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SharePoint Blog

April 30
Why Site Columns Matter in SharePoint

SharePoint 2013 is a powerful interface that is the force behind many intranets, internets, and extranets. Like any good content management system, there is a foundation for which a site should be built on. With SharePoint, site columns are a central part of this foundation. Although site columns have been around since the beginning of time (or at least the beginning of SharePoint), many users do not know the power that they hold.  Creating site columns may seem like a daunting (and sometimes tedious) task, but they help provide structure to websites.

Site columns are one of the most significant aspects of a SharePoint site. They keep content organized, help decrease the amount of work when adding new features such as lists or libraries to a site, and they provide structure for search.

Keeping a website’s content organized is an enormous job. Some websites have tens of thousands of pieces of content with no way to organize it other than putting it in folders. This is where the useful site column comes in. Being able to add a piece of content, then fill out specific information about it will help keep documents, pictures, videos, and newsletters more organized (and there will not be a need for any folders!). By creating generic site columns that can be used in multiple lists and libraries, a user can save time and keep their site columns to a minimum. For example, if a user is creating a slideshow (or feature rotator) on both a homepage and a conference page, instead of creating two sets of site columns within separate picture libraries, a user could create one set of generic site columns at the root site and use these for both slideshows. This is one way that site columns help users stay organized and decrease the amount of work when adding new features to a site.

Decreasing the amount of work when setting up a site or adding new features to a site is a must in today’s society. Companies want to be able to have excellent functionality within their site, but keep the workload to a minimum to cut down on costs. By following these simple rules for creating site columns, a lot of time (and headaches) can be saved:

1.       Create site columns at the root site so they can be used several times in different lists, libraries, item styles, and content types.

2.       Create a custom group for site columns to keep them organized.

3.       Create a naming convention for all site columns so they are found easily. (For example, put your company’s acronym in front of the name of the site column: “123 Event Date”).

4.       If possible, create generic site columns that can be used multiple times. For example, instead of creating a column that says “123 Annual Conference Event Date” title the column “123 Event Date” this way it can be used in different announcement lists or event lists.

See the image below for an example of creating a site column.

By following these simple steps, users will lessen their workload and increase productivity because columns are not being created numerous times. Instead, a user is able to create a list and select all the columns for that list in one easy step.

Site columns also assist in helping content throughout the site become more searchable. By creating a site column for each metadata term set within the site, content becomes easier to search. When a piece of content is uploaded to a library or list, it can be tagged with terms from the term store. By tagging content with metadata through site columns that have been added to the Edit Mode Panel, it helps to organize content and make it more relevant to what a user searches for. For example, if a newsletter was uploaded to a document library and not tagged with any metadata terms, a user would have a hard time finding this through a search. But, if this same document were tagged with a date, a topic, and an author, a user could easily find it by searching for any of the previously listed fields. For example, if a user searches for “Jane Doe” and she is the author of many newsletter articles, but her name is not tagged on the articles, the articles may not show up in the search results. But if a user searches for “Jane Doe” and her name is tagged in every newsletter where she has written an article, each of those newsletters will appear in the search results. Then the results can be filtered by date, article title, or many other fields that are also site columns.

Keeping content organized within a website is a vital task that takes a lot of work. Fortunately, SharePoint has site columns. By using site columns correctly, both content authors and users of the site are able to easily find content, keep it organized, and decrease the amount of work it takes to add new features to a site. Site columns do matter because they are the foundation of every SharePoint website.



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