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7 Ways that SharePoint 2013's New Mobile Features Fall Short

sharepoint 2013, mobile enterprise, mobileSharePoint 2013's new mobile features are definitely a step up from the mobile features in previous versions. In fact, one could argue that mobile devices get better support than ever before, with better mobile browser support; new features such as device channels, push notifications and location services; and Office Web Apps integration. But there's still much room for improvement.

Following are seven areas in which I believe that mobile in SharePoint still falls a little short:

1. Mobile Views Have Limited Functionality

While the out-of-the-box mobile views may be sufficient for browsing documents, they are not very useful for other types of content. Joe Herres, VP of H3 Solutions, breaks down the shortfalls of the mobile views:

Navigation can be confusing since you either get just the web parts (content) that are added to the home page, or have to go to site contents where you will be presented with every list/library on the site (including Asset Libraries and other lists that should not be shown to the user). Calendar lists are very difficult to use as you have to enter dates by hand to view items and the display is very basic.”

In addition, Joe also says that lists such as discussions and surveys are not supported at all, and you will get a message saying as much.

2. Contemporary View is Not Easily Extensible

The Contemporary view is very nice and an improvement over the classic view; however, it is not easily extensible. Todd Baginski, VP of SharePoint and Mobility at Canviz Consulting, says it's not something he would recommend trying either.

It would be nice to be able to extend the contemporary view to enhance the menus and have a framework you could use to author SharePoint custom solutions that would extend the capabilities (that) the Contemporary view offers."

So basically you get what you get with the Contemporary view, with not much of an opportunity to improve it to meet your needs.

3. Office 365 Mobile Limitations

Office 365 is more limiting than on premises installations of SharePoint. It only gives you two device channels out of the box — one for desktop browser views of the site, and another for all mobile devices. In addition, it is not possible to create any additional device channels for Office 365 at this time.

What this means is that you cannot create a device channel to target each of the different phones and tablets out there. This will make it difficult if not impossible to create an optimized browser experience for all the different mobile devices by using device channels alone. You could, however, combine device channels with responsive design. Says Baginski:

In an O365 scenario where you only have two device channels to work with, if you need to target many different devices you might combine the two approaches and use a responsive design for the mobile device channel and a static design for the default channel.”

4. Difficulty in Creating Responsive Design SharePoint Sites

Responsive web design seems to be the latest craze right now, but it’s important to understand that SharePoint is not responsive by default. It takes quite a bit of effort to make a SharePoint site responsive.

In addition, responsive design is really only feasible for Publishing sites, according to Herres, which are content consumption only. It becomes much more complicated when trying incorporate responsive design into collaboration sites and features. Says Herres:

Someone who is familiar with master page design and is very good with CSS could do a simple responsive publishing site in fairly short order, but it gets complicated quickly as you try to add advanced widgets or any kind of interactivity to the site.”

5. Poor Integration Between Responsive Design and Image Renditions

A great new feature in SharePoint 2013 is the ability to use image renditions to display differently sized versions of an image on different pages in a publishing site, based on the same source image. The manner in which page authors specify which image rendition to use is very manual, however, and does not work well with websites that are built using responsive design.

Baginski directed me to a great article by Waldek Mastykarz, where he discusses in detail how his company had to build a custom solution to alleviate this issue. In short, based on mappings that must be predefined, their solution will automatically choose which image rendition should be delivered to the visitor of the website based on the screen resolution.

 

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