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Implementation of Branding – Design Packages and Composed looks

2 Apr

My next few posts will cover branding including design packages, composed looks, standard branding like SharePoint 2010 and navigation options. Keep in mind that all of this will be from a developers perspective and will mostly focus on how we as developers can take something that has been created by our designers and develop/deploy it regardless if it is in a design package, a composed look or a simple master page.

1. Design Packages – Are these useful to developers?
2. Composed Looks – How can these be deployed from a WSP we have built?
3. Standard Branding – Developing and deploying branding the same as SharePoint 2010
4. Navigation – The options
5. Style the masterpage

Design Package – What’s kool

Before I go into detail on using design packages for deploying changes, let me mention some kool stuff that can be half used with this just while in development, or pure config in production. The design manager has a few purposes, to specify what to do for different devices, allow users to add code snippets, create masterpages, manage display templates and page layouts. So you can see there may be bits and pieces you decide to use when using these new features. Keep in mind that you need publishing features turned on to access this kool stuff…

  • Firstly Device channels, these allow us to choose what to do with out site based on certain resolutions or device types. We can change css, images and choose what content gets displayed in what channels.
  • Display Templates, these are used to display search content in search content web parts, or in search itself.
  • Editing Masterpage and page layouts. The new masterpage functionality where you can upload a masterpage is pretty kool, i think its easier to give a designer the seattle.html file however, and then they can edit from there. I mostly say this as its easier doing it that way with the sharepoint components already added, than it is for sharepoint to add the bits back in. If you upload a master page directly it still needs a bit of tweaking to get it really going.

Design Package (exported) – What’s inside?

Design packages look like a good thing for designers, or power users who do not have the skills to create a custom solution in Visual Studio to deploy branding. But as developers should we utilise this functionality? It’s worth having a quick look to see what a design package really is, there may be some components we can use.

Lets make some changes to our site first before we export a design package.

1. Go to Site Settings > Look and Feel > Design Manager

2. Click on Edit Master Pages

3. Click on Create a minimal master page

4. Type in a name for the master page and click OK

5. Now click on Create Design Package

6. Type in a name and click on Create. Once this is finished click on Your Package is ready. Click here to download.

7. Go to visual studio and create a new project. Select SharePoint 2013 Import Solution Package.

8. Click OK. Select farm as deployment type, then browser to your package. Click finish.

9. Below is what the design package should look like.

Feature 1 – List Instances

The first feature deploys list instances and content types related to themes. The content types and fields that are included here are OOTB ones, as we haven’t created anything.

Open the Composed Looks list instance.

You can see here that it is creating each item that already exists in the site it was exported from.

Feature 2 – Modules

Now expand the Master Page Gallery. Even though the WSP appears to deploy all of the composed looks and themes, it only adds in our custom master page (but all associated html files for the other master pages).

Scroll on down to Modules and expand the _catalogsthemeThemedC7475956_. This appears to deploy a whole bunch of stuff that already exists in the theme gallery under Site Settings, Themes > themed > C7475956.

Feature Three – Property Bag

The third feature deploys items into the property bag of the site collection.

Open up the PropertyBags elements.xml file. I don’t know about you, but I’m slightly scared by not knowing what all this is! Surely I don’t need this just to deploy my one master page! Also there seems to be some propertys set with a base URL of the site I exported from, not sure if this is good.

Let’s try and import the design package into a different site…

Create either a new site collection, or web app. We will import our exported wsp and see how it goes.

1. Go to your new site collection and enable the site collection publishing feature.

2. Go to design manager and on the welcome page click on Import a complete design package

3. Browse to the location of the exported wsp/design package from earlier and click Import.

4. Here’s the nice new waiting screen…

5. Once the import is done. Have a look at the site collection features, your’l notice that there are no features like we saw in the design package so these must be hidden away somewhere.

6. If you go to the design manager and look at Edit Master Pages you will see the master page that was created earlier.

7. The good news is, nothing appeared to break! However, our example was pretty simple using only one custom masterpage. It would be interesting to see how well this works with full site customisation including the search components and any device channels.

Conclusion – What can we get out of this?

Design packages look like a great way of moving around customisations and allowing designers to use their own tools to directly change master pages and components in SharePoint. However, as a developer I wouldn’t feel comfortable deploying one of these packages to production, it seems to be bloated and include a lot of items that don’t need to be deployed just so that we can have a master page or a theme. What it would be useful for is a designer doing what they need to do to get SharePoint styled on a test site collection, once they are done they could export all of their work and send it to the developer. From here the developer could extract the theme, font, master page files and anything else required.

We still need to make a decision however about if a theme is needed or just a standard master page deployed like we are used to previously. I will go in to this in the next couple of posts.


What’s new in Branding ?

22 Nov

I created the main (and only) site collection with the team site template. Before I start looking into the new branding features I have to figure out what’s new in SharePoint 2013 and decide the best way of creating the master page and theme etc.

Firstly lets look at what we get when we use the Team Site Template

Site Settings

Themes don’t use office themes anymore but instead use two xml files with the extensions .spfont and .spcolor. These are then used in Composed looks.


Composed Looks are new to SharePoint 2013 and allow users to choose a masterpage, fonts, colors and a background image.

Composed Looks

To create a new composed look, click on new item in the composed looks gallery. Here you can specify the links to your masterpage, spfont, spcolor and an image.

Composed Looks Creation

Composed looks can be applied by clicking on Change the look under Look and Feel in Site Settings.

More info on creating themes and composed looks:

Composed Looks

Lets Activate the Publishing Features

Head to the Site Settings Page and firstly activate the publishing Site Collection Feature. Site Settings > Site Collection Administration > Site Collection Features > Activate SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure.

Publishing Features

We have some additional items under Look and Feel now, Design Manager, Device Channels, Import Design Package and Navigation.

Device Channels

This allows you to define a different master-page for different devices. We won’t be implementing device channels, and there’s a couple of posts already that explain this in detail so I will link these

Import Design Package

There is now an option to export design packages, what this includes is changes to the Master Page Gallery, Style Library, Theme Gallery, the Device Channels list and Page content types (msdn article on this). This is a WSP file of the branding components required (excluding  pages, navigation settings, or the term store). This allows designers to export and import design packages without the use of Visual Studio. I will cover this a little more in the next post about implementing branding where I export out one of these packages to take a look at what’s in the WSP.


Navigation looks the same other than the new managed metadata navigation. This allows users to define their navigation as a hierarchy in the term store. NOTEEEE this is ooonly useful if you want the navigation to be on one site, yes site, not site collection :(. I was quite looking forward to this, but maybe in future this will be available across at least a whole site collection. To read about setting this up go to this Nothing But SharePoint Post. Heres a link to an MSDN article that covers talking to the metadata navigation programatically I’d be very interested to see if someone will create custom navigation that programatically talks to the managed metadata navigation that is associated with the top site / main site collection making it cross site and site collection. Maybe one day….

Design Manager

Design manager allows users to manage page layouts, masterpages and the look and feel of the site by mapping the SharePoint files to a file location where they can edit them using Visual Studio, Notepad++, Dreamweaver or any other tool they prefer. The file a user will edit has commented out snippets of SharePoint Masterpage code that they can work around. SharePoint Brian has covered each of the areas of the design manager here.

To demonstrate how the design manager worker with dreamweave Steve Peschka  has written a great step by step guide. This will give you an idea of how SharePoint works with dreamweaver as well as importing an existing html design and turning that into a masterpage.

Lets Activate the web’s Publishing Feature

Go the Site Features and activate SharePoint Server Publishing

This gives us a Pages library, changes the main URL and gives us more options in the Look and Feel menu.

Most of this is the same as it used to be. There is a new option in the Master page  menu which allows you to use the css file associated with your master page (in the master page gallery you can set this on the master page item). All items set in here apply to all channels, so some sizing etc may need to be overwritten in the other device master pages CSS files.

The welcome page url will need to be changed to a page in the pages library. At this stage there isn’t any pages, so you will need to create a default page and point the welcome page url to there.

Image reditions help optimise images for mobile devices, to use this you have to enable the blob cache however. Walk has written a blog post on this for more information:

The site url will change from /_layouts/15/start.aspx#/SitePages/Home.aspx to /SitePages/Home.aspx.

What have we decided so far for our branding implementation?

From what I have played around with so far and read, I prefer the idea of creating my own solution for branding and not exporting anything (this seems cleaner and you will see why in my next post). This means the implementation will be very similar to SharePoint 2010, deploying a master page, images and css etc. The main difference being instead of setting the masterpage and css on the spweb object on activation I suspect we will have to insert a new list item into the composed looks list and then set a property on the web which tells it what composed look to use, OR it will be the same as it used to be… We will find out!

Visual Designs

8 Nov

I’m a developer or consultant, either way designing isn’t usually my thing. But I thought it would be fun to come up with something for this intranet and our chosen “theme” to the design was going to be windows 8. The reason for the windows 8 type theme is that all of the IT students are going to be using windows 8, so it will go nicely and gives us some colours etc. to work with (instead of using the institutes colours).

So with my colours chosen for me already and a square theme, even I can design!

Home Page

Here’s the home page, as you can see its very square with lots of white space, and amaaaazing colours! love lots of colours…

Course Page

The other pages will have a left hand nav which will be orange, corresponding to the orange colour in the left side on the home page. There is also a grey bar at the top identifying the current site name, or course in this case.

Fun Zone

Simple 🙂

IT Support

A little more colour in this page in the recent issues. This will help users identify what has been resolved or not.

Now that the visuals are done, my HTML cutter uppera will cut this nicely for me to implement soon. So in the mean time I will finish the SharePoint install and start documenting what we need to implement for the solution, configuration wise (maybe do some powershell too yay).