Modernizing SharePoint? – My thoughts on SharePoint Online Document Library Experience Updates

Update on May 5th – Drawbacks mentioned in this article are no longer drawbacks if you are using new SharePoint Online experiences. New SharePoint Online experiences announced as “Future of SharePoint” event on May 4th spans not only document libraries but throughout SharePoint including new SharePoint Team Site experiences. See Updates herehere, and here. I never had a blog article invalidates itself in few weeks. It’s a power of modern product updates & release cycle. I still think communication and feature rollout could have been better.

Microsoft has pushed out one more “Sneaky” release in Office 365 relating to SharePoint Online document library experiences. If you have “First Release” tenant, you will start noticing the new banner on SharePoint online document library page stating – “Check out new document library look!”.

Doc library UX Banner

I call this “Sneaky” release. Even though this is a huge change in SharePoint (first significant Document Library UI change since SharePoint 2003/2007 days, almost 10-12 years ago), it was never announced on Microsoft Office blogs. I have heard this news on Twitter after seeing few posts from MVPs and other community leaders regarding this release.

Unlike MVPs or other community leaders, my thoughts on this change are bitter-sweet. On the one hand, I love this new modern experience with lots of core features stands out in UI for end-users. On the other hand, I hate the navigation experience from SharePoint Online document library UI to One Drive for Business document library UI. More on navigation concerns later.

If you have never seen new SPO document library experience, here is the preview:

This is a classic SharePoint Online document library experience with the invitation to try out new experience:

SPO OLD Doc Library UX

This is how new SharePoint Online document library experience looks like (with an ability to rollback to classic view for the time being):

SPO New Doc Library List View UX

SPO New Doc Library Grid View UX

Let’s first talk about Pros. I hugely welcome modern UI of new SharePoint Online user experiences. Not only Microsoft had bubbled up many key features like easy actions but modernized the UI along with it.

Here are some of the highlights of new features and I must say – I love them all.

  • Library Level Features
    1. Ability to Pin documents as Highlights above the library view
    2. Ability to “Alert Me” from quick action bar
    3. Ability to have Grid view with previews, rather than traditional list view
  • Document Level Actions
    1. Ability to see “History” on the right bar
    2. Document Action Bar – Ability to get a link, ability to Move to another location (one of the long standing issues with traditional UI)

Now, let’s talk about major drawback. With all the love for new UI, one of the major downside of this new update is what happens to the existing collaboration sites. Even though Office 365 have new workloads rolling out every few months to tackle modern collaboration like Yammer Groups, Office 365 Groups, Planner, Delve, many of our customers are still using SharePoint team sites for document collaboration.

Along with SharePoint team sites, they are accustomed to using “Blue” SharePoint/Office 365 global OOB UI and SharePoint Online ribbon bar. One of the major issues with new UI is end-users will require traversing back and forth between SharePoint Online UI (Blue Globar bar with Ribbon) and OneDrive for Business UI (Black Global bar without Ribbon) while using document libraries and that’s where the challenge is.

Many of us additionally apply SharePoint online themes (recommended by Office 365 PnP as supported version of branding), which would affect seamless UI experience and navigation as users are accessing team sites, document libraries, and documents. My only hope here is Microsoft have further plans to roll out SPO changes to reflect this new UI in SPO to match overall Office 365 experience.

But, Wait – There is a solution to all these – Having all said that, Microsoft didn’t leave us with this as forced update. You have the option to use old or new experience depending on your organization’s appetite for change. Each document library has the option to use new or old experience. This would allow document library owners to use whatever experience they like. Additionally, there is a global SharePoint Online administrative setting to apply this change to all document libraries in SharePoint online team sites. Few tips here – library-level settings will definitely affect the governance policies and how organizations want to standardize the document library experiences. Few more things to worry about as you trying to govern your environment. 🙂

You can manage list document library experiences settings from library’s advanced settings page. There are three options here:

SPO Library Admin Settings

  • Default experience set by my administrator – Configured at the SharePoint Online Administrative page.
  • New experience – New experience with OD4B UI
  • Classic experience – Classic Old and Gold SharePoint document library view

Here is the screenshot of SharePoint Online Admin Setting.

SPO Admin Settings

Here are my initial reactions on Twitter. I am hoping to have more positive reactions and better document library experience stories as we go through initial period.

Nik's reaction 0.PNG

Nik's reaction 1.PNG

Nik's reaction 2.PNG

SharePoint Online is changing!!! Good luck SPO!!!

Additional Resources and Community Reactions

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