basic web page and the page viewer web part. The help page could be located in one area and is regularly updated or changed. Site owners can be then link to this page using a page viewer web part on their site.

But what about navigation and branding, you say? That won’t work too well in a page viewer web part.

The solution is fairly simple, create a blank web part page with no branding.
1.    Open SharePoint Designer in the site where you want to create the main help page.
2.    Create a new ASPX blank page File > Add item > More pages (it will be saved in your Site Pages folder)
3.    Insert a web part zone on the page.
4.    Into that web part zone, insert a Data view web part of the original SharePoint guides announcements list onto the page and remove any unnecessary columns.
5.    Save and go to the page in your browser, you can edit the views of the web part, in my case I used a grouped view of the list to display it in the page viewer.

So, that way the Intranet Manager, trainer or SharePoint Admin can update the main list and have it distributed throughout many sites. It can be used for many other things such as FAQs, helpdesk support, Microsoft Office guides, systems training, HR updates/forms, etc. where you have broader information that you want to show people but want to keep them within a team site and not necessarily clicking elsewhere. So you have one information source but it can be used anywhere.

You could say, why not just provide a link to a help page? You could but it’s all about the user and the information they need (in this case quick guides to using SharePoint). If the information they need is right there on the page then that is what is needed. If they have to click to another site then they have to navigate back to their site again. So keep them on the same page as much as possible. It makes a lot of sense for  the user. And that is a good thing. It is. Trust me.