Saturday, 11 October 2008

Designing SharePoint Implementations - Visio Templates and Stencils for SharePoint

When building any system for an enterprise it is best practise to initially scope the project to gather requirements and then commence writing a Functional Specification. The same should apply to SharePoint projects, no one should let you to start development without first designing and planning what you intend to build (I hope! ).

When designing and planning a system, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Good diagrams and illustrations can make a seemingly boring specification document into something that looks visually stunning and very appealing to the eye, more importantly good diagrams can impress project stake holders. A good looking diagram can also convey a lot more information to the reader with a lot less reading.

So what diagrams do you need?

The success of a SharePoint implementation depends a lot on the Infrastructure that is setup to support it. I have seen implementations result in failure in the past, not due to the SharePoint or development side of things, but because the infrastructure was poorly planned and cannot support the load that results from regular use of the system. So to help plan out the logical infrastructure you should check out this page on at Spence Harbar's blog - http://www.harbar.net/archive/2008/09/17/Investing-in-Logical-Architecture-Design-Samples.aspx

and this -
http://www.sharepointblogs.com/stopcollaborateandlisten/archive/2008/02/11/visio-shapes-for-moss-2007-amp-wss-v3.aspx

Every SharePoint site collection is made up of a hierarchy of subsites. So to help document the structure of a site collection before you even start creating a site you need a Site Map diagram which clearly documents the hierarchy of subsites in a site collection. You can then go into further detail and list out any specific lists or libraries in the site and if needed annotate these libraries with information related to their use and security access. Have a look at this Visio Template on Maxime Bombardier's blog.

http://blogs.msdn.com/maximeb/archive/2007/10/27/updated-visio-stencils-for-sharepoint-2007-site-structures-documentation-version-0-2.aspx

With the site map defined you then go in for a little more detail – in order to convey the functional differences between various pages in a site, you should put together some Wireframes of any important pages such as the home page and landing/welcome pages for subsites. Any highly custom pages containing custom web parts or server controls are also good candidates for producing wireframes. Any custom forms such as list edit forms or custom page layouts in edit mode that use custom field controls are also good wireframe candidates. Wireframes are excellent for conveying what each specific page does in the site and lets project stakeholders visualize the layout of pages – they may have ideas and preferences for laying out screens, it’s better for them to request these changes in the design phase instead of much later on when they’re already developed. Have a look at this Visio template -

http://www.siolon.com/blog/sharepoint-wireframes/
http://www.siolon.com/wp-content/uploads/MOSS.vst?PHPSESSID=0ceb4003a8538463cd82af9c27608202

and this one -

http://blogs.msdn.com/roberdan/archive/2006/03/05/543967.aspx

If your SharePoint implementation makes use of any custom workflow, then it may be worth illustrating these in a diagram as well. You can put together nice workflow diagrams to illustrate how workflow functions in the site. Have a look at these Visio templates -

http://www.nickfinck.com/stencils.html or any others that lets you document workflow process flow

Awesome - so now you have a set of diagrams clearly illustrating the logical infrastructure, site map / site structure, wireframes of important pages and how workflows… well - flow. A bunch of diagrams alone is not going to be a good spec. So you need to put these all together and start writing one.

If you are looking for a great example of a functional specification which makes use of nice Visio diagrams have a look AT THIS AWESOME FUNCTIONAL SPECIFICATION I came across prepared by Microsoft Consulting Services.

http://solshare.net/files/folders/funcspecs/entry1328.aspx
http://solshare.net/files/folders/1328/download.aspx


Happy documenting!

Always takes ages for me to make these diagrams and move shapes around though :(

I would also much rather be coding :)




If you come across any other nice Visio templates or stencils online - or any other good examples of Specifications for SharePoint Projects then please post a comment here to let me know about it !

Update -

Check out Jeremy Thake's Diigo http://www.diigo.com/user/jthake/visio for some more templates.

3 comments:

Jeremy Thake said...

Mate I've been keeping a collection too as they are really useful:
http://www.diigo.com/user/jthake/visio

ismith said...

Hi All, There is a huge collection of Professional SharePoint Shapes for visio at http://www.visio-for-sharepoint.com 3 Libraries of over 1,200 shapes for Architecture, Design and High Level Design. They are not free but well supported and well worth a look.

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