Customising the SharePoint management UI – just say no!

I was recently asked at an event how to make changes to some of the core management UI features of SharePoint 2010. The question was specifically around how to make a change to the Silverlight control you get when you click on “Create” in the “View all site content” page.

What you get when you click on that link now, v4’s “Fluent UI” in place is in full swing, and a nifty Silverlight control which looks very similar to the Backstage found in the new Office clients.

Add Gallery in SharePoint 2010

Backstage in Word

My response to clients who ask for the management UI in SharePoint to be customised [beyond what you get from master pages and themes] is to ask them: “What is the business value that doing so will add?”. Without clear business drivers to making these changes, they quickly become a drain on the project, and over time will add considerable cost to the ongoing support of the solution.

Spence Harbar had a great post on this back in the 2007 days, and much of what he said then still holds. You get higher TCO by changing core features like this – on-going maintenance, support, training and so on will all be higher, and there is a higher chance that you will be locked into your delivery partner for a longer time frame. Also, chances are that you will be hit by additional testing and development as service packs and other hotfixes get released.

So I’d push back when you see this kind of requirement come in. If the client understands the cost, the additional risk, and the downsides, to customising the UI, then fine, but don’t walk in blind to that kind of scenario.

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