Fresh from my first developer session at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, "Creating Your Brand in SharePoint 2013 On-Premises or In the Cloud," I'm here to share a few of presenters Randy Drisgill and John Ross's tips for building a branded website in SharePoint 2013.

I was afraid entering the session that it would be code heavy, but was assured early on that there wasn't much code involved.


  • Intro Branding On Premises and Online
  • Low Effort branding
  • Medium Effort branding
  • High Effort branding
  • SharePoint Online


The talk begins with examples of branding, showing Microsoft logos that have changed over the years. Branding applies to all of your company's marketing and websites and can involve images, logos, CSS, etc.

Microsoft offers two plans, each with separate branding capabilities: small business plan and enterprise plan. It is interesting to see that Microsoft has different abilities on branding in the different plans.

The approach to branding is Low, Medium, High and apparently there is a fair amount of change beginning with the Medium Effort. When you reach the medium effort, it's time to bring in design manager.

Low Effort Branding

Page editor in SharePoint 2013 is pretty much the same as it was in SharePoint 2010: it still has the ribbon where you can add video, images, web parts, etc. I usually think that content publishing is important to get branding to look nice and create a good user experience.

Some of the new capabilities include composed looks -- the themes have evolved and enable you to create themes with custom images and colors, master pages, etc.

My observation is that the default themes are pretty ugly. They actually looks a bit like editing a WordPress theme, but with less functionality, you choose your theme location, image url’s, master page url, and more. You can choose which fonts can be available in the editor, not sure that it's useful, but it's an option.

Medium Effort Branding

Medium effort branding brings the design manager into play. The design manager can be found in the site actions, but you need to have publishing activated on the site in order to locate it.

Basically you get your HTML and CSS uploaded to the design manager, then apply SharePoint objects like search. SharePoint designer is optional when using design manager, you are free to use whatever web tool to create your branding: notepad, Coda etc.