MOSS 2007 Customization: Content Types, Columns and Page Layouts Explained

When I started blogging a couple of years back, I made my entry with a very unorthodox way to create a WSS v2 website that looked like “a real website”. I promise I won’t make you endure that length tutorial again.

Staying true to my “designer” root, this article outlines some of the MOSS 2007 terminology, and how they relate to a “regular website”. In the end you should have a slightly better idea on how to leverage the power of MOSS 2007 to create robust and fully customized web applications.

Disclaimer: This is based entirely on my own research using beta 2, not all information may be correct, and all is subject to change.

As with any successful venture, planning is key. Here are a few tips for planning your publishing site in MOSS 2007:

1) Plan your content types and columns: In it’s simplest form, a website is made up of a group of pages, each containing content. Keep this concept in mind when planning your MOSS 2007 content types and columns.

A content type would represent a unique “page” in your website such as an “About Us” page, while the “columns” represent a bit of content on a particular page.

For example: If you had a website with an about us page, this page would likely have a title stating about us, some content about us and perhaps a company photo. In this context, you would create a content type for “About Us” and columns within this content type for “About Us Title” “About Us Content” “About Us Image”.

When you select a column remember that with the power of WCM (Web Content Management) you are able to give users with appropriate permissions the ability to edit these columns from within the browser as they view the site. When you are planning and selecting columns pay close attention to what you would/wouldn’t want editable in a WCM sense. You will notice “publishing enabled” next to the columns that allow this functionality.

To recap, a content type is a unique page within a site and a column is a unique bit of content within a page. Not too difficult when you look at it that way.

2) Planning and creating page layouts: Page layouts are created “based on” content types. In a regular website design scenario, you would likely have a “skeletal” page based on your great design which you can use to quickly create for example sub pages such as “about us”. This is much the same way page layouts work only much, much better.

When you create a page layout, users with proper permissions can select create page from the browser and then select your page layout as the starting point.

The idea here is you decide up front what unique pages you figure you will need (content types) Example: A sub page. Then you decide what type of content should be on there (columns), and which of these should be editable by the user. Then you create a page layout (using the Browser, or SharePoint Designer 2007) by associating it with a content type. That then says this page layout will show up in the gallery for “create page” and when the user selects it they will have that skeletal starting point for a new page.

To really leverage the power of this you want to create a fully customized set of page layouts, taking advantage of master pages and adding your own custom layout and graphics.

In the end you have the power to empower ANY USER to click “Create Page” and have a fully customized UI pop up with editable features and if you wish areas to add web parts. This in my opinion is where MOSS 2007 really shines for a designer.

I hope this article has helped you understand a little better, the terminology of MOSS 2007 and how content types, columns and page layouts relate to one another, and more importantly how you as a designer can relate to them in a “regular website” context.

Have a question? Leave a comment or email me, shane @ my domain

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9 Responses

  1. Cynthia says:

    Shane, what I am trying to figure out is how to display some fields that the users will fill in and then have the owners fill out the other remaining fields. Is it possible to set permission on a column so only certain users can fill out the remaining fields later on.

  2. Kunal says:

    Hi Shane,
    I want to add a column in a list which allows me to browse for a document. Is that possible? Hope to hear from you soon. Bye.

  3. Karen says:

    Does anyone know if (and how) to set different permissions on a specific page?

  4. Sneha says:

    shane, i am working on a sharepoint 2007 site where in i need to change the look and feel of the site according to logged in user’s domain i.e. if the logged in user belongs to domain X he should see different color scheme etc from a user who belongs to domain Y .Is that possible??
    thanks in advance

  5. shane says:

    Karl,

    A couple of things – the “administration” pages hold on to the default look/feel of SharePoint due to “all sites admin pages” referencing a global set of style-sheets/master pages (application.master).

    I’m not 100% sure of what you need to accomplish but I would think it would be “much” more beneficial and reusable if you created a page layout based on your content type – that way you can customize the look/feel of that page layout and create any number of pages based on it.

    I would look more closely at page layouts + content types. If that has no bearing on what you are after then the editform.aspx page is still in the forms directory of your web/site. Just keep in mind it references a master page to get the “chrome” now.

    I hope that helps – Shane

  6. Karl says:

    I have created a content type in SPS 2007. How can I edit the editform.aspx for that content type?
    I want to rearrange the form fields differently for this content type.

  7. shane says:

    PS: I wasn’t being literal about the “About Us” page. I was just tryiing to explain content types it in context with a regular website.

    If you had a mainpage and a subpage layout like most websites, you would make 2 content types,adding whatever columns you wish.

    Depending on what WCM capable areas you want and what content bits you want, you can create any number of content types and layout pages.

  8. shane says:

    Mike,

    Thanks and great points, I totally agree!

  9. Mike says:

    Shane, I really like your work for the community! Some small additions to your post in my point of view.

    I think that besides the planning of content type and columns it is also important to mention the existence of base columns and how to use them in your own favor. Then for the example, personally I think that an about us page isn’t that unique that it should deserve it’s own content type, after all it doesn’t have any more unique properties then any other page with an title and an image. Personally I use the example of a page where a vacancy is shown, vacancies have more unique attributes to show the use of columns imho.
    just my €0.02.
    Keep up the good work!

I would love to hear from you.

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