Bo is a Principal Consultant for ThreeWill. He has 18 years of full lifecycle software development experience.
Excerpt from “Creating an Award-Winning SharePoint Intranet” white paper – download here.
For today’s corporate users, mobile support is almost implied. I’m sure just reading the title conjures a “well duh” sort of response for most reading this. Stick with me, though, and I’ll guide you through your options, decisions and considerations each with varying degrees or efforts and costs. Just as mobile devices come in so many shapes and sizes, so do the approaches for dealing with them.
To begin with, SharePoint in its current version is not entirely mobile responsive compared to many public web sites. That is, the web page you look at on your desktop does not automatically have the smarts to resize and re-render the same content differently when viewed on say an iPad or maybe an iPhone. When you look at how dynamic the user generated content is you can get an appreciation for how challenging it would be to support such a feat where users author content and the system must dynamically size it based on a device.
Through many iterations, the experience is getting better for sure and there are some features available today that can help. For example, normal SharePoint team sites have a mobile feature that presents a different page with most page content trimmed out but showing the sites navigation so you can navigate to things like document libraries and documents. If you are using publishing sites, there is support of device channels where you can target different rendering based on different devices. In my experience, however, this gives you all the pain, effort, and cost of full mobile responsive but with the added challenges of dealing with many channels for devices.
As of the writing of this document, SharePoint within Microsoft 365 and the shipping on premises version were not fully mobile responsive. However, new features are being implemented all the time including modern document libraries and lists, modern site contents and eventually modern pages which are mobile responsive. All these features are coming to the cloud first and will eventually trickle into the on premises versions. As part of your planning, you should consider how using these features as they are available can impact and your overall mobile plans.
If you want to make your SharePoint portal completely mobile responsive, it likely means that you are going all in on a portal brand with a desire to have it not look like SharePoint and reflect very custom UX goals. A fully branded, mobile responsive portal is going to be the most expensive approach in terms of time and budget due to the amount of time spent to replace, override and rework some of the SharePoint UI. It’s also something that may make the most sense in an on premises environment where you control everything. Consider that within Microsoft 365 you are part of a hosted service where the guidance is to try to stay closer to the UX that is provided as part of that service. Microsoft has specific guidance and best practices that partners are in tune with to ensure that sites built in Microsoft 365 are aligned and continue to benefit from new features as they are released to the cloud.
If your budget needs are more constrained or you simply prefer to invest more on features and functionality than a user experience overhaul, there are still many mobile options available to you. There are free packages available for on premises and online that can bring some mobile responsive behaviors to the SharePoint UI. These are “one size fits all” packages so they may not get you to 100% of your vision but are sometimes a good start. There are also many free and paid mobile apps available for iOS and Android from third parties, as well as Microsoft. One of the most exciting from Microsoft right now (available only on iOS and Android) is the SharePoint Mobile App marketed as your intranet in your pocket. You can find many apps including Beezy, Colligio, Harmon.ie and Infragistics as well that allow you to connect and use SharePoint on a mobile device. Be sure to do some trial tests with several of the apps to determine which suits your needs and goals best.
Regardless of a full mobile responsive approach or one augmented by apps, you should also consider your user’s engagement patterns with each and try to tailor their experience accordingly. By this, I mean users tend to be more content consumers on mobile simply due to the form factor and sometimes difficulty authoring content on a small device. Therefore, if you are going full mobile responsive, you can embrace a clean and simple approach and hide things like forms, buttons or other content targeted more at authors. With apps you probably don’t have as much control, but consider the user scenarios when evaluating apps so you can align the best experience for your users to consume while on the go.