Tag Archives: SharePoint Tony

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.

Office 365 User Adoption Podcast Episode 3 – Cornerstone Academy Trust

SharePoint, Class Notebook and Teams forms the foundation for curriculum delivery at The Cornerstone Academy Trust.

Hearing stories about how other schools and academies are thriving with Office 365 and SharePoint is a great way to feel inspired.

Our new podcast series focuses on real-life user adoption cases and aims to encourage a community resource for those who are interested in how Microsoft can help you, and your pupils, achieve more.

In our third episode, Tony Phillips, Cloud Design Box Founder and Darren Hemming, our Operations Manager, spoke with Jonathan Bishop, CEO of The Cornerstone Academy Trust.



The headteacher – who has been teaching for the past 25 years – offers some real insight into the way Office 365 and SharePoint can be embraced in and outside of the classroom.

“Office 365, SharePoint and – in particular – Class Notebook, has had a huge impact on our Trust. OneNote totally underpins our lesson planning, teaching and student engagement – before, during and after lessons,” Jonathan enthuses.

“It’s the one fundamental tool in Office 365 that supports our whole curriculum delivery.”

The Cornerstone Academy Trust is a multi-academy trust that currently covers Broadclyst Community Primary School, Westclyst Community Primary School and The Cornerstone Teaching School.

Supporting children from the age of two through to 11, the Trust places technology firmly at the helm of the school ethos.

“We have invested in a number of Surface Pro tablets so that our students can access learning resources from wherever they are in the school or at home,” he tells us.

Jonathan describes one typical use of OneNote in the classroom:

“Teachers write on the whiteboard in digital ink, and this immediately syncs to the pupils’ tablets. This content is then used during smaller, targeted group sessions. And, when they get home, students seamlessly pick up what they were doing during the day, further strengthening their learning.”

All learning resources are available at the child’s fingertips, while teachers can work together and prepare valuable learning materials for students.



“We’ve worked with Cloud Design Box to configure each Class Notebook into different zones: one for teacher content, a collaborative zone for on-going projects and a personal area for each child.”

Permissions and roles can be set with ease for each resource. For example, teacher content is read-only and cannot be edited by pupils, while personal pupil areas can only be accessed by the individual and their teacher.

“Parents can also view the content to see what their children are up to in school, whether this is tracking progress or watching a video of their nursery-aged child learn about butterflies.”

More recently, Cloud Design Box has worked with the Trust to integrate Class Notebook with the communications tool Microsoft Teams.

“Teams has built on the strong system we already had in place. It’s added an extra layer of support to our teaching and learning,” Jonathan reveals.

“The ability to chat about work in targeted groups enhances the learner experience and combines the structure of individual assignments with a collaborative team-driven approach – similar to how adults would in the office.”

In fact, Jonathan is very passionate about how digital tools like SharePoint and Office 365 equip pupils with the skills needed for future employment.

Currently, there is a debate about whether or not we are losing traditional skills, such as handwriting and literacy, but Jonathan argues that tablets and technology are complementing education.

“We don’t think of technology as replacing traditional skills, we think of it as allowing a pupil to gain new, 21st century skills that they’ll use in the workplace.”

Some final takeaways from Jonathan:

  • Digital is enhancing the classroom.
  • SharePoint is a solid foundation for curriculum delivery.
  • Collaboration tools empower students to develop skills for their futures.

Creating a quiz using Microsoft Forms in OneNote

Microsoft Forms are a great way to quickly gather survey results or produce quizzes. It could be testing employees on health and safety in OneNote or it could be setting students a topic quiz in Class Notebook.

In this post, I’m going to go through the steps on how to add a quiz to OneNote.

First, create a new page and call it “Quiz”.

Class Notebook

Go to the insert tab in the ribbon and select “Forms”.

Microsoft Forms

Here you will see a list of any forms and quizzes that you previously created in addition to the new options.

List of forms

Click “New Quiz”.

Microsoft Forms will open in a new tab, give the quiz a title and description.

Click “Add question” and select “Choice”.

Enter a question and all the options, you can press “Add option” to add more answer options.

Next to each answer option, you can provide some feedback for users who select this option using the speech bubble icon (see highlighted below).

Mark the correct answer by selecting the tick icon (see highlighted below).

At the bottom of the question, you can assign points for the correct answer, allow multiple answers and make it a required question.

By pressing the menu (…), you can bring up more options such as shuffling the answers or writing math equations.

You can add more questions by clicking “Add question”. The form will save automatically as you edit it (no save button).

When you have finished creating your quiz, switch the browser tab back to the OneNote file, you will see that the quiz has now appeared in the “My forms” list.

Press the “Insert” button.

Our quiz is now embedded on the page!

When users complete the quiz, they will see their points after pressing submit (with feedback on each question).

The author of the quiz can go back into “Microsoft Forms” via the app launcher (see highlighted below).

They can then see a detailed breakdown of the results with the option to export to Excel.

Microsoft Forms can also be added to SharePoint pages, so you can enhance your intranet with surveys and quizzes!

Microsoft Forms is a great tool in the Office 365 package. By using this tool in your organisation, you could really improve engagement with users.

At Cloud Design Box, our solutions help schools and companies get the best out of SharePoint, Teams and OneNote.

More information on our education and business solutions can be found on our website.

Cloud Design Box Class Dashboard

Promoted Links Web Part for Modern Pages

Promoted Links Web Part for Modern SharePoint Pages

This web part replicates the classic Promoted Links Web Part but with added features such as web part properties to change the background colour, size of background image and to select which promoted link list to use. You can download it here.

For more information on the full Cloud Design Box learning platform for modern SharePoint or custom workflows and design, Contact us via the website.

If you are interested in developing web parts using the new SharePoint Framework, this web part is a good example of:

  • loading jQuery from CDN
  • adding third party modules
  • making REST calls
  • configuring web part properties

You can find the complete source code in my GitHub repository at https://github.com/CloudDesignBox/cdb-promoted-links.

As soon as I get chance, I will create some additional blog posts on how this web part was created, breaking down the different task lists.

While I work on that, please feel free to download the code and have a play yourselves!

Branding SharePoint using Application Customizers

Collab365 Global Conference

Have you heard about the virtual Collab365 Global Conference 2017 that’s streaming online November 1st – 2nd?

Join me and 120 other speakers from around the world who will be bringing you the very latest content around SharePoint, Office 365, Flow, PowerApps, Azure, OneDrive for Business and of course the increasingly popular Microsoft Teams. The event is produced by the Collab365 Community and is entirely free to attend.

Places are limited to 5000 so be quick and register now.

During the conference I’d love you to watch my session which is called : ‘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. In this session, I will go through the SharePoint design technique changes over the years and finish with an example of the most recent SharePoint UI (modern experience). Using the new SharePoint framework, we will build a simple Application Customizer to apply a custom header and footer. This project will be built using web stack tools and libraries such as Node.js, Yeoman and Gulp.

If you join me, you will learn:

  • How to create a new application customizer
  • Using the application customizer to apply branding to modern sites
  • History of SharePoint design
  • Introduction to SASS and TypeScript

Topic(s):

  • Office365
  • SharePoint

Audience :

  • Developer

Time (in UTC) :

  • Thursday, November 2 2017 12:00 Noon

How to attend :

  1. Register here.
  2. At the time listed above go here to watch my session. (you can also add me to your own personal planner from the agenda.
  3. Be ready to take notes!

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.

Microsoft Teams for education replacing Microsoft Classroom Preview

Over the last few months, we have received lots of positive feedback about the new Microsoft Classroom Preview product. Today Microsoft announced in the Office 365 message centre that this would be replaced at the end of July 2017 with Microsoft Teams for Education.

Microsoft Teams for Education

No need to panic, MS Classroom functionality will still exist but in the Microsoft Teams app (from what we can see from the screenshots). You can still set assignments, create class notebooks, discuss, share files and quizzes but it will all be accessed through the Microsoft Teams interface rather than through the MS Classroom App. There is no news on the Microsoft Classroom mobile app for iOS and Android but hopefully this will be replaced so that students can still get notifications for new assignments and grades.

More details can be found on Microsoft’s site here.



You may have seen the following message in the Office 365 message centre, notifying you of the change.

On July 31, 2017, we’ll discontinue support for the Microsoft Classroom Preview, as we work to unify our classroom experiences in Microsoft Teams in Office 365 for Education. Since the Microsoft Classroom Preview released, we’ve been very thankful for schools’ feedback from around the world; which has helped us improve benefits and features of the service. Ultimately, we learned to keep it simple and put classroom resources all in one place. We listened and we’re bringing the best of the classroom features (e.g., Assignments and OneNote Class Notebook) to Microsoft Teams in Office 365 for Education.

How does this affect me?

– Microsoft Classroom Preview will continue with current functionality until July 31, 2017. – Teachers will not be able to create new notebooks or assignments after the July 31, 2017. – Current classes and associated content will continue to be available as Office 365 Groups. Teachers can access assignment resources, files, calendars, and conversations, through tools such as Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint Online. If necessary, they can copy Class Notebook content to their personal workspace (e.g. OneDrive for Business). – When the new class experiences become available in Teams, School Data Sync will start creating the new classes for Microsoft Teams. SDS will continue to sync existing Microsoft Classroom Preview classes through July 31, 2017.

What do I need to do to prepare for this change?

We apologise for any inconvenience resulting from this transition. We encourage you to try out Microsoft Teams, and get yourself familiar with the Teams experience. Please click Additional Information to learn more.

Creating a simple Microsoft Flow for a SharePoint list

For anyone using the new style SharePoint lists, there is now a new action for Microsoft Flow integration. It’s a really cool product that integrates all the Office 365 products (and more) into your workflow.

SharePoint Designer workflows still have their place but the Microsoft Flow interface offers rich functionality and is easy to view and structure workflows.

One downside to using Microsoft Flow is the error messages. They come back as error messages from the REST API as headers which can be very confusing for non-technical users. SharePoint Designer errors were much clearer and easy to understand for general users.

In the video below, I go through quickly creating a Microsoft Flow from a new style SharePoint list in an Office 365 group site.