Customizing the "modern" experiences in SharePoint Online - your opinion?

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Contributor

@Vesa Juvonen has posted a pretty good article on customizing the "modern" experience in SharePoint Online:

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/pnp_articles/modern-experience-customizations

 

I think the effort MS has put into not supporting/allowing customizations in modern sites is pretty intense. Changing the color (Theme) and manually adding SPFX WebParts is pretty much all you can do in those sites now. Looking back in history, one of the key pieces of sharepoint was customizations and the wide variety of those. Whether it was for hardcore developers working with code or power-user working with SP designer and workflows. I think this is what made sharepoint so successfull.

What do you think about this?

Will this be sufficient for your company/customers?

Are you all sticking to classic right now?

Do you think this strategy will be successfull for Microsoft in the long run?

Do you think your company/customers will move back to onprem?

14 Replies
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thx @Oliver Zeiser for starting this thread. We are absolutely interested on input around this. Would like to also point out that whatever is currently supported from customization perspective, is just a start and more capabilities will be supported gradually when those are finalized and ready to get published.

 

We would though absolutely be interested on hearing what are the key missing capabilities currently and other input around the questions what Oliver pointed out.

 

Your input truly matters, so thx for everyone's feedback and comments advance. 

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In my opinion, the key missing capabilities are to have an ability to:

  • publish custom CSS and JS throught modern pages (at least scriptlink)
  • use some sort of CSR alternative in modern views
  • use some sort of CSR alternative or CEWP on modern forms
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I think there is nothing wrong with adding new capabilities over time or replacing existing techniques with new ones or changing technology. But taking away existing options by adding deny policies without replacement is just wrong. Also making the modern sites the new default is wrong.

I have been involved in so many SharePoint projects over the last 13 years and I have not seen a single one that was successfull without some sort of customizations.

Defining the key missing capabilities is almost impossible as each project has different requirements. But i'll try my best:

1. Corporate design and full flexibility in how the sites look like. This is even more important, when using SharePoint not only as intranet, but as an extranet solution.

2. Adding certain elements (e.g. global cross site navigation) or hiding certain elements (e.g. site settings or sharing button). Especially hiding things that do not respect security trimming and show error messages to the users when clicking on them.

3. Custom page layouts or custom webpart pages. (e.g. multiple columns of webpart zones)

4. Preprovision certain elements befor the user hits the page for the first time. E.g. additional libraries, fields, contenttypes, policies, webparts....

5. Custom Ribbon/Toolbar buttons to enhance functionality via apps.

6. Enrich the site with metadata. (e.g. indexed property bag)

 

To sum it up. There is no real order of what is more important over the other. It always depends on the project and the requirements as well as the skills of the people involved. This is also not a discussion about the technology. It is about taking away key functionality of the product that people have used over the years without replacing it in some way or another.

Yes there still is classic. But how long will it be there? Customers are asking themselves, how big is the risk to still invest in classic? What is the future direction? What will be possible in the future? What if we would like to use groups and teams that depend on modern sites? Right now we and our customers are stuck in a situation where we have to decide whether we stick with classic and make not use of the new functionalities or make use of the modern sites knowing that this is not going to cut it in most projects.

So what would really help is a clear roadmap together with an explenation why Microsoft is taking away all those options people have loved and used over time.

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To me is very important a Microsoft does a good communication about what customers can expect in regards of new capabilities and for how long classic view is going to be supported so we as consultants can advice them what are the best options for them without having to throw way their money. I know that providing dates can be difficult, but seeing the nature of changes coming to SPO, it's absolutely required to be able to talk to customers in terms of what they can expect and when....and it's not enought to talk about roadmap stuff
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In no particular order

 

  • Ability to customise or replace the "SharePoint" landing page
  • More/improved web parts - currently it's too basic and cannot even add tables, lists of links or even change the font colour.
  • View/edit source, to at least keep us going until later improvements
  • More flexible navigation options
  • Custom page banners
  • Alternative layouts
  • SharePoint Add-ins in modern pages, or a spfx alternative (thinking about accessing on premise sql servers here)
  • Ability to add Office 365 navigation elements to Azure AD (provider hosted) apps

 

One concern I do have is that we have created new sites as Team sites, as they support Modern pages. I will not be happy if it turns out we can only customise on sites originally created as publishing sites.

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Vesa wrote:

 

► thx @Oliver Zeiser for starting this thread. We are absolutely interested on input around this. Would like to also point out that whatever is currently supported from customization perspective, is just a start and more capabilities will be supported gradually when those are finalized and ready to get published.

We would though absolutely be interested on hearing what are the key missing capabilities currently and other input around the questions what Oliver pointed out.

Your input truly matters, so thx for everyone's feedback and comments advance. 

 

 

C'mon Vesa, you are turning into a shepherd who's sole Microsoft job it is to keep the flock at ease.

Your response is straight from the Community Manager 101 Textbook, chapter "How to silence threads"

 

You very well know what everyone wants to customize, you have been in this game for years.

You also know about Oliviers UserVoice post, so this reply here is kinda stupid to all those who are watching these threads.

 

https://sharepoint.uservoice.com/forums/329214-sites-and-collaboration/suggestions/13385364-allow-ja...

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Thx Danny for the feedback. Let's be clear on few things.

 

  • We are absolutely aware of the generic scenarios what we need to support
  • We are working on enabling these in the modern experiences, like mentioned in the MSDN documentation and in Ignite presentations - we simply do not have infinite resources, so things happen gradually and input always helps on prioritizing which scenarios will be implemented first, since we no longer wait two-three years on showing new capabilities - and I think this is great
  • I do not see any harm on asking scenario input from the community - maybe someone has missed the previous UserVoice entry or the discussion, so getting more input on the functional scenarios can't cause harm
  • We absolutely understand that frustration around missing capabilities and team is working hard to address these gradually as fast as we can

We absolutely take community input into account around the new experiences, since we want to ensure that existing customers and partners benefit from the new capabilities. We do however release capabilities now gradually, which no doubt causes challenges to follow up on what's exactly supported and when you can enable your required scenarios.

 

I'd encourige people to evaluate modern experiences and take them into use, when needed capabilities and customization options are available. Each deployment has slightly different requirements, so this is definitely not black and white decision. We do highly value constructive feedback and try to align on the input we get from the field. We also understand that it might seem that it takes too long every now and then, but everyone from MS side is working hard to ensure that modern experiences will also support needed scenarios. 

 

thx for your input.

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The technique that worked perfectly fine since SharePoint 2010 was UserCustomActions

 

► UserCustomActions worked in the first Modern Experience releases ◄

and when some names on this list reported that,  Microsoft DISABLED them without notice.

 

UserCustomActions are still loaded when you open QuickEdit in the Modern Experience,

so I presume at least one Microsoft Engineer is now looking for a new position.

 

 

So it is not a matter of programming skills, resources or knowledge!

 

YOU TURNED SOMETHING OFF!

 

All this is starting to smell fishy

 

:fish: Are you guys working on something that will not allow us 100% access to the Browser DOM?

 

:fish: Is Edge going to be promoted as the "safest Workforce Browser", that enables more Office365 features than other browsers, just like Open-with-Explorer only works in IE?

 

:fish: Is all that "Sharing is caring" just a smoke screen, and has Satya chosen to finish that battle Microsoft started in 1995, when they tried to claim the Internet.

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I really appreciate your input Danny and you know we are both thinking the same way. We have had simmilar discussions when all this modern stuff startet in the good old o365 Yammer Network already. I am totaly with you and what really scares me is the fact that Microsoft is putting so much effort into trying to break customizations (look at the article from Vesa...).

And yes, there are still ways to customize, but I will never mention those (bugs/features) again because we know what happend last time.... I asked for support and the posibillities got killed....

So what I am looking for this time is input from the community on "if and how" people out there are actually using this modern stuff. The way I see it, the modern experience is awesome from a technology point of view. But it lacks so many features that it seems hard to believe that people are actually using it in real world projects.

I was hoping, some comments here would prove me wrong. And I am trying to find out what other customers are doing and how they are dealing with this.

Asking this question in the developer community might not be the best idea and I am aware of this. But I am also seriously looking for feedback. The Uservoice thread i have startet will only show the people that share my thinking, but I am not able to find out about the people that like the new experience. And neither will it tell me about what people out there are really using.

 
•Are they sticking to classic?
•Don't they care because they are still onprem? (I personally believe this must be the reason why people are still so quiet...)
•Are they already making plans to move back to onprem?
•Do they even care about the modern experience and groups and teams and....
•Are they really using and loving it?

 

And the other questions go to MS:

 
•Why are you doing all this?
•Don't you want customizations anymore? If so, why?
•Do you think (or does your monitoring show you...) people don't need it?
•Why are you not reacting to the uservoice thread anymore? It is one of the three most popular ones.... (https://sharepoint.uservoice.com/forums/329214-sites-and-collaboration/suggestions/13385364-allow-ja...)

And the last questions go to @Vesa Juvonen :

 
•AFAIK the PnP team is monitoring the usage of PnP. Are there any statistics you can share about the number of tenants that are using customizations in O365 compared to the tenants that are not using it but still show significant usage of sharepoint online?
•Personally I am only seeing companies move to sharepoint online within a few countries within europe. And of course companies within the U.S. But in most companies, sharepoint online is still beeing looked at very cautious compared to onprem. Is this reality or am I just wrong with that, looking at the PnP statistics?

 

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Hi @Oliver Zeiser@Danny Engelman,

 

Thank you guys for touching these modern experience problems and saying it loud. I've heard the same from numerous folks globally. Currently, most of our projects belong to On-Prem SharePoint, so we just check these new arriving modern features and next-gens and after digging and numerous face palms, close with the words "well, early beta preview, on this stage we can't use it and can't even keep it in mind to offer on a project" without a single possibility for basic vital customizations.

My concerns are not so serious as yours, as what we all desire will be delivered sooner or later and as we have less pain being closer to On-Prem in most cases. But I really concerned about premature marketing affords that are positioning some features ready for production. With situations when a manager is pushing to use something like power apps (when I know for sure that this bauble can't solve a single business need of my own slightly more difficult than the simplest) or saying "we consider that there is the mobile access app for SharePoint" (but I perfectly know that this is only a name and I can't show and say the same to a customer), that's just a random examples.

 

Being faced with O365 and SharePoint Online implementations too and being an end-user of O365 inside our own company I have the following thoughts about your questions to consumers and consultants:

 

Are they sticking to classic?

 

Yes, yes, and once again yes and only yes.
The only option we found for us is sticking to classic experience globally on a tenant level.
Current modern stuff is far away from what can work in real-world tasks. It's okay for a pre-pre-pre alfa preview for developers, consultants, and tech insiders, but a total disaster for any production situation and not usable in a real live and business cases, yet.
At the moment, when we or our customers are looking at these "modern whistles toys", which are offered as a great thing and big deal, but the experience is recalling something made by google in the google docs or pages which are awful, so basic, so primitive, that can't be named as a product and offered to the end users, enterprise customers. Any random question "Is it possible to..." is ended up with "Nope, unfortunately, it's not the case".
It's nice that we (consultants) are provided with access to the early baby steps of modern stuff, but I can't understand how it can be offered and rolled out to the end users with a false zombie idea placed in minds that it is ultimately better. Yep, the new modern experience will be better someday, but not now, right now it's a unready unusable toy to disable and switch back to classic.
That is my humble opinion on this as a SharePoint consultant and developer who's dealing with SharePoint every day delivering business needs' solutions to my clients, which are 90% on prem. Also, it's my opinion as an end user too.

 

Do they even care about the modern experience and groups and teams and....

 

We were not able to adopt any of mentioned. Limitations, unexpected surprises, unpredictable future of the next-gen portals make it easier to do not use them or recreate demanded functionality based on the classic sites with our own customizations.
Maybe we can't make business on something which is impossible to customize and adapt to desired processes and requirements. But, maybe the marketing of these is too premature and too aggressive to offer ideas and concepts as a ready to use products and solutions.
But for sure, I would burn with the shame to offer or recommend any respected customer something like groups, planner, teams, power apps. Oh, no, it's like a shot in the feet and a huge risk.

 

Are they really using and loving it?

 

Show us these companies? Not the folks that are writing blog posts about "how all these new things are cool", but who is solving real live related day to day tasks.

 

Maybe it will be unpleasant to hear from Microsoft's side, no offense. I know and appreciate that they applying a lot of affords and moving in the correct direction. And hope the modern stuff will end up with sophisticated capabilities for customizations sooner than the aggressive marketing affords will ruin it down by offering preview versions as a globally ready to use features.

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How can we share a complete document library like in classic view? We have about 30 folders in the library and we allways share all of them.

for now we stick to classic view.

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At this point still I'm advising my clients to stick with Classic Pages until more progress is made on the Modern Ones. Simple things such as being able to change the header image, having a multi-column page layout, etc. need to be addressed before I feel comfortable evangelizing widespread usage. It's one thing if I were a FTE at a company who can work through the growing pains, but as a consultant I don't have the luxury of being able to iterate on work. Usually I'm in for a few weeks and then gone, I would hate to lead a client down a path where they are impacted on burdened but an incomplete solution.

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I only have permissions to build solutions that do not involve the app catalog, do not require access tokens, basically if the technology requires SharePoint Admin permissions or approval, I'm not able to use that technology to build my solutions and I currently see Modern Pages, the way they are today as another restriction. 

 

 I recently implemented a new intranet site with Modern Pages, the repsonse was not favorable, it was actually over whelmingly negative.

#1 complaint by users and management - the huge unmodifiable header. #2 - limited ability to modify the page, #3 - Branding - having the departments logo cutoff and placed inside the Sqaure in the upper left, why?

For now all Modern pages have been replaced with Classic Web part pages.

 

 Dynamic functionality:

All the new technologies, Add-Ins and SharePoint Framework - for building Modern Page Webparts, are great unless you do not have permission to add them to the App Catalog.

As you may know, getting in-house custom apps approved to be included in a large Enterprise is a tough sell. Lot's of things to consider before this type of solution is allowed into the eco system, IP protection policies, black-out periods, long review board processes, long term support issues etc...

Nothing new, but at least in Classic mode I can rely on InfoPath or the Script Editor webpart without having to worry about going through all the red tape everytime I need to build or modify something.

 

Currently I see a lot of emphasis on the developer story for Modern Pages and very little on the PowerUser, Domain Expert, Citizen Developer with limited permissions story, which are the ones who in my experience are the primary solution devs for their departments. I completely understand that changes take time and I'm really looking forward to a better story for the Citizen Dev concerning Modern Pages. But until then no Modern Pages will be implemented in my departments Sharepoint sites. 

 

Sure there's also PowerApps, which I understand is replacing InfoPath and I'm currently trying to get a couple of apps I'm developing implemented in the Enterprise, but this type of solution is outside of Modern Pages for now. Please correct me if I'm misunderstanding but currently from what I've read, there's no way to embed these forms, apps in a Modern page without special permissions, special work arounds. Not all solutions should be mobile enabled, which is what PowerApps are by default. 

 

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out.

 

I really do appreciate all the efforts of the Sharepoint Engineering team, I'm learning all I can about these new technologies which I think are very useful, but are unfortunatley non starters for myself unless I develop them outside of my employer, which is another layer of red tape.

 

I'm just trying to explain why I'm currently not able to use Modern pages in my day job from the perspective of having limited permissions and no ability to modify the pages outside of the provided Webparts.

 

Basically if the technology used to build the solution requires the App Catalog, it will be in a lot cases a non starter and I will need to look to other solutions outside of Modern Pages.

 

 

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I think it's very risky right now to consider "modern experience" when designing a system with specific needs as it doesn't support CSR. Field formatting via JSON for the "modern experience" is very limited and doesn't go far enough. CSR provides endless possibilities & therefore some comfort in the knowledge that you could come up with a solution to a problem when architecting a solution. Since the classic view and modern experience will coexist, stick to classic view.