SharePoint Content Standards

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What follows are merely suggestions as a starting point for defining your content standards. Realistically your standards might vary quite a bit depending on your corporate culture and objectives of SharePoint Usage.

Since these are broader than other Standards I have broken them out a bit more. Each standard may have a brief description outlining the reasoning behind the standard in a sub-point to help encourage explanation and understanding of why and when the Standard is applicable.

I also recommend putting a contact person for your standards, or if you are a large organization breaking down management of your standards and assigning contacts for each set of standards. This way when any user has a question they can refer to a note in the actual standard that says something along the lines of: “If you have any questions around our Homepage standards contact the Homepage Administrator”.

These standards take SharePoint 2010 features into account and SharePoint 2013 features into account.

General Standards

  • Existing standards and policies which relate to the use of technology in the enterprise still apply.
    • This includes acceptable use, privacy, copyright, records retention, confidentiality, and content security.

Content Contribution and Ownership

  • Site Sponsors/Owners/Managers are accountable for ensuring that the content posted on their pages is accurate and relevant and complies with records retention policies.
    • While Site Sponsors, Owners, Managers are accountable everyone has a shared responsibility of ensuring content is accurate, relevant, current, and appropriate.
  • Only post content that you “own” on a collaboration site or on your My Site Web site. Ownership means that the document is or was created by someone in your department and your department is committed to maintaining the content for its entire lifecycle. If a document is not owned by your department but access to the document is needed on your site, ask the owner to post it and then create a link to it on your site.
    • This improves how current or up to date content will be and reduces the potential of having multiple copies of the same document throughout SharePoint confusing search and adding extra layers of document management.
    • An exception to this rule may be if a source and target relationship is created through the use of send to functionality. In this way the chances of ‘copies’ being out of date has been reduced.
  • Edit content in place. Don’t delete documents to create new ones.
    • Because content contributors on one site may have a link to content on a site they don’t own, it is important to have a standard reminding users to “edit documents in place” so that links do not break.
  • Do not post content that we do not own the legal right to post electronically, including .PDFs or scanned images of journal articles or other documents from sources to which our organization does not have online publishing rights. A link may be created to this content on the content owner’s Web site.
    • Copyright violations can be very costly to our business.
  • Use shorter names for sites, folders, and documents and control the depth of the site and folder structures to reduce the lengths of URLs.

Content Security

  • For standards related to content security see SharePoint Security Standards (Coming Soon)

Content Types

  • (Still working on this one…)

Discussion Boards and Internal Forums

  • Must have a champion who will also serve as the discussion board moderator.
    • It is this individual’s responsibility to ensure questions are answered, that the discussion board is adding value and to help the facilitation and categorization of discussions to improve readability and response.

Document Standards

  • File names should be topical and descriptive.
  • Avoid the use of dates or version numbers in file names whenever possible.
  • Reduce file size whenever possible.
  • No files over 50mb should be stored within SharePoint.

Homepage Standards

  • All content displayed on the homepage must be approved by an appropriate subject matter expert as well as the homepage administrator.
    • In order to be fair in determining what content should be on the homepage it’s important to follow an approval process for homepage content. This is the most visited/hit page in our SharePoint implementation so it’s important to carefully consider design, usability, and applicability of the content before it is posted.


  • Core navigation changes to the top navigation bar of the home site must be approved by the Taxonomy administrator.
  • Whenever possible the navigation should not be nested more than 3 levels deep.

Metadata Usage

  • (Still working on this one…)

Page Design and Layout

  • All pages within the portal should render on 1024 by 768 screen resolutions with no horizontal scrolling.
    • Whenever possible vertical scrolling should be avoided by splitting the content into multiple pages.
  • The most important content should be in the top left most region of the page.
    • Since readers read left to right and top to bottom this is where they will look first and should be where the most prominent/important content on any page should begin.
  • Light fonts on light backgrounds and dark fonts on dark backgrounds should never be used on any pages or articles of content.

Pictures and Media

  • Any added pictures should have alt tags defined for them.
  • If possible all video content should have an available transcript.
  • It is important to follow all existing individual consent policies when including pictures of other people in any SharePoint site.


  • Content ratings represent how useful the content was to you. In our organization a piece of content rated as 5 is very useful, where as a rating of 0 or 1 would denote that it was not useful to you.

Rich Text and Page Content

  • Do not underline anything that is not a hyperlink. Try bolding it instead.
  • Make any link text concise and descriptive so that it is clear and easy to read what the link references.
    • Bad: Click here for the latest application form
    • Better: Download the latest application form
    • Best: Download the latest application form
  • Links to documents or pages within the site collection should not open in a new window.
  • Links to documents or pages in another site collection should open in a new window.
  • Links outside the intranet (to another application or external site) should open in a new window.

Site Standards

  • Every SharePoint Site must have an identified sponsor, owner, and/or manager. Further roles can be identified such as a site administrator, security administrator, or content manager for any specific site.
  • A review of each site must be conducted at a minimum of every 12 months with the sponsor, owner, or manager as well as any other relevant site roles. This review must ensure that site content is accurate, relevant, and current.
  • All SharePoint sites should have a primary and secondary contact responsible for the site and its content.
  • The site contact(s) should be listed on the site homepage where (if possible) their names link to their respective profile pages. The email address of each contact should also be displayed to simplify and encourage contact with them.
  • New site requests must follow the defined site provisioning process found here: http://intranet/sites/Governance/Downloads/SiteProvisioningProcess.docx
    • Content Ownership and Site Ownership must be assigned before a site can be provisioned.
    • Any significant security requirements must be identified.
    • Storage and growth expectations must be identified.
  • Site’s should have short descriptive names without spaces or special characters.
    • Use shorter names for sites, folders, and documents and control the depth of the site and folder structures to reduce the lengths of URLs as there are length restrictions which can have a significant impact:
    • Avoid the use of spaces, or special characters as they add extra length to the URL of content when encoded.

Communities (SharePoint 2013)

  • Whenever possible a community site should have at least 200 to 300 members.
    • This helps ensure that there is a large enough group of people to keep the community site fresh, active, and that personal connection/communication isn’t as viable (based on the size of the collective).
      • Authors Note: Microsoft has stated this a few times for many reasons around growth, activity, and other reasons. However that doesn’t mean a smaller community wouldn’t have potential value.
      • Communities should have at least one clear designated moderator.
        • The moderator will be responsible for clarifying the community’s purpose, when possible aggregating responses into best replies, re-categorizing mistakenly categorized questions or discussions, managing reported content, and managing badges/rewards.
        • Moderators should have a simple ‘Moderator Badge’ using the badge functionality of the SharePoint community applied to themselves (allowing for easier identification).
        • All categories within community sites should have an image associated with them that represents the category.
        • Depending on how sites are provisioned, tracked, and managed it may be important to note the type of community site clearly for each community site. This enables easier management, and coordination around communities.
          • There are four types of community sites
      • Private – available only to invited members.
      • Closed – read for all but only approved members can contribute. The owner gets an action request when someone wants to join or auto-approval can be enabled.
      • Open with explicit action required to join (i.e. users click the “Join this community” button).
      • Open with no explicit requirement to join. Anyone can participate without joining. Without joining, however, there is no automatic following of sites.
  • If a question has been answered, but a best reply isn’t clear to the poster – they should contact the moderator to assist in compiling a best reply answer that is an aggregation of the answers.
  • An additional view of “No Replies” should be created to assist users in finding unanswered questions, or discussions that have not been followed up to improve awareness.

Social Tagging

  • Socially tagged content is still security trimmed. That means that any socially tagged content will only be shared and available to other people who can already see that content.
  • Tags should add to the value of the content. Use words that help identify it, or describe what you found to be positive about the content. Here are some examples sectioned into the two types of tags.
    • Identification
      • Project XYZ
      • Marketing
      • Schedule
    • Positive
      • Excellent
      • Comprehensive
      • Good Case Study
  • It is entirely acceptable to tag content the same way that someone else has already tagged it.
  • It is entirely acceptable to tag content with a phrase or word even if that content has a column value specifying the same thing.
  • Negative tagging is not allowed in our organization. Instead or alternatively identifying words should be used.
    • Acceptable
      • Outdated
      • No Longer Relevant
      • Incomplete
      • Missing References or Research
    • Unacceptable
      • Prehistoric Thinking
      • Bad Case Study
      • Bull Crap
      • Profanity

Status Updates (SharePoint 2010)

  • Status updates can contain any information you think would be beneficial to share. Some examples of useful status updates are updating people on your work, asking for help, or stating where you are:
    • “Working on SharePoint Content Standards for the SharePoint Standards Project.”
    • “Out of the office and at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference.”
    • “Can’t remember how to update my outlook signature. Can anyone help?”
    • “Group of us are going to Starbucks for a coffee. Would anyone like to come or want one?”
    • “Just finished the status update examples! Hope everyone likes them!”

NewsFeed (SharePoint 2013)

  • Avoid split posts to the newsfeed based on length limits (meaning if you have more to say than 512 characters consider a discussion or other medium for capturing/sharing).
  • “Everyone” or Public Newsfeed Posts are not security trimmed (meaning everyone can see these posts, links contained within them, or other post information).
    • Automatically generated posts are security trimmed (where appropriate).
    • Site newsfeed posts are security trimmed based on the site’s security.
    • Negative #Hashtags are not allowed in our organization. Instead or alternatively identifying words should be used.
      • Acceptable Examples
        • #Help
        • #Marketing
        • #Boston
        • #LessonLearned
      • Unacceptable Examples
        • #Fail
        • #MarketingSucks
        • #Profanity
        • #Stupid

User Profiles

  • You are responsible for updating and maintaining any personal information you would like to share on your profile.
  • You are responsible for ensuring that any information you share on your personal profile is targeted and secured in the way you want it to be.
    • The privacy options available to you in 2010 are:
      • You only (Private)
      • Your manager (Manager)
      • Your workgroup (Organization)
      • Your colleagues (Contacts)
      • Everyone (Public)
  • About Me can should contain any relevant information that you believe will be beneficial to share and highlight about yourself. Here are some examples of About Me descriptions to help clarify what you could share.
    • “I have been a Quality Engineer with our company for over 10 years. I spend most of my time coming up with effective methods of stress testing, and verifying the quality of our products. I live in Boston, MA with my two daughters, my dog, and my wife and run a community hack space (where we take apart things and see how they work and build new things out of them).”
    • “Designer Extraordinaire: I work with our Marketing department and other areas of the business on everything relating to design including Print, Web, and Interactive.”
    • “Currently I am on contract and working with HR. I am currently enrolled in my third year of a MBA program at the Boston University’s School of Management. I have so far been involved in our new Microsoft Technology Training initiative, our corporate wide succession planning initiative, helped drive the implementation of our coaches’ corner and mentoring system and many more great projects.”

Apps (SharePoint 2013)

No Apps Allowed Approach: Assuming Site Owners cannot install and use apps for SharePoint.

  • When you visit the SharePoint store you may view apps that interest you, but will be unable to purchase or download these apps directly. Instead you will need to fill out an app request which will be reviewed and the app team will try their best to meet your underlying needs.

Apps Allowed: Assuming Site Owners can install and use apps for SharePoint (various levels of control).

  • TBD (based on decision path for apps results – still to be done).


Am I missing some? Disagree with any? Let me know via comments!
Richard Harbridge

{ 1 trackback }

Updates for SharePoint 2013 to SharePoint Development Standards and SharePoint Content Standards
February 19, 2013 at 9:15 pm

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Richard Harbridge August 23, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Added URL consideration ones for sites and content.


2 Lynn Warneke December 1, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Hi Richard, I love standards, and these are a great start. Well, much more than a start, but you know what I mean… Looks like you haven’t touched these for a while – still working on them?
Would be great to see some guidelines for page naming standards as well as for documents, and to reference search in these – meaning, how to structure names to optimise retrieval by the SharePoint search. E.g. avoid use of underscores_in_names or runningkeywordstogether or CamelCase, etc.
Cheers, Lynn


3 Richard Harbridge July 12, 2012 at 9:49 am

Working on revisions for v15 🙂


4 Les Urbanski November 14, 2012 at 9:56 am

Would like to include policy for posting profile pictures (MySite). We’ve implemented test run for MySite deployment and of the small group we had some photos were not appropriate for a business profile photo; seasonal photos exe: for Haloween, logo of their fav football team, etc…


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