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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!