Site vs. Library

By Daniel Antion posted 10-16-2012 14:32


Over a year ago, I wrote a blog entry about how we were downsizing several SharePoint sites to document libraries instead. It turned out that the library was the only feature of the sites that were being used, and a well-defined library looks better than an unused team site. This week, I find myself arguing for the pendulum to swing back toward the creation of sub-sites. In the heat of election year, let me be quick to point out that “I am not flip-flopping” I am recognizing that sometimes sub-sites are the best way to go.

In general, I am an advocate of building the least amount of infrastructure necessary to hold your content. If you can place documents in an existing library, do that. If you can modify an existing library with additional metadata and then accommodate more types of content, you should do that. If you have to create a separate library for specific content, you should do that, but you should build that library in a way that handles related or similar kinds of content. The emphasis should be on findability. When someone comes to a site, they should find what they expect and they should find it with a minimum of clicks. Given that mindset, why am I now suggesting that my coworkers create a sub-site – because there are larger issues at stake.

Libraries are primarily a tool of document management. Unlike their anemic little brothers (folders) libraries support metadata, workflows, versioning, and the implementation of managed processes. Sites, on the other hand, are a tool of Information Management. Sites are robust and offer the ability to present documents in a broader context. In our case, the documents in question are related to various meetings with outside stakeholders. A library can include a metadata column to distinguish between those stakeholders. It can include another column to identify a document as minutes, or a presentation, or a response to questions that were asked. What can a site add? Well, here are three things that I suggested that the people working on this project feel might be helpful:

Links – The meetings that are documented here are important, because the stakeholders are important. Some of the people reading these documents will be learning about this aspect of our business, and a few well chosen links to the websites about these outside entities will be useful reference material. We could add an http column to the documents, but it wouldn’t always be necessary and it would rarely be unique. Having a list where we can store the appropriate link AND describe the value of that link lets the people involved with this process today, share that additional information with their successors.

Calendar – Why settle for just a historic record of events, why not include a schedule of upcoming events. The event list view of a calendar lets everyone associated with these events know what is occurring, not just the people invited to specific events. Since there are enough of these events, the calendar will most likely always have something on it, so it can draw people to the site.

Blog – Yes, I might be going out on a limb with this one, but I think a blog would be useful in this situation. I’m not suggesting a lengthy, regular series of blog entries, but rather a more personal view of what happened or what needs to happen at these events. A copy of the agenda coupled with the minutes of a meeting serves to document the event, but they don’t always tell the story of the event. Sometimes people can benefit from hearing the story. Of course, I’d be remiss in my management duty if I didn’t caution people to check with the attorneys before adding their personal slant on an event, but in general, I don’t think that we are in any danger on this one.

Not everything on SharePoint deserves its own site, but the beauty of SharePoint lies in the fact that when a site would be useful, it’s easy to build.

#Structure #DocumentLibraries #Sites #SharePoint #sharepoint


10-22-2012 03:14

The missing level I mention in my earlier comment is Document Set :-)

10-22-2012 03:09

Thank you for this informative post. However, I’m missing one addition tool in SharePoint for controlling your content. I work foremost with technical documentation and have use a lot. I think that this level should have its place between Library and Folder when it comes to administrate content.