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How to avoid headache with SharePoint (5 reasons to manage contracts)

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How to avoid headache with SharePoint (5 reasons to manage contracts)

Contract management takes place within several industries, in varying departments. Contracts are executed for many reasons, such as to maximize financial or operational performance. Every company can benefit from automating the process of managing these contracts in order to make it as efficient as possible. One way we recommend automating the contract management process is through Microsoft SharePoint. The platform allows for endless customization and configuration possibilities, many of which work seamlessly with the contract management process. Here, we have listed some reasons why we recommend using SharePoint to manage your contracts.

Managing contracts with SharePoint

Automate workflows

By automating the contract management process through SharePoint, you are able to automate any number of workflows. One workflow that we recommend automating through SharePoint is the contract approval process. This provides visibility into contracts’ status for those responsible for approving them, as well as those waiting for approval. There are several other ways to automate workflows as well. These all depend on the processes an organization follows. For example, add a “request change” feature which allows users to suggest changes and edits for contract documents. Also, automatically notify those responsible for implementing changes when a change is requested.

Document storage SharePoint

SharePoint is a great place to simply store contract documents. The platform allows you to organize files by sub-site, document library, folder, and more. Every type of document has its own specific place. SharePoint also allows you to control user access based on sites. Therefore, only users who you select can upload, edit, and save contract documents within SharePoint. Additionally, if you opt for SharePoint Online, users are able to access the contract documents online from anywhere.


Another feature that we recommend adding to SharePoint is a discussion board. In other words, create a discussion board specifically for working on contracts. When multiple users are working on the same contract, they are able to post comments and feedback on the discussion board for others to read.


By adding templates to SharePoint, users are able to write contracts quickly and easily. We recommend uploading templates for each contract type. Users are able to customize these templates to mimic their company’s writing style and common contract types. Once the templates are uploaded, they will be readily available on SharePoint so that users are able to easily access them.

Advanced search functionality

SharePoint’s advanced search functionality allows users to search specific queries to find exactly what they are looking for. For example, a user would use advanced search if he or she does not remember the exact title of a contract they are looking for, but knows one phrase that is included in the title or other specific information, such as the author. An advanced search would allow for them to find the contract they are looking for using this information, as opposed to having to scroll through a long list of documents in a file library. Additionally, users are able to export these searches to Excel.

Microsoft SharePoint has numerous other features that may suit your company’s contract management needs. The features you choose to add to your SharePoint platform all depend on the processes your organization follows. If you would like some additional insight into SharePoint’s contract management capabilities, we recommend working with a SharePoint consultant.

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The ultimate guide to workflow automation

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The ultimate guide to workflow automation

Do you ever find yourself doing the same things over and over again, and wish there was an easier way? Repetitive tasks may be necessary for your company’s operations, but they don’t have to be so time-consuming. More and more companies are leveraging technology to streamline and automate their business processes.

Workflow automation is a business technology trend that is here to stay. Keep reading to learn what it is, why it matters, and how your business can get started with workflow automation.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation is a way to streamline business processes. Not only does it involve digitizing paper-based or manual processes, but it is also about re-engineering them to make them efficient. Any business process, no matter how basic or complex, can be automated.

Automation of complicated workflows is a great way to ensure that they are optimized for efficiency. Ultimately, your organization’s unique business needs will determine where business process automation would add the most value.

What are the benefits of workflow automation?

1) Reduce Human Handshakes
There are usually multiple people responsible for completing the various steps of a workflow. This can cause bottlenecks as one person’s input may be contingent on someone else’s contribution. In addition to delays, if someone forgets that the process requires action on their part, things may fall through the cracks and not get done at all. Automation can streamline the process by replacing some, if not all, of these steps that require a “human handshake.” With automated workflows, it is the system that drives the users, not the users driving the system.

2) Save Time and Money
Automating repetitive tasks will help improve productivity and efficiency in your company’s operations. Automated workflows allow employees to focus on the work that really matters, instead of time-consuming manual tasks. By removing the repetitive drudgery from an employee’s day-to-day workload, you will also boost both morale and productivity leading to lower employee turnover. This will save you the time and expense of finding, hiring, and training new personnel.

3) Standardize Business Processes
Automation can greatly reduce the risk of human error in a workflow and improve consistency in your processes. Because the same steps will always be followed in the same order, a standardized process will ensure more accurate results and fewer mistakes. This will help you improve the integrity of your data and information.

4) Increase Operational Visibility and Accountability
Each step in a workflow has a clearly designated person who is responsible for performing a required action, which sets clear expectations for employees. If the process is held up at any time, the business has clear insight into which tasks take the most time and whom to hold accountable for delays. By making it easier to monitor processes and their real-time analytics, businesses can also become more agile. They are able to react more quickly to solve problems and address inefficiencies, which in turn helps the business to be more competitive in the marketplace.

5) Enhance Communication and Collaboration
Employees no longer have to rely on emails or verbal reminders to notify someone that it’s their turn to complete the next step in the process. Instead, users can get automatic updates as the workflow progresses and easily track the real-time status of the process.

Practical uses of automated workflows

Any business process has the potential to be automated, and every organization has their own unique processes. So, the practical applications of workflows are virtually limitless.

One common type of workflow is an approval workflow. The supply order process is a great example of an approval workflow: when an employee prepares a purchase order, they need to get approval before placing the order. Whether the purchase order is approved or rejected, the workflow automatically routes the document to the appropriate person.

Another common workflow type is the publishing workflow. This workflow could be applied to the editorial process for blog posts or for internal documents, such as company policy manuals. A publishing workflow ensures that content is reviewed prior to being published on a live site.

Approval and publishing workflows are two of SharePoint’s pre-programmed workflows, which makes it easy for businesses to get up and running with automating these types of processes. Other potential use cases for workflow automation include:

Project and task management
Document retention
Customer support
Inventory management
IT asset management
Work orders and maintenance request tracking
Laboratory study management
Marketing/sales campaigns Lead management
Finance (invoice processing, expense report management, budgeting, financial reporting, etc.)
HR (recruiting, employee onboarding, timesheet tracking, PTO requests, performance reviews, etc.)
Contract management

How do automated workflows work?

Now that you know the benefits to automating your company’s business processes, you may be wondering how an automated workflow can help you accomplish your goals. How does all of this actually work?

First, you need to establish trigger conditions for the workflow. You will specify what actions must be performed or what conditions must be met for the workflow to begin. You can also set up the trigger conditions for moving from one step to the next. For example, you can configure the workflow to advance whenever a user submits a form, adds an item to a list, or modifies a document.

Then, the workflow can perform automated actions. Once a trigger action has been performed, the system begins a sequence of automated actions. For example, the system can automatically:

Send emails/notifications

Change property values

Add, delete, or modify items

Assign a task to another person

Generate a customized document

By setting up the logic for the sequence (ex. If X happens, then Y will happen), you will be able to automate steps that used to be manual. Certain steps of the workflow may still require a human handshake, but the system will drive the user to take the action by sending notifications and alerts.

Workflow automation can be a valuable tool for your company, allowing you to save time and money, increase efficiency, and reach your business goals.

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How an optimized web design can elevate your business [5 Trends for 2020]

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How an Optimized Web Design Can Elevate Your Business [5 Trends for 2020]

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” –Vincent van Gogh

The same is true for website optimization. Custom pictures, enchanting typography, colors, and videos are all small pieces that, once combined, will not disappoint. The online trends for 2019 were centered around cutting through the noise of the internet to make a personable statement about your business. While the total amount of websites changes every second, there are over 1 billion active sites, so designers need to step up their game and research the latest navigation and content to stand out.

A company’s website is the world’s snapshot of their business—if it’s messy and unoptimized, your potential customers will notice. Therefore, the designer must put themselves into the shoes of the user; what would feel best for them? And at the same time, try to nudge the user to take action by purchasing your services and products. Jeremy Mays, a Founder/CMO, and Liz Fu, a Lead Designer at RightPoint, and Erin Thomas, a freelancer, are established in the design industry and shared their insights on what to expect on 2020 web design.


1. Minimalism

There are discussions about the end of flat design but one of the biggest trends for 2020 is minimalism. We asked Jeremy how designers can avoid flat interfaces, while at the same time, having minimal structure.

“[It’s] an age-old design challenge…There’s a danger of feeling empty, it’s very speculative. There’s still a strong demand for engagement, but people’s attention spans are shorter and shorter. If it’s too minimalist, you run the risk of not being engaging. Guestbook went more minimalist in design with a lot of white and negative space, but we’re still using big fonts.”
—Jeremy Mays, Founder/CMO

Liz Fu had a similar opinion, “Design elements don’t have to be flat to be used in a minimal way.” By bringing depth and dimension to designs through the use of color, fonts, and alignment in a simple way, your website traffic will greatly increase. More traffic means more brand awareness, which means more conversions and customers. Below are examples of minimalist website styles.

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2. User centric

User centricity is all about empathy, and how to create value for your customers/users based on their wants and needs. Therefore, if you want a user centric website, you should take a balanced approach between business goals and user needs. Some tips for a user centric website include; clean navigation custom-made images, interactions, and a mobile-friendly version.

“I think every industry is hopping on the bandwagon…Users nowadays have the expectation that every single site should be user friendly and intuitive. The sites, and the businesses behind the sites, that don’t prioritize user experience will definitely suffer in the long run if they don’t get it together.” —Liz Fu, Lead Designer at Rightpoint shares.

An eye opening statistic from SWEOR supports that 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. The internet is not giving second chances, therefore if you have not optimized your website in the past five years it is time to do it now before it starts costing you customers.

3. Voice User Interface (VUI)

Currently, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. With the rise of Google Home and other voice-controlled machines, it makes sense that websites will follow these new compliance technology markets.

“At some point you’re going to see less type and mouse, and more use of being able to speak directly into the microphone to control what a website does.” —Jeremy Mays, Founder/CMO.

In addition, virtual reality (VR) is beginning to be the driving force behind product innovation and allowing companies to deliver ultra-realistic experiences to consumers. The real estate industry, for example the company Matterport, is already implementing VR into their tours with 3D cameras!

It might not happen in 2020, but eventually a website could have a Live chat AI bot to provide customer service. AI will give companies the opportunity to recommend products to target consumers more efficiently and accurately.

4. Microinteractions

Micro-interactions let the user feel like they’re controlling how sites operate, it’s not just a website telling them plain information. When someone is on an e-commerce site and the product jumps as the cursor hits it, or if a button’s color and shape changes as the user hovers over it, that’s a micro-interaction.

The technology industry is the pioneer and trendsetter for other businesses. Erin Thomas, a freelance graphic designer, couldn’t agree more with that statement.

“I think the technology industry will implement a user-friendly design first. With this day and age, technology is HUGE and it’s continuing to grow. Technology is continuously upping their game when it comes to improving the product, company, and overall industry.” Erin told us that Drunk Elephant’s website was one of her favorite’s due to the movement.

5. Accessibility

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act was incorporated in 1990, many industries had to change their business models. This includes increasing access to websites for everyone on the internet.

A perfect example is website, that has a high contrast version and is adapting to people with visual impairments. Corporate social responsibility should be a high priority for businesses, and a new website model that can integrate visual aids to make their product(s) more accessible will reflect good core values.

To be truly accessible to all users, websites should have:

1. Alternative text formats such as larger print or braille

2. Full keyboard accessibility

3. Visual content that will not cause seizures

4. Captions for videos or audio descriptions

A business’ website is their lifeline to the public, so it better be appealing!

With social media and the internet constantly changing, companies need to stay on their toes. Users should navigate your stark interface with as little effort as possible and new designs should have a minimal interface, be effortless to read, easy to search, and promote movement using the user’s cursor. We recommend studying the UX basics before delving into any unknown designer territory.

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What you should know about versioning in SharePoint

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What you should know about versioning in SharePoint

What is SharePoint versioning anyway?

Microsoft SharePoint is a powerful platform for document management, helping users break free from convoluted folder structures on shared drives or emailing back and forth to revise a document. SharePoint helps users get away from these old habits and work smarter thanks to features like secure, cloud-based file storage, metadata/tagging, and automated workflows. One of SharePoint’s strongest document management features is version control, which enables users to manage and track versions of documents throughout their lifecycle.

What is SharePoint versioning?

In SharePoint, versioning allows you to record changes made to documents or list items, without losing the historical versions. Whether the change is made to the file itself or to metadata associated with the file, SharePoint tracks the change, when it was made, and who made it.

Throughout each new version of the document, the file name and location remain consistent so users always know where to find the file. SharePoint saves the previous versions, so users can access them on an as-needed basis, whether they want to simply view an older iteration or revert back to it. In the document library, SharePoint always displays the most recent version of the file, so it is easy to tell which version is the most up-to-date without sifting through all iterations.

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Why should you use versioning?

Improve organization

Version control helps you keep your SharePoint document library clean and organized, especially compared to the chaos of folders on your desktop or shared drives. Instead of having dozens of versions of the same document with increasingly ridiculous file names (like “PolicyManual_updated_bobs-edits_new-format_final_FINAL_really-final-this-time”), you will always know what the most recent version is, while also retaining access to the history of the document.

Collaborate with ease

Gone are the days of lengthy email threads to share updates to documents. With SharePoint, your documents are stored in one central location in a document library, and you can easily collaborate on these documents. Your coworkers will all be able to see the changes you’ve made, and there is no confusion over which version of the document is the most up-to-date.

Ensure auditability

Ensure auditability and legal protection Enabling versioning in SharePoint may help you meet your organization’s legal or audit requirements. Versioning helps you create an audit trail, as it makes the history of documents transparent and traceable. You can track when changes were made and who made them.

Your future self will thank you

If you ever need to refer to or restore an old version of a document, versioning ensures that you have access to this history. You may not need to do this very often, but when you need to restore a former version of a critical document, you will be so glad you have versioning enabled!

How do you configure versioning in SharePoint?

In SharePoint Online, versioning is already enabled by default for document libraries. If you want to add versioning to lists, or if you are not on SharePoint Online, you will need to manually enable versioning. In any case, there are several additional settings that you will want to configure to meet your organization’s unique needs.

1) Choose the type of versioning.
2) Define the number of versions.
3) Require content approval, if needed.
4) Configure user permission.

As a document management platform, SharePoint has extremely robust features like versioning and check-in/check-out, helping you transform the way you work. However, we have found that many SharePoint users aren’t aware of the extent of these features or how to customize them the way they want. We hope this guide to versioning gives you a better idea of how to set up your document libraries for success.

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How to turn data privacy into success

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How to turn data privacy into success

5 Ways to Improve Your Data Privacy Strategy

Consumers are demanding stronger privacy protections for their data. They are not alone amid growing concerns about cybercrime. Above all, organizations must be prepared to protect individuals’ personal and confidential data. However, a challenge for companies is developing a strong cybersecurity strategy.

In a recent Forbes article, the estimated amount of damages from a cyber security breach will exceed $6 trillion. Unfortunately, half of the attacks are towards small businesses.

Why would hackers target small businesses when they likely have less data then larger ones? Well, small businesses often lack the resources and in-house expertise needed to implement a security plan.

It is important to regularly reassess, regardless of where your company’s security strategy stands. For example, ask yourself how it stacks up against the constantly changing cyber security environment.

cyber security computer technology consulting

Below are 5 tips on how to improve data privacy:

Limit access to data

To start, permissions should be assigned on a “need-to-know” basis. You reduce the number of people who could compromise data integrity through unauthorized changes or deletions. In other words, make permissions as restrictive as possible. When employees leave the company, keep your permissions directory up-to-date and your system secure. Most importantly, don’t forget to remove permissions as part of the off-boarding process

Improve network security

Make sure your firewall and antivirus programs are comprehensive and up-to-date. However, if your company has a bring-your-own device policy, extend these protective measures to all devices.

Disaster recovery

Backups are important. Subsequently, you can recover data easily if an attack occurs. You need to regularly perform backups and store them in a secure location. Above all, you should be prepared to further ramp up security in the event of an attack. In other words, develop a plan to head off future attacks. Overall, make sure to reassess your security gaps

Data life-cycle management

Identify how long you will store data and how you will securely destroy outdated data. Don’t forget to inventory any data that is stored in paper files, as physical documents are still at risk for being compromised, lost, or stolen. If you are moving to a digital document management system, have a plan for how to deal with the original paper copies. For instance, where do they go once they have been migrated to a digital system?

Mitigate human error

Moreover, data breaches are not limited to outside attacks. Many are caused by simple human error. The loss of an unencrypted device or an accidental data leak could pose just as much of a threat as a team of hackers. Prevent errors by educating employees about security protocols. In addition, implement safeguards that make it difficult to make costly mistakes.

These tips will help you reassess your data privacy strategy and set you up for success. For example, there are strong security tools such as VPNs and antivirus to protect your data privacy.

It is, however, recommended to educate yourself regularly about cyber security. Further, keep yourself up to date with the security requirements of the age. In addition, if you are looking to transform the way you manage your data, consider recruiting an expert.

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The untold secrets to the right software

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The untold secrets to the right software

Is it time for you to begin the software selection process? If so, you are probably weighing the pros and cons of a commercial-off-the-shelf solution (COTS) and a custom software solution.

First, you should evaluate your business needs and goals. Thus, allowing you to determine any features you want in a software solution. Whether you are a large corporation or a small startup, choosing a solution can be a daunting task. To help make the selection process a little easier, we will discuss situations when you should lean towards custom development and when you should lean toward COTS.

COTS vs. Custom Software

Custom software is a customized software solution that is tailored to meet the end users’ specific needs. As a result, there are no two custom software solutions alike. In contrast, an off-the-shelf solution is a mass-marketed software that is designed to meet common needs. With custom software solutions being so unique, it can be hard to visualize a custom software solution. Let's review how to properly use software selection tools:

Aciron infographic pros and cons of software Aciron infographic pros and cons of COTS

Examples of Custom Software

Data management system

An online database can help your organization, create, and share reports within different departments. By creating a custom database you can include features that are relevant to your organization, such as a feature that will translate documents or store folders to manage users’ data. An online and user-friendly database will also allow you to pull reports and share with relevant internal and external stakeholders. This centralized location will eliminate the use of multiple spreadsheets.

Study management system

study management system can help clinical research organization better organize their studies and operations digitally. Thus, eliminating manual processes and the use of multiple spreadsheets. Within this system, you can include custom features, such as a section for patients and providers to share feedback, study status, or a calendar for scheduling visits. With a custom system, you can also create forms and reports that can be shared with restricted users.

Document management system

There are many types of important types of documents for each industry. For example, in the legal industry, it is important to manage cases and client information. A case management system may include a calendar to coordinate client meeting and deadlines, different folders to store client documentation, and a billing system to ease the billing process.

Grant management system

For fund-seeking organizations, managing grants is a core component of the business. By customizing a management system, you can include features that are most important to helping your business success. A grant management system could include forms for requesting and submitting grants, the status of grants submissions, approvals, or drafts, and be integrated with accounting tools and email servers.

Knowledge management system

Knowledge Management is power and its imperative to a company’s success. That’s why a knowledge management system is a great solution to storing and organizing all the company’s knowledge. With a custom system, you can store and share relevant information with all company employees or restricted employees. You can also create the system so that each department has a section to store and share files, calendars, and other information within the department.

Decide on custom development

If there are no COTS that meets your business’ needs:

Every company has unique needs. Some of these needs are so specific that choosing a COTS would disrupt existing processes, thus, causing frustration among team members. One of the benefits of a custom software solution is that you are starting with a blank slate. Therefore, you can add features that will meet your company’s specific needs. Additionally, you will not be paying for features you wouldn’t use. Software selection is an art!

If you have strict workflows:

When choosing a COTS, your users will most likely have to change their workflows to adapt to the new system. If your organization already has strict workflows, modifying current workflows may significantly impede existing processes. As a result, custom software is probably the best solution. Additionally, a custom solution is a great way to streamline processes through workflow automation.

If planning for the future

When designing your custom software, you can plan for future growth while ensuring the system will meet your current needs. You can also incorporate additional development features, like updates and enhancements. When choosing a COTS, it is almost impossible to ensure that the solution will be scalable. Thus, you may be searching for a new system in just a few years.

Decide on COTS:

If you saw a product that could work for you: While you were researching or trying out a demo, you may have come across a product that catches your interest. If you liked the way a product works, and it will suit the needs of end users, then choosing a COTS may be the right solution. Additionally, an existing product gives you an exact visual and representation of the final product.

If you are looking for an immediate solution in your software selection: If time is of the essence, then choosing a COTS may be the best solution. It can take months to develop a custom software solution. Before the project even starts, there is usually a requirements gathering session to identify pain points. Then, there is the process of implementing feedback to ensure the solution will meet the end users’ requirements.

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Benefits of provider-hosted SharePoint add-ins

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Benefits of provider-hosted SharePoint add-ins

You download apps to your phone right? Well, you can also download SharePoint apps to your SharePoint. SharePoint add-ins, formerly known as SharePoint apps, are self-contained applications. Overall, they extend the built-in capabilities of SharePoint. These stand-alone apps exist to solve business needs, such as task or contract management. Add-ins can show up as an immersive full-page experience. In addition, they can be part of an existing page or as part of the UI.

Add-ins don’t run any custom code on SharePoint servers. Thankfully, this helps you avoid any negative impact on server security or performance. Instead, all of the custom code runs on either the cloud, client computers, or an on-premises server external to your SharePoint farm.

You can download add-ins from the Microsoft Online store. For instance, you can have an add-in custom made for your organization. When developing a custom add-in, there are two different add-in models to choose from: SharePoint-hosted or provider-hosted.

SharePoint-Hosted Add-Ins

SharePoint stores everything, even it's own apps. SharePoint-hosted add-ins consist entirely of standard SharePoint components, like lists and Web Parts. They are designed, however, using SharePoint Designer. All processing occurs client-side, which means you can’t use server-side code.

Provider-Hosted Add-Ins

The web application is hosted outside of a SharePoint farm on an external serve. For instance, this improves security. The application interacts with your SharePoint site and all of the stored data. Therefore, these add-ins include common SharePoint components. They can also include custom external components. Business logic can run via remote server-side code or client-side code.

More importantly, provider-hosted add-ins tend to be more powerful than SharePoint-hosted add-ins. Both models of add-ins can leverage standard SharePoint functionality. But, since provider-hosted add-ins aren't limited to client-side processing, they can leverage resources unavailable to SharePoint add-ins. Provider-hosted add-ins allow for flexibility and provide a scalable solution.

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Benefits of SharePoint Apps

Timer Jobs

Timer jobs allow the system to perform scheduled tasks. Similarly, they are useful for automating your business processes. However, timer jobs are not available in Office 365/SharePoint Online since they require server-side code. To work around this limitation, you can use a provider-hosted add-in. In short, an add-in can run remote timer jobs by scheduling them outside of SharePoint.


SharePoint-hosted add-ins often suffer from slow speeds and performance issues. CSS and jQuery code tends not to be optimized for performance when add-ins are designed with SharePoint Designer. Overall, workflows tend to get stuck. The code exists outside of SharePoint with provider-hosted add-ins. They can be written, however, using any programming language. Moreover, this helps avoid performance issues from SharePoint Designer.


There are no design limitations on a provider-hosted add-in. The application’s pages can mimic the layout of standard SharePoint pages. Similarly, they can break outside of the SharePoint mold to feature a unique design. This flexibility allows you to create beautiful, customized SharePoint web apps.

In conclusion, SharePoint Designer has many limitations for changing functionality. Unfortunately, this can result in a lowered user experience. By using a provider-hosted add-in, the site is less restricted. This creates an optimized user experience. For example, you can customize document upload for a more streamlined experience.

In essence, provider-hosted SharePoint add-ins allow for the flexibility of custom business applications. They leverage built-in functionality. You can harness SharePoint’s powerful features, like document management and versioning, without facing limitations imposed by SharePoint Designer.

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The Secret Power of Designing with Gray

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The Secret Application Power of Designing with Gray

Gray is magic.

I wish I could take credit for that wisdom. When a professor at design school told me that, it completely changed the way I approached UX. Gray can be tricky to use, though. Warm, medium grays feature prominently in the application interfaces of the early 2000s. You know the ones I'm talking about. They were usually accompanied by shadows, highlights, and a dotted line around selections.

application gray box blog text


The use of gray has come a long way since then, however, to access its magic takes careful planning. Judicious use of gray can modernize your application design while communicating important information to your users. Let's explore some shades of gray and where they work best:

Light Gray: Defining Underlying Structures

application with white backdrop example
This form has a lot going on.
application with grey backdrop example
The gray background helps the user track where they are.

In cases of segmented content, a very light gray background behind cards sets a necessary contrast. This way the user can better differentiate each piece of content. This is especially relevant to complex form design, something business application consultants often encounter. Grouping fields together is important in form design, and a gray background can help separate those groups from each other. It gives the user a better sense of which sections they have already completed.

Light gray also works well in data table design. If the dividing lines of a table are the same color or darker than the content, it inhibits readability. Similarly, in a complex table with a lot of data, light gray zebra stripes helps the user keep their place without overwhelming that clean and modern look we're always striving toward.

Medium Gray: Inviting Clicks

application example of grey design

The use of a medium gray for icons, toggles, and field outlines communicates to a user that an element has not been selected, but that it wants to be. When contrasted with a bright mouseover, selected, or focused color, gray elements help a user quickly see what their options are.

This gray should be lighter than the text, but dark enough to stand out against a white background when viewed at a glance.

Dark Gray: Improving Text Readability

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This small change can make a big difference to tired eyes.
Aciron application grey text box

Replacing black with a dark gray will make blocks of text easier to read. The high contrast of black text can cause eye strain, especially when appearing in a paragraph format. Switching to a medium or dark gray can increase readability up to 58%. Take care when setting your text to gray and make sure there is enough contrast that it is still easy to read against a white background.

Try implementing some of these techniques as you design your business applications, and see if you can unlock the secret magic of gray!

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Color Coding for Business Applications​

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Color Coding for Business Applications

Color-coding in UX can be a powerful tool for business applications. Not only do colors communicate how data are structured, they make the user experience more enjoyable. Let’s look at how utilizing color-coding can bring order to complex systems.

There are several standard conventions for semantic color usage with which designers and consultants should be familiar: red is an error, green signals success, amber displays a warning. Baked into the common UI framework of Bootstrap are standard classes for these color usages, as well as primary and secondary colors. Often based on your client's branding, those colors show up in headers, on buttons, and can liven up mouseover and field focus style effects.

business applications color coding

Bootstrap color classes provide necessary context; designers can tune these hues to fit within an application's branding

Beyond Bootstrap: Colors & Learning

business applications eight icon examples

This categorical color system is common in data visualization design, but works equally well to code modules in this school management system.

The applications of color described above are the industry standard. However, in large business applications with multiple sections of content, color should be deployed to help the user keep track of where they are. The user is more likely to have a successful experience if navigational spaces are broken up into small pieces. Keep in mind: color coding should always supplement other visual signposts so that colorblind users can still distinguish sections.

Organizing data by color reinforces the user's understanding of how the application works. This is true especially if those color references appear consistently whenever the user encounters the categories of information tied to those colors. Through this simple method, the user can learn the structure of an application faster and feel more confident in their actions.

Choosing Colors

There are plenty of articles about how humans perceive and form associations with certain colors. However, in the case of informational organization, it might not be relevant that purple connotes royalty or blue is calming. The most important factor to consider when choosing colors for coding information is how different the colors are from each other, and from the other colors used in the application.

business applications two color coding examples
Coded colors differentiate the UI systems of each module, reinforcing the user's comprehension of the application.

Beyond differentiation, select colors that match or extend the look and feel of the application's existing branding. As you craft your prototypes, look for opportunities to feature a range of coded colors together. Make sure that each color works independently and as part of the group. An excellent resource for selecting modern colors that play well together is Material's Color System. Beyond offering up some bright and punchy color palettes, the folks at Material have taken great care in explaining the theory behind why these colors work. Learn those rules, and then go out and break them with confidence.

For an in-depth analysis of how Khan Academy uses (and doesn't use) color coding effectively, click here to read this article on Prototypr​.

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