There has been a great deal of noise created in the SharePoint blog world by a posting made by Mike Drips entitled “5 Things Wrong with SharePoint”, this was then replied to by the whole cast :- Arpan, Paul, Andrew, Daniel, Ed, Scoble and Maurice and other I haven’t read no doubt. While the original article was rather flawed with either errors or what I would call flaky logic, it’s only right that the users point out the bad point of the product as well as the good. Rather than write a wish list for SharePoint 3, I wanted to point out things that could have been done better in OSPS2003/WSS with little more effort.
1. Error Messages – Some error messages in SharePoint are displayed as simple full page black Times messages on a white background, there’s no connection to a style sheet and no ‘chrome’ around the page. The most common time this appear is when a team site fills it’s quota. There is not apparent way to edit these messages, they come out of some .dll. This really smacks of laziness/rushing to ship the product. All error messages should be customizable, all inherit the default style sheet etc.
2. Dodgy Site collection model – Even the admin help file for SharePoint doesn’t seem to really understand how team site collections and top-level sites are related. I’m not sure I really know what to call a collection of top level sites. Technically it’s a pain as well. The model for self service creation of team sites seems to favor the creation of multiple top-level sites, for example the quota is allocated to each site collection rather than individual sites, however when you want to do something like share a list template you create it is constrained within you collection. Subsites really should exist in my opinion.
3. Product name – Despite the beating dished out to Mike Drips, I agree with him that the naming convention for OSPS2003 and WSS is rubbish and confuses customers. I think that the layout of the products does little to add to the clarity. It’s generally claimed that SharePoint is a brand, and the two products are elements of that brand, I can accept this, but why not start both product names with SharePoint. Also from the names one of the products is a service, the other is a server, how does that make any sense. It’s often claimed that WSS is a platform and OSPS2003 is an application built upon that platform, this isn’t really the case. There is a common platform between the two products, but they are both built up from here, a Portal in OSPS2003 isn’t entirely a superset of WSS features (for example, there’s no per list permissions in OSPS2003 but there is in WSS). I would prefer that we talked about a true common platform and then one product with portal features, the other with team features. They will work great together, but the identity is kept apart.
4. Admin UI – To start with a positive, the look-and-feel people did a good and consistent job of the admin UI for SharePoint, however what they were given to work with is a taxonomy that really makes little sense. I’ve lost track of how long I spend browsing around looking for a setting I’ve seen, probably even know by name, but can’t derive it’s location for the UI. The search UI is the worst of the bunch, what on earth is that simple mode that can never be reverted to for. There are also lots of functions which are all but lost. I recently discovered that if you go to the permissions page for an area there is an option hidden in what looks like an introductory paragraph to make the area only appear in the navigation for people who have permissions. Great feature, but lost due to the poor UI.
5. Silly dependencies on Office 2003 Pro – Nearly every list view has a View in DataSheet link, but this only operates if the user has full Office 2003 Professional. Most of the client side features of SharePoint work just fine with Office 2003 Standard, it’s entirely arbitrary and punitive to make this component a Pro only feature. At the least the error message should be clear “This feature doesn’t work because someone in marketing decided you should pay the extra $100 for Office Pro”.
I think OSPS 2003 and WSS are great products, if an organization uses Office (and who doesn’t) then SharePoint is of huge value and little cost. The development of the current release was a huge undertaking by Microsoft in a short time period so there are significant limitations and lack of polish in many areas, I wish they would address them in service packs, however given the next version is only a little over a year away we will have to hope that there is more time to perfect the final product. As I’m involved in the testing of Office 12 I’ll be giving the product teams plenty of feedback in this area.
<rant>I would also point out that Mike’s article is not a blog, it doesn’t have a concept of trackbacks, so he may be entirely unaware of the responses people have made to him in their personal blogs. That’s pretty poor ettiquette (at some point Mike’s going to search for his name and be amaized by what he finds), responses/rebuttals should have been made in the comments on the site he posted.</rant>