Tag Archives: SharePoint Designer

A communications portal for Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB with Microsoft 365

Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLETB) worked with Cloud Design Box to build a centralised communication and collaboration portal in Microsoft SharePoint and Teams.  

In this webinar, we speak to Marcella O’Dowd (FET Quality Assurance at DDLETB) about the impact the portal is having on the way people work together in the organisation. 

“DDLETB has responsibility for a variety of education and training services, serving a population of nearly 800,000 people and delivering education and training to approximately 70,000 learners,” Marcella explains.

“We serve a network of around 650 schools, colleges, centres and outreach and community-based settings.” 



Previously, DDLETB had a Google site called Cloud ETB that housed all the Quality Assurance (QA) and curriculum documentation.

“The Google site was a repository to house material. All the FET (Further Education and Training) users had the same access password that offered two access choices: editor or reader,” she continues. 

“This presented a few problems. It wasn’t as secure as we wanted it to be, and we had one instance where someone changed the password so no one could get in to access what they needed.” 

We worked with DDLETB to create a new QA Hub in SharePoint.

Recognising that the team needed a solution that went beyond file storage, we built a portal that encourages communication and collaboration. 

The QA Hub home page. A communications portal for Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB with Microsoft 365

“The exciting thing about the new QA hub is that it provides tailored, secure access to everything our further education and training services need, whether that’s downloading a module descriptor, getting programme information, accessing policies and procedures, looking at assessment guidelines or checking when the next committee meetings are happening,” Marcella enthuses. 

“It’s no longer just a repository. It’s a communication and collaboration site. It’s a one-stop-shop for any QA needs.” 

One thing that was particularly important to DDLETB was strict version control of documents:

“To give an example, we currently need to make sure the DDLETB LGBTQA+ Handbook, policies and publications are available. This will be housed on the QA Hub, ready for people to access the most up-to-date version,” she confirms.

The QA Uploader. A communications portal for Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB with Microsoft 365

The QA Uploader is another way we’ve helped DDLETB save time and reduce the risk of human error. 

Previously, users would need to download a template from the Google site, fill it out and then send an email to the QA team.

“Our team would have to monitor the email account and check to see if new reports had been submitted. We would then have to re-upload them into the right folders, which was time-consuming and it was easy for emails to go astray when we were monitoring multiple inboxes.” 

“With the QA uploader, the users simply upload their reports directly to the QA Hub and choose the right report type and training centre. This sends us a notification and the file is already stored in the correct, secure folder that can only be accessed by people with the right permissions.” 

The QA Hub Calendar. A communications portal for Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB with Microsoft 365

Tedious admin tasks are also being reduced and communication improved by the QA Hub’s new calendar. 

There are a large number of FET and QA dates each year that are usually sent out as a list at the beginning of each academic year, with reminders sent out as dates and deadlines approach. 

“We get a barrage of emails asking when the next course approval or committee meeting is. Previously, we’d have to go to a document with a list of the dates and respond to each email,” Marcella reveals.

“The new calendar feature makes things so much easier. All we need to do is send a link to the calendar. We’ve already seen a huge difference in the number of emails coming in, as people are just going straight to the calendar to check for dates, rather than emailing.”

QA News section. A communications portal for Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB with Microsoft 365

DDLETB is using the SharePoint News feature to communicate key information and announcements:

“Having the ability to pop announcements into the QA News is great because everybody who needs to know gets an email about it. What’s more, they don’t need to flag emails or save them into folders because they know they can come to the QA Hub and find the information.”

QA News is also automatically displayed on the SharePoint home pages of FET and QA staff.

With such a big change in the way DDLETB works, there were some reservations about moving from the Google Cloud ETB site to Microsoft 365. However, the feedback so far has been extremely positive.

“With Cloud Design Box’s support, the new workflows make a lovely user experience that is easy for us to manage and support. We needed this to be user-friendly and intuitive and ‘intuitive’ is a word that has been mentioned by users when we’ve asked for feedback,” enthuses Marcella.

“We wanted our users to be no more than three clicks away from whatever they needed. Our users love the layout and the simplicity of it and love the fact they can do everything on one site.”

Our work with DDLETB is part of a wider initiative called the DEIS Connect Project. We have also worked with St Kevin’s Community College and Firhouse Community College (both part of DDLETB) to provision teaching and learning environments. 

If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform, book a free demo today.  

How to add your upcoming events to a SharePoint site with the My Events web part

In this guide, we show you how to add the Cloud Design Box exclusive My Events web part to your SharePoint sites.  

The My Events web part gives you a quick glance at your upcoming events by showing your calendar events from Outlook.  

It would sit perfectly on a home page so users can see their calendar items at a glance whenever they log in.

An example of the My Events web part on a SharePoint homepage

How to add the My Events web part to a SharePoint site. 

Before you add this web part, you need to make sure your Office 365 global admin has approved the Calendars Read API permission. This can be done via the SharePoint admin centre.



 

  1. Head to the site you wish to add it to and hit Edit in the top-right corner of the screen. 
  2. Decide where you want your calendar events to appear on the site and hit the plus button to add a new web part.
  3. Search for “CDB My Events” and Cloud Design Box customers should be able to see our CDB My Events web part.

Search for My Events to find the web part in SharePoint

4. Selecting this will show your personal calendar events for the day.

5. Select Republish in the top-right hand corner. 

With this web part, you can flick back and forth through the days of your calendar.  

An example of the My Events web part in SharePoint

You can also select Open My Calendar to open a full view of your calendar in Outlook. 

An example of an Outlook calendar that can by accessed via the My Events SharePoint web part

There is also a privacy mode which will initially hide the events. This is particularly useful if you are a teacher with sensitive events and you regularly share your screen on a projector. This mode can be configured using the pencil icon when editing the web part.

web part properties

The My Events web part for SharePoint is only available to Cloud Design Box customers. If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help improve communication and collaboration in your school or MAT, book a free demo today. 

How to add an FAQ web part to a SharePoint page

In this guide, we show you how to add the Cloud Design Box Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Web Part to your SharePoint sites.

The FAQ web part is an extremely versatile addition to any SharePoint site and can be customised to create an interactive FAQs section to help give quick guidance to your users.  

What’s more, it’s searchable, allowing users to type in a question and quickly get an answer.  

The Cloud Design Box FAQ web part on a SharePoint site

One example of the FAQ web part being particularly useful is for IT Help sites. Simply make a list of your most common questions and add them to the web part. It can be really useful for onboarding new staff to SharePoint.  

Meanwhile, it can also be used on teaching and learning sites, guiding students on how to use SharePoint to find their learning resources.  

Below, we show you how to add the FAQ web part to your SharePoint sites – it only takes a minute or two.  



How to add the FAQ web part to your SharePoint site.

  1. Head to the site you wish to add it to and hit Edit in the top-right corner of the screen.  

Note: You need Designer access to be able to do this.  

  1. Decide where you want your FAQ section to appear on the site and hit the plus button to add a new web part.
  2. Search for “FAQ” and Cloud Design Box customers should be able to see our FAQ web part. Search for FAQ on the SharePoint web part options
  3. Select Republish in the top-right hand corner. An example question and answer section will appear.

How to add questions and answers to the FAQ web part. 

  1. Select the cogs icon to open SharePoint settings.
  2. Choose Site contents and you will see there’s now an FAQs folder stored here.Via Settings, go into Site Contents to add a new FAQ
  3. Select the list to add a new FAQ.The FAQ folder in Site Contents on SharePoint
  4. Select + New to add a new FAQ. You can add a question (Title) and answer.

There’s also an option to enter an order number. For example, ‘1’ if you wish this question to appear first.  

Additionally, you can choose to add an attachment.  

Add a new question and answer to the FAQ web part in SharePoint

    5. Hit Save to save the question.

Your FAQs will now appear on the SharePoint site and be visible and searchable for any users with access to that site.

An example FAQ web part on a SharePoint page 

The FAQ web part for SharePoint is only available to Cloud Design Box customers. If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help improve communication and collaboration in your school or MAT, book a free demo today.  

Free webinars: Improve MAT communication and save SLT time with Arbor and Cloud Box  

Cloud Design Box is partnering with Arbor to deliver two free virtual training sessions designed especially for schools, academies and multi-academy trusts (MATs).  

Arbor works with over 2,500 primary, secondary and special schools and is the UK’s fasted-growing MIS community.  

Arbor MIS – which is featured in both of the upcoming webinars – gives schools of all sizes the tools they need to free staff from busywork, work more collaboratively and stay connected on the cloud – so that your whole team has a shared view of what’s going on.  

Improving MAT communication using Microsoft Teams and Arbor.  

The first session takes place on Thursday 10 February and is aimed at MATs who want to improve communication across all their schools.  

The Cloud Design Box team will show MATs how they can easily share documents, important announcements and news across the entire trust with SharePoint and Teams.  

SharePoint home page with My Assignments web part showing students upcoming assignments.

Meanwhile, Andrew from Arbor (former Headteacher and MAT leader) will take this one step further and demonstrate how Communications in Arbor allows schools to share announcements and news to specific groups.  

 

Click to sign up to improving MAT communication using Microsoft Teams and Arbor

Saving curriculum leader time with Cloud Box and Arbor.  

On Tuesday 15 March, we’ll discuss how curriculum leaders can save time creating and sharing learning resources with both the Cloud Box and Arbor solutions.  

The demonstration will be split into two parts and cover how senior leaders can save time with Teams by creating and sharing quality, long-term resources and using the analytics tools to monitor what work is being set and completed.  

Following this, Arbor will demonstrate how their Communications module can be used to share information and resources with specific groups of students.  

Click to sign up to saving curriculum leader time with Cloud Box and Arbor (March 2022)

Both webinars are free to attend and open to anyone working in a school, academy or multi academy trust. To find out more about all our upcoming events, please see our events page 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add students’ upcoming assignments to your school’s SharePoint home page

We have launched a new SharePoint web part exclusive for Cloud Design Box customers called My Assignments, allowing students to see all their current and upcoming assignments from their SharePoint homepage.  

Your school’s SharePoint homepage should give students a quick overview of what’s going on in the school community, and their classroom.  

Popular features of a school intranet include the latest news, an announcement from the headteacher and maybe even a word of the day/week to get students thinking.

But, a common question we get asked by our customers is Is there a way to show upcoming assignments on the homepage? and thats why we created this new web part.  

Schools can now add My Assignments to their SharePoint’  pages 

SharePoint home page with My Assignments web part showing students upcoming assignments.

The student can see what assignments are coming up, what class theyre for and when theyre due. The ones that are overdue are highlighted in red.  

Whats more, the student can click the assignment and be taken directly to that assignment page in Microsoft Teams.  

My Assignments SharePoint web part showing students upcoming assignments.

The My Assignments web part has been designed to make it easier for students to keep track of assignments and take more ownership of their learning.    



If you’re a Cloud Design Box customer, you can edit your SharePoint home page and add the My Assignments web part to the page. Please get in touch with support if you need assistance with this.  

If youre not a customer but want to find out how we can help your school or trust achieve more with Microsoft 365, get in touch with a member of our team right now 

How To Make Your SharePoint Sites Look Great

Creating a visually appealing SharePoint site is vital if you want people to engage with it regularly. But you don’t need to spend hours designing and curating your sites for them to look good.

We’ve created a video to show you that it’s possible to create a professional and captivating SharePoint site in under 20 minutes. By sticking to our top tips, you can make sure your organisation’s SharePoint sites look clean and well-designed while remaining practical and informative.



Get inspired by the SharePoint look book.

Microsoft has put together a free resource filled with inspiration for SharePoint sites, whether you need pages for news, announcements, resources or training.

The beauty of the look book is that if you see a site you like, you can add it to your SharePoint as a starting point.

SharePoint look book

Use high-quality images.

Inject life into your SharePoint site by using eye-catching imagery.

There are plenty of free and high-quality image resources out there, so you don’t necessarily need to spend money on bringing a photographer in to take team photos.

The SharePoint look book is a great place to download professional photos, and SharePoint itself has an image library filled with all types of pictures to suit your needs.

By filling your site engaging imagery, you’re already halfway there to making it look good.

SharePoint Design

Stick to a colour scheme.

Once you start playing with colour in SharePoint, you can truly make a site your own. Use your brand colours and stick to a simple colour palette of around 2-4 shades to keep everything looking consistent and professional.

You could go one step further and bear this colour scheme in mind when selecting images for the site.

Section variety.

When you have lots of content to showcase, important messages can easily get lost in the noise.

Make sure you break up your content into logical sections and ensure these sections look distinctive from each other.

Again, use colours to differentiate each section. As Tony shows in the video demonstration, you can make some areas pop with a brighter hue, followed by a simple muted tone for the next section.

Be sure to use different layouts for each section and mix it up with your column numbers and sizes.

SharePoint sections

Think about spacing.

Avoid cramming your pages full of content and instead separate out elements with spacers. A bonus tip to ensure your spacing is consistent throughout is to stick to a specific spacer size, for example, 20 pixels.

SharePoint spacing

Toggle Between Published and Edit Mode.

When editing a SharePoint site, it’s easy to get fixated on how it looks in Edit mode rather than what it will look like when finally published.

Switch between Published and Edit mode to give yourself a chance to step back and look at it through the eyes of your users.

Engaging content.

It’s all well and good creating an attractive SharePoint site, but you also need to ensure the content is relevant, engaging and adding value to your end-users if you want them to use the site consistently.

Think creatively and don’t be afraid to add some fun, light-hearted content in there.

As you can see from our demo video, Tony uses a Word of the Day web part and also a short message from the CEO. It’s about finding the balance between this type of content and your more serious stuff, like policies and company updates.

Engaging Content

Additionally, make sure your SharePoint site isn’t static is by adding the News web part that links in and pulls content from your company news pages so your readers will always have the latest articles and updates at their fingertips.

If you have any questions about creating SharePoint sites for your organisation, please get in touch with a member of our team right now.

SUGUK Leeds – Branding SharePoint using Application Customizers

Note: this is an updated blog post to include reference material and demos from the SUGUK meeting in Leeds on 5th September 2017.

I’ve been a SharePoint designer now for over 10 years. By designer, I mean changing the look and feel of SharePoint. Not just adding simple themes, but making SharePoint, “not look like SharePoint”.

It’s a common request for companies and schools to have an intranet or communication portal which reflects their brand and identity. Although Microsoft have come along in leaps and bounds in this area with out-of-the-box options, it’s still a common requirement for some deeper unique branding.

The ways in which we apply design customisations have changed over the years. From MasterPages and themes to custom actions, the landscape has been ever-changing but moving slowly towards JavaScript and client-side customisation.

The most recent SharePoint UI (modern experience) gives designers the opportunity to deploy custom headers and footers to all new SharePoint pages. To make these customisations, we need to use the new SharePoint framework. Projects are built using web stack tools and libraries such as Node.js, Yeoman and Gulp. I’ve provided an overview of these on previous blog posts last year:

Getting started with the new SharePoint framework

Creating a picture library slideshow using jQuery cycle

Demos from SUGUK Leeds on 5th September 2017.

DEMO 2 – Adding HTML and CSS to the Top placeholder

Demo 2 on Github

DEMO 3 – Add Google Analytics, Get Announcements using REST, Show Date and Time, Import jQuery and jQuery Cycle 2

Demo 3 on Github



Note: This is a new video for the release candidate of SharePoint framework extensions.

In the video above, I show how design has changed over the years and I create a new Application Customizer SharePoint framework extension using TypeScript and SASS for design purposes.

It’s an exciting time to be a SharePoint designer and the quicker these extensions are released as general availability, the better! We can then start updating customisations and switching clients over to the new pages.

Branding SharePoint using Application Customizers

I’ve been a SharePoint designer now for over 10 years. By designer, I mean changing the look and feel of SharePoint. Not just adding simple themes, but making SharePoint, “not look like SharePoint”.

It’s a common request for companies and schools to have an intranet or communication portal which reflects their brand and identity. Although Microsoft have come along in leaps and bounds in this area with out-of-the-box options, it’s still a common requirement for some deeper unique branding.

The ways in which we apply design customisations have changed over the years. From MasterPages and themes to custom actions, the landscape has been ever-changing but moving slowly towards JavaScript and client-side customisation.

The most recent SharePoint UI (modern experience) gives designers the opportunity to deploy custom headers and footers to all new SharePoint pages. To make these customisations, we need to use the new SharePoint framework. Projects are built using web stack tools and libraries such as Node.js, Yeoman and Gulp. I’ve provided an overview of these on previous blog posts last year:

Getting started with the new SharePoint framework

Creating a picture library slideshow using jQuery cycle



In the video above, I show how design has changed over the years and I create a new Application Customizer SharePoint framework extension using TypeScript and SASS for design purposes.

It’s an exciting time to be a SharePoint designer and the quicker these extensions are released as general availability, the better! We can then start updating customisations and switching clients over to the new pages.

SharePoint Virtual Summit 2017

The 2017 SharePoint virtual summit took place last week. The previous year had seen a brave new bold redesign of SharePoint into a modern experience. This year we had exciting new announcements building on last year’s vision.

New OneDrive and SharePoint Sync Client

The new version of OneDrive sync client will map out the entire contents of SharePoint and OneDrive libraries without syncing them across. Documents will only be synced when requested on-demand or when a document is opened and edited.

OneDrive Files On Demand

This is great news and solves two problems faced by OneDrive users:

  • Large OneDrive/SharePoint libraries consumed large amounts of local storage syncing across
  • Possibility of errors when large numbers of files synced at once

A new unified sharing interface will be rolled out across OneDrive and SharePoint for a simpler experience. This feature will also be available in windows explorer.

SharePoint Virtual Summit

Communication portals

SharePoint released a new experience team site last year. It has now matured with developers creating third party web parts using the SharePoint Framework. Microsoft have now released a new type of site called a communication portal. This site replaces the older publishing sites used for company intranets. Although the new site is responsive out-of-the-box, we can now apply custom branding and functionality extending this into a true intranet experience.

SharePoint Communication Portal

Integration with Flow and PowerApps

These two new Office 365 apps are gaining momentum as modern replacements for SharePoint Designer Workflows and InfoPath Forms Designer.

Microsoft Flow creates workflows that can integrate with almost any product including Google Calendar, Twitter, Slack and a whole host of other services. Flow will have tighter integration with SharePoint and Flows can be created directly from list views.

PowerApps empowers users to create useful mobile friendly apps with no code for SharePoint and OneDrive. This has now been extended to integrate directly into a SharePoint page. PowerApps can now act as the custom form for SharePoint list data. This was a task previously done using InfoPath Designer or custom code.

SharePoint with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow

There was also news of a more powerful personalised search and much more. You can read the Microsoft review from Jeff Teper here.

So, it’s another exciting year ahead for the SharePoint and Office community!

Machine Learning with Cognitive Services API in Microsoft Flow

I recently attended a fascinating talk on machine learning by Martin Kearn and an implementation of this in Microsoft Flow by Mark Stokes. Did you know that there are APIs to access machine learning functionality via Microsoft’s Cognitive Services API? Did you also know that you can easily connect to these services in Office 365?

Microsoft Flow

Take a look at the available APIs and try them for free here.

The APIs give you access to computer vision, face emotion, face detection, text analytics, translators and much more. Microsoft have really opened up machine learning to the average developer (or non-developer)!

In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to use the text analytics cognitive API in Microsoft Flow without any code at all. If you are not familiar with Flow, check out some of my earlier posts.

Starting in Microsoft Flow, search the templates for “Text analytics”. Some interesting starter templates appear including analysing text for positive or negative sentiment via Twitter, Yammer and email. The returned sentiment value can then be used to start an action or chain of events. Have you ever wanted to be alerted to a negative email from the boss? Well now there is a template for it!

Microsoft Flow

In this example, I’m going to use the “Get emails for positive tweets” template. I want to get notified by email when I receive tweets which are very positive in sentiment.

Microsoft Flow

From this screen, you can see that the services involved in this Flow are Twitter, Text Analytics and Mail. Select “Use this template” and sign into each service.

When you get to the Text Analytics service, you will be required to enter a connection name and account key. To get this go to the Azure Text Analytics site and sign up for a free account (if you don’t already have one) by going to Getting started.

Once you have the account setup, navigate to your account keys in the Azure portal (as shown below).

Microsoft Azure Sentiment API

Copy and paste the account name and key 1 into the Flow connector.

Microsoft Flow connectors

In my Flow, I have used the hashtag #msflowtextanalytics as my trigger. If anyone uses that hashtag on Twitter, it will start the Flow.

Microsoft Flow

I’ve left the condition as 0.7. This means if the API returns a 70% positive sentiment rating, it will send the email.

Microsoft Flow Email properties

Finally, fill in the email details to complete the Flow. The template email will show who sent the positive tweet and the sentiment score from the API.

Publish the Flow and go to Twitter to test it out.

Twitter hashtag tweet

The Flow can take around 2 minutes to run but you should eventually receive an email with the name of the person sending the tweet and the score from the sentiment API.

Microsoft Flow Email

There are many uses for this in real world scenarios. Marketing and PR departments could use a very similar template to detect any negative tweets. That could then trigger an email for manual intervention or you could automatically direct message the user and open a support ticket. It could save huge amounts of time watching and sorting through thousands of tweets manually.

There are connectors for SharePoint, Instagram, Office 365 Email, and much much more. Imagine integrating all of these separate systems into one workflow (you couldn’t do that in SharePoint Designer).

Exciting times for machine learning and very powerful tools for those of us who are not developers or data scientists.