Bo is a Principal Consultant for ThreeWill. He has 18 years of full lifecycle software development experience.
SharePoint News Filtering – Trials and Tribulations – For the Power User
If you are here it probably means you are having some SharePoint news filtering tribulations of your own or you want to know what to look out for. This post should help you either way.
If you intend on using SharePoint for communicating opinion pieces, noteworthy information, announcements, insights and other timely and topical content you will probably want to utilize News in SharePoint. This is the key construct for communication in Modern SharePoint. News articles can show up in your site, the SharePoint home page, in your mobile apps, in email digests and more. If you are a communicator, you want News, you REALLY do.
Having news for so many possible types of communication can create its own challenges. How do I tell my users this is “Important” (announcement), “Featured” (noteworthy), a “Blog” (opinion piece) and so on? Fortunately, you can use page attribution to categorize news and then configure News web parts to filter. This enables you to have a “Featured News” section of your site, a “Blogs” section and so on, each with a distinct layout.
News Web Part Filter – What You Can and Cannot Do
If you follow Microsoft guidance, you are going to have a lot of sites in a flat information architecture. These sites are stitched together with Hubs and Spokes to allow for dynamic and composable relationships between sites. What? Basically, you can choose today that Department X belongs to Division Y and next week, after the re-org, Department X is a part of Division Z.
The flat architecture design leads to a lot of sites that create and publish news. This creates some opportunities and challenges that you should be aware of with the News web part.
- You can roll up News post from many sites to a single location. This can be a hub, but it can also be a normal site that acts as a place to show news from other related sites that the owner chooses.
- All the news from all Departments of Division Z can be seen in a single place. Awesome! Suppose you want to filter that News (in the News web part).
- You cannot filter News when rolled up from many sites only. It’s not currently on the Office 365 roadmap, but Microsoft is working on it. At ThreeWill, we are also working on it on behalf of our customers. It’s a problem worth solving as soon as possible.
Web Part Workaround for Highlighted Content
If you are a Power User that has been around the block, you might think: “I can use the Highlighted Content web part instead. It utilizes the search API under the hood, so anything is possible.” And that may be true, I have used it to solve filtering News across sites, but it comes with its own set of challenges.
- The layouts for presenting content are not as nice as the News web part. They really can’t be because Highlighted Content must be able to render anything (pages, documents, list items). By design, it is generic and cannot be as good as the News web part.
- News posts in SharePoint have a special author byline feature. This allows the person editing a news item to provide a different author. Think of communication liaisons authoring posts for executives, for example. Highlighted Content doesn’t show this. News that might get more traction, because the author byline (like the CEO), can get lost in the mix of other news easily.
- Since this web part relies on a search crawl to complete, new News posts will take a little time to show up. Usually, this isn’t too long and not a big deal for most users.
- Configuring the web part property filter is also more complex than the News web part. The web part property filter must rely on what search calls a “managed property name.” So, while your page attribute might be called NewsCategory, it might end up as owstaxIdNewsCategory. For most Power users, this search abstraction may prove too much to deal with.