UX Changes and Improvements to Office 365 and SharePoint 2016

Mobile Man / Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A lot has been said about how the changes to Office 365 and SharePoint will affect developers and IT professionals. However, there’s been rather less attention paid to how improvements in user experience (UX) will actually affect end users.

This is important. UX is key to how your colleagues interact with SharePoint and Office 365 and how useful it is in their day to day activities. Whether you simply use the platforms for basic work, you’re a power user or are a back end developer, understanding the changes Microsoft has made is important.

For those of us who’ve worked with SharePoint for a long time, you’ll be very well aware of how the user experience hasn’t always been the strongest feature of the platform. Nonetheless, this is improving. You only have to go back as far as SharePoint 2010 to see how much has changed, and this year’s update will be even easier and more intuitive to use.

So, what are the latest improvements to SharePoint and Office 365, and why are they good news for you?

Microsoft has unified UX design for productivity platforms

The most important thing to understand about Office 365 and SharePoint 2016 is that the basic UX of both platforms is very similar, if not identical. As SharePoint design MVP Randy Drisgill has pointed out, the homepages of both Office 365 and SharePoint 2016 look more or less the same now.

You get the same app launcher and the same tiled interface; the same menus and the same side panels. This makes a lot of sense in terms of simplifying UI, and means users don’t feel disorientated when moving from one environment to the other.

Of course, SharePoint 2016 On-Premises will be customizable, and Office 365 has the potential to change and evolve. However, for now, the two tools look and feel very similar. So, what sort of UX improvements can you look forward to?

1. Quickly navigate between the cloud and On-Premises

This is one of the most exciting UX features, especially for companies that have chosen to implement the hybrid use case that SharePoint 2016 supports. By simply following a link in the app launcher, you can flip between libraries based in the cloud and work stored in your local server.

2. Pin your own sites to the app launcher

The app launcher is one of the most creative features of Office 365 and SharePoint 2016. It’s incredibly intuitive to use, and adding your own apps and sites to the launcher couldn’t be easier. Pinning your most visited SharePoint sites to the app launcher will just save that little bit of extra time.

3. Share from within pages

This is another new feature which is shared across Office 365 and SharePoint 2016. Simply visit a page and click on the ‘share’ icon to invite colleagues to a library or site. This is another ‘little thing’ which will help make using the platform that little bit easier to use.

4. Usability: handles large files better

Most SharePoint users work primarily with word processing documents and never have to worry about the size of documents they upload. They remain blissfully unaware of the current 2GB maximum file limit. However, if your job involves saving videos, large images or CAD files in SharePoint, you’ve likely come up against this limit before, and as a result had to do frustrating tasks such as separating your file into its constituent parts. This has changed with SharePoint 2016, however; you’ll now be able to save files as large as 10GB.

5. Hybrid Delve

Delve has, so far, only been available to Office 365 customers because it depends on the Azure-based Office Graph. However, if you wanted to store certain files On-Premises, Delve wouldn’t ever detect them so wouldn’t be able to surface them. This has also changed going into SharePoint 2016. Delve will now be able to 'take signals' from SharePoint 2016 so you’ll be able to see relationships between files and work carried out in the cloud and On-Premises.

6. Cloud and on-premises search

A major challenge for hybrid SharePoint and Office 365 until now has been the ability to show search results from files stored in the cloud and in your local server. There were a number of workarounds, yet none could really show relevant results in one simple list. This has changed for SharePoint 2016 however – you’ll get a seamless list of results from both environments. That’s some pretty impressive engineering there, so kudos to the team that made that happen.

7. Better mobile experience

SharePoint has always had a limited mobile experience, and Office 365 isn’t too much better. That’s set to change however, and there’s been some good work trying to make both platforms more mobile friendly and easy to use. We’re not totally convinced Microsoft have got this just right yet, but it’s certainly on the way to where it should be.

Try a free demo of SharePlus Enterprise today, and see how much more you can achieve from SharePoint on iOS.