Determine your approach

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

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Topic Last Modified: 2016-11-14

In this article:

  • Basic customization approach

  • Intermediate customization approach

  • Advanced customization approach

There are a range of approaches to developing a custom Web site based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. The approach you choose will depend on many factors, including:

  • **Purpose   **The Web site's purpose is the key factor in determining your approach. Depending on your site's purpose, you may choose a more basic or more advance customization approach. For example, a site for collaborating with a small team on a single project is short-lived and only used by a few people who perform a specific set of tasks. Therefore, it probably does not require a heavily customized appearance. On the other hand, a site that will be used as an enterprise intranet portal, with thousands of users visiting the site daily, might impel you to put effort and resources into branding the site and making it attractive in other ways. Similarly, an enterprise-level site that needs particular functionality that is not available in Office SharePoint Server 2007 can require the development of custom software solutions to supply the needed functionality. For a review of the types of Web sites and portals that can be implemented by using Office SharePoint Server 2007, see Plan sites and features.

  • **Resources   **The resources available for developing custom solutions include software products, such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, and hardware resources, such as developer workstations and Web servers for testing and integrating code. More basic customization approaches require few or no additional resources. For example, you can add Web Parts to pages, create custom list views, and change the image on a site's home page directly in the Web browser. By adding Office SharePoint Designer 2007, you can implement more complex customizations such as designing master pages and layout pages. Fully customized enterprise-level Web sites, such as a corporate Internet presence site can require multiple Web farms for developing, testing, and piloting the site, along with dedicated software tools for code development and configuration management. For a description of the resources that may be required for custom solution development, see Review of tools and processes.

  • **Personnel   **As your customization requirements become more complex, you require a larger team of experts with skills across various disciplines. For example, designing and implementing a fully customized enterprise portal or Internet presence site will require system architects, designers, developers, testers, infrastructure specialists, and other specialists, working together for months. For information about the skills required for a more complex site development project, see About development team roles.

The following sections outline the range of customization approaches available to site architects and designers and describe the advantages of each approach.

Basic customization approach

In the basic approach, you customize your site directly in the Web browser. For example, a medium-sized team's collaboration Web site that includes a calendar, shared documents, announcements, and shared contacts might benefit from customizations such as:

  • Adding the team's logo to the site.

  • Applying a new theme to enhance the site's appearance.

  • Customizing the site's navigation elements to improve its usability.

  • Adding Web Parts to the home page to add functionality.

You can perform each of the preceding customization tasks in the Web browser by using the Office SharePoint Server 2007 user interface. Therefore, you do not need to use this guide. For information that can help you plan and implement a basic customization approach, use the Office SharePoint Server 2007 online Help along with the SharePoint Products and Technologies articles on Office Online (

Intermediate customization approach

In the intermediate approach, you customize some elements of your site in the Web browser as in the basic approach. In addition, you use Office SharePoint Designer 2007, a product for creating and customizing Office SharePoint Server 2007 Web sites, to do more advanced customizations. For example, the intranet portal site in a medium-sized enterprise that includes a home page for sharing organization-wide news and information, and subsites for presenting human resources information, various workplace services, and business-related data, can benefit from customizations such as:

  • Customizing the portal's master page to create a unique, branded site framework.

  • Creating custom layouts to display the various types of pages in the portal.

  • Creating cascading style sheets that implement the enterprise's color scheme and fonts.

  • Creating data views for presenting information stored in back-end systems, such as personalized displays of payroll and benefits data.

You can perform each of the preceding customization tasks by using Office SharePoint Designer 2007. Other customizations, such as configuring navigation and adding Web Parts to pages, can still be done in a Web browser by using the Office SharePoint Server 2007 user interface.

Some of the contents in this guide can help you implement intermediate customizations. Particularly, review the Feature roadmap pages, which provide links to content and resources related to Office SharePoint Server 2007 features such as workflows, page design, document management, or business intelligence. For more information about implementing a Web site with Office SharePoint Designer 2007 and browser-based customizations, see the Office SharePoint Designer 2007 product documentation and the SharePoint Products and Technologies articles on Office Online (

Advanced customization approach

This guide is primarily targeted at site architects, developers, and designers who are customizing sites by implementing developed site elements such as custom workflows, Web Parts, document converters, and iFilters combined with customized authored site elements, such as master pages, cascading style sheets, and layout pages. An advanced customization approach is most likely to be used in enterprises for the development of widely used or mission-critical sites, such as corporate Internet presence sites, enterprise-wide portal sites, or sites with unique business functionality — for example, a financial services company's dashboard site.

The advanced customization approach requires combining authored and developed custom site elements and features for sites. Therefore, the approach requires a rigorous methodology, which is described in this guide. Developing these sites includes setting up multiple environments for developing, integrating, piloting, and deploying coded elements and content from one environment to another and coordinating the efforts of a large team charged with planning, designing, implementing, and testing the site.

Two customization approaches are described in this guide:

  • An author-centric approach, in which authored site elements (including artifacts such as master pages and layout pages) are maintained and deployed by using different methods than those used to maintain and deploy developed site elements. This promotes the more rapid dissemination of authored content.

  • A developer-centric approach, in which developed site elements, such as Web parts and workflows, and site artifacts such as master pages, layouts, and cascading style sheets, are maintained and deployed using similar methods. This provides a more rigorous method of maintaining the site artifacts that is typically associated with software development.

Author-centric approach

In an author-centric approach, the methods for creating, maintaining, and deploying authored and developed site elements are different.

  • **Authored site elements   **You create a site's authored site artifacts — its master pages, layouts, Web and cascading style sheets — and its content pages, graphics, and other files, by using client applications such as Office SharePoint Designer 2007, Office Word 2007, or Office SharePoint Server 2007 running in the Web browser. Management of content, such as versioning, check-in/check-out, and content approval, are based on the document management features that are provided by default in Office SharePoint Server 2007. You deploy all authored site elements, including both artifacts and content pages, by using the Web publishing features included in Office SharePoint Server 2007, such as Content Deployment and Site Variations.

  • Developed site elements   You typically create a site's custom developed site elements by using Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 along with the Microsoft .NET Framework version 3.0. Source control and configuration management is handled by a program such as Visual Studio 2005 Team System. You package custom developed elements into features and deploy them by using the Office SharePoint Server 2007 solutions packaging and deployment capability.

An author-centric approach is advantageous because it:

  • Uses the content deployment features included in Office SharePoint Server 2007 to deploy custom artifacts such as master pages and layouts.

  • Promotes more rapid dissemination of content because the content is all managed directly in Office SharePoint Server 2007 rather than in a separate configuration management system.

  • Takes advantage of the built-in content versioning, check-in/check-out, and approval features of Office SharePoint Server 2007.

  • Is generally easier to configure and deploy because it requires a less customized development environment.

For a description of a scenario that uses the author-centric approach, including an illustration of the various environments used, see Customization scenarios.

Developer-centric approach

In a developer-centric approach, you use different methods to create authored and developed site elements, but you maintain both authored artifacts and developed items in a single configuration management system, and you deploy both by using similar methods.

  • **Authored site elements   **There are two categories of authored site elements: artifacts that create the framework in which your site's content is displayed (such as master pages and layouts), and Web content (the site's Web pages and images). In the developer-centric approach, artifacts are developed in the development environment and maintained in the same configuration management system in which coded site elements are maintained. The artifacts are packaged along with coded elements into solution packages which are then deployed to production, authoring, and pilot farms. Web content is maintained in the authoring farm using the document management features that are provided by default in Office SharePoint Server 2007. Artifacts and Web content are deployed from the authoring farm to the production and pilot farms using the Content Deployment feature.

  • Developed site elements As in an author-centric approach, you typically create a site's custom developed elements by using Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 along with the Microsoft .NET Framework version 3.0. You use Visual Studio 2005 Team System or an equivalent configuration management system to manage source code, binary files, and the solution files. You package custom developed elements into features and deploy them by using the Office SharePoint Server 2007 solutions packaging and deployment capability.

A developer-centric approach has the following advantages:

  • Artifacts and code are managed in the same configuration management system.

  • All custom elements of the site can be reconstructed and deployed from the configuration management system. This is useful in distributing sites geographically and in disaster recovery.

  • A baseline environment can be maintained for disaster recovery or for rolling back from bugs.

  • The test/integration environment and pilot environment can be deployed using production-level artifacts.

  • Developed and authored elements are maintained by using similar tools and processes.

For a description of a scenario that uses a developer-centric approach, including an illustration of the various environments used in this approach, see Customization scenarios.

For a description of another developer-centric approach to combining custom code and content, with the aim of accelerating implementation and mitigating production risks, see the white paper Implementing Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Solutions (

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See Also


Customization scenarios
Deploy customizations