I don’t think that I’ve ever learned so much on the fly as I did on this project. I’m not sure I have ever needed to.
I was brought into the project having no SharePoint development or design experience whatsoever. As Sr. Interface Designer for a Microsoft Gold Partner, I really had no choice but to dig in.
I feel the issues I faced are common to folks who are new to SharePoint and in particular to veterans of custom application development. SharePoint looks and quacks like a duck. SharePoint is not a duck.
The issue here is that when you are used to looking at .aspx files and .css files and the like, it is natural to make the assumption that you are in a comfortable place that you have been in before. Dangerous assumption.
I won’t go into the details of the project. I’d just like to point out the some of the areas that SharePoint pulls the old bait and switch.
Multiple Master Pages
There are several Master Pages, not just the default.master.
That confused me to no end at first. I get it now.
The CSS Is Not The CSS.
The normal rules of inheritance and the cascading part of cascading style sheets are not followed strictly speaking, and as an added bonus some web parts use inline styles to make, typography, for instance a nightmare. Oh and by default the browser will render the site in quirks mode. Enjoy.
The .aspx pages are not the pages.
The pages that render in the browser are a combination of Master Page, Layout Page and sometimes a third page. This makes it crucial to know what all the moving parts are at any one time.
The business logic is compartmentalized even more so than with .Net Components. The Issue for design here is that all the web parts act as little mini-applications and it takes an extra step or two to make clear to the business what they are getting into.
I should note that I use only HTML and CSS (some JQuery) to brand the sites I work on. If that is your goal as well then these are some tools I recommend.
Heather Solomon’s Blog
Internet Explorer Developer Toolbar 7 or 8
SharePoint Minimal Master Page
Heather Solomon’s Version
Starter Masterpages from Codeplex.com/
Do some research
Sharepoint Magazine: Customizing the User Experience of SharePoint
Visio Template MOSS 2007
SharePoint Magazine: SharePoints Branding Limitations-part-1-6
End User SharePoint