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End of Year and a New Beginning

Throughout 2016 it has been a struggle work wise. I have questioned my career path, travelled the US and spent many great moments with the SharePoint community. As we end 2016 I am excited to announce a new journey that I will begin very soon.

Starting in mid-December I will be joining Microsoft as a Senior Product Marketing Manager on the PowerApps and Flow team. I will be thrilled to be shaping the future of these two products with an awesome team at Microsoft and working with the community to share the message.

Don’t worry you aren’t getting rid of me so easily, I will be around just as much as before. And while I am planning a move to Redmond over the next year, I will always be a Bama girl with the South in my heart and blood.

And my commitment to Women in SharePoint and Women in Technology remains unchanged.  We hope to launch the new podcast “Speaking with WIT” very soon and will continue to run the groups as normal.

Women in SharePoint Moving at the Speed of Cloud

Over this spring and summer I have had a bit of extra spare time (completely shocking to me too) in which I have been able to focus energy on the Women in SharePoint group.  With this extra time I have taken the tasks on of updating the Website and creating a new social media presence.

Working on both of those items led me to a more renewed sense of purpose for how to better support women in technology across all platforms. This led to my creation of the #IStandByYou campaign that is currently underway for the Women in SharePoint and the Women in Technology on IT Unity locations. You can read even more about this campaign on the Women in SharePoint website at

Along with this campaign came the desire to spread the message of support, understanding and knowledge sharing even further beyond our typical environments.  We have been extremely blessed over the years with fantastic supporters like BZ Media and the SPTechCon events. But I wanted to take it even further if possible.

We started small, a panel for the IT Unity Connect Online event, where we included our first ever male panelist. Needless to say from that one decision we began to see even more people wanting to get involved.

That leads to where we are today, with a podcast that was released yesterday by the Microsoft Cloud Show that you can listen to here:

The discussion is now opened up and spreading quickly.  We are very excited to continue this discussion and it has lead to my own personal pledge for the #IStandByYou campaign.  We will be starting up a Women in Technology focused podcast called “Speaking with WIT” very soon. This is an extremely exciting turn of events that is being made possible with the support and pledges from Andrew Connell and Chris Johnson.

So over the coming weeks and months, keep your eyes and ears peeled for the launch of this podcast. Also submit your suggestions for who we should interview or topics we should cover via any of our social media avenues.

Email us
Email Cathy Dew at:

Tweet Us: @womeninsp or @catpaint1

Or Find us on Facebook at:

SharePoint Saturdays and Recent Speaking Sessions

Wow, its hard to believe that 2016 is halfway over and I’ve barely written any blog posts.  Where does the time go?

Over the last year I have been doing a lot of travelling but mostly for client work with Planet Technologies.  I’m still trying to make sure I spend time at events and share the ways to do things in SharePoint at the same time. 

In 2016 this year I’ve been able to visit a few SharePoint Saturday events (San Antonio, Nashville, and Atlanta). At each of these events I was able to prevent the following session and have since uploaded these session slides to Slideshare. So simply click on this link below and you can download a pdf of the session.

Real World SharePoint Branding for Office 365

Looking to the future I will be speaking and delivering this session at Unity Connect Online in 2 weeks.  I will be delivering this session, complete with a demo of the solutions. So if you want the demo and haven’t attended in person, join us online.


The very next week I will be at SPTechCon in Boston so come talk to me about SharePoint Branding there.

I’m not sure where else I will be this year, but feel free to contact me and make requests or suggestions.

I’m looking forward to seeing the new SharePoint Framework and then sharing with you how to use it for SharePoint UX customizations in the near future.

Starting a Journey to Explore a Whole New World

Every time I try to make a commitment to blog more I just get more and more busy.  But for someone like me who is constantly curious as to how things work that is never a bad thing. So just what have I been up to lately that has kept me from delivering some new slides for download?

Well, the answer is that I have been travelling like crazy for work and also teaching myself how to develop against the Office Graph API. That’s right I’m currently teaching myself how to be a hard core developer.  As our branding world changes with the fast pace of the Office 365 suite, it is time to expand our skill sets beyond the pretty pictures and CSS/Master Pages of our comfort zones. I have chosen the Office Graph API as my first step into this new world of discovery. 

Sometimes I find myself singing along like I’m in a Disney fairy tale …. and waiting on Aladdin to come out of hiding and loan me his Genie. After all this is what the Office Dev Team has tempted me with:

“ I can show you the world
Shining, shimmering, splendid
Tell me, princess, now when did
You last let your heart decide?

I can open your eyes
Take you wonder by wonder
Over, sideways and under
On a magic carpet ride

A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no
Or where to go
Or say we’re only dreaming

A whole new world
A dazzling place I never knew
But when I’m way up here
It’s crystal clear
That now I’m in a whole new world with you
Now I’m in a whole new world with you”

As I call out for the Genie I will try to give you some more insight into my journey into this “Whole New World” and you can travel to wondrous places with me.

But first a little housekeeping.  I owe many of you a couple presentations to download from many of the SPS events you have been attending.  So here are those presentations:

The Evolution of Office 365 Branding

How to Make SharePoint Look Not Like SharePoint

So enjoy those presentations, I hope they help.  I’m working on new content for a few events that are coming up in the future and you will see a blog post on that over the weekend. (I promise this time. I’m spending the weekend in a hotel in California…what else is there to do? 🙂 )

Is “London Calling”

While the Clash song has many lyrics that don’t apply. This verse seems to fit for the SharePoint Evolution Conference:

London calling, yes, I was there, too
An’ you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
London calling at the top of the dial
And after all this, won’t you give me a smile?

As many of you know there are a lot of great events coming up in the next few weeks.  I myself am looking forward to participating in as many of these as possible.

While I am headed off to Houston this weekend, it is the trip in the following weeks that has me excited and trying desperately to narrow down my shoe selections to pack.  Once again the Combined Knowledge Team including Steve Smith and Zoe Watson as the ring leaders have honored me to be selected to speak at their conference.


The SharePoint Evolution Conference in London is by far my favorite conference of every year. I am always thrilled to attend and speak at this event and anxiously await the speaker invite email each year.  Many people ask me why this is my favorite event and the answer is always simple.  The speakers chosen always try to do our best to impress Steve and Zoe, which usually means that the content is top notch and many times cutting edge.

This year I will be presenting 3 sessions to give a full picture on branding for SharePoint.  I will be doing my best to cram these 3 sessions full of great info on how to customize SharePoint 2010 On Premises, SharePoint 2013 On Premises and SharePoint Online.

Get it together: Branding Tools and Processes

Get it in Shape: Develop your Customizations for On Premises

Get it in the Cloud: Shift and Develop for Office 365

We are also hosting a Women in Technology Lunch Panel for the first time at this event.  The female speakers will be ready to give advice and answer questions during this panel. The Women in Technology group on IT Unity as well as the Women in SharePoint group have organized this great lunch event with Zoe Watson.

ITUnity_WIT_Logo WSPLogoTwitterDark

Its not too late to register for this conference.  And if you are a Women in IT who wants to register there is even a 10% discount.

SharePoint Evolution Conference

Register with the code: womenintechevo

This will get you access to not only the Women in Technology Panel but also the whole exciting conference.  It is the Don’t Miss Event of the Year, focused on SharePoint with the greatest speakers in the world.

Is the Future of UI Customizations for Office 365 Doomed?

With the recent TechEd Europe conference being over it has now become public that the official recommendation from Microsoft is to not use Custom Master Pages, Custom Site Templates or Sandboxed Solutions for Office 365 sites anymore.  This was announced in the session given by Vesa Juvonen and Steve Walker: Transforming Your SharePoint Full Trust Code to the SharePoint App Model

In this session they outlined many of the issues we have lamented over in the past months; the fast paced changes and feature roll outs in SharePoint Online are making it difficult for maintenance and consistency.  The changes to the Suite Bar and the new App Launcher are just one example of the frustration that many in the customization world have complained about in the past months.

With this presentation the recommendation to no longer customize SharePoint Online comes again to the forefront, and our dreams of an easy way to perform this task with the Design Manager and other tools seem to have come crashing down to reality.

Oh yes, you read that correctly. No more custom Master Pages in SharePoint Online.

But what about Design Manager, Device Channels, Composed Looks and more Customization awesomeness???

What are the common customizations that you do? Answer this brief survey to help us understand what you customize. (Thanks Randy Drisgill for the survey creation and watching)

So what exactly does this mean for not only us as User Experience Designers and Developers, but for every company that needs and wants a custom brand applied consistently to their SharePoint environment?

Because let’s be honest, one of the top requests from everyone who works with SharePoint is how do we make it look like us and not like SharePoint.  Implementing a custom look and feel for your sites is a popular item and many people are willing to invest the time and money in developing this customization. Sometimes the simple act of adding in a custom header, footer and color scheme can resonate with our end users and give them a sense of trust for the content and items in the sites.

Is the end near?? No way.  At least in my opinion. Let’s talk strategy, options and a potential solution.

First let me start by saying that it is recommended currently that you not develop and implement custom master pages, but it is not strictly forbidden.  You can in fact still develop and apply custom master pages in Office 365.  There are however several factors that you will need to consider and plan for if you choose this approach:

  1. There will be changes required frequently to your brand assets (CSS, JavaScript, Master Page) to incorporate the new features and components of Office 365. A few examples
    1. Sample Suite Bar changes seen in the past 6 months: New links, removal of existing links, height increase, user profile picture display, new CSS classes inserted via JavaScript injection, logo additions and more
    2. Changes to themes: Introduction of new tenant themeing to include the Suite Bar and link color changes; additional composed looks introduced
    3. Delve and Groups – do not use custom master pages or CSS so no branding customizations applied
  2. Much as today, things will appear and change that are outside of your control, so you should educate your users of this possibility and be prepared to make rapid changes if necessary.
  3. Branding development is moving just that direction… development, so be prepared to spend more time with JavaScript, CSS and even the app model.

What other options do we have?

Composed Looks are still a reliable option as well as Alternate CSS (although you will need the publishing infrastructure to apply it or JavaScript injection)

Another option and requesting your feedback on a proposed interim solution.  While we all hope that Microsoft will begin to offer a new method of customizing the UI of SharePoint, how do we bridge the gap of what we have now out of the box and the no custom master page announcement?

Well, I have crafted a potential solution and I’d love to hear feedback from you on it too.  I have already run this idea past quite a few people and have been encouraged that they too think this could work for the majority of our needs.

The plan:

Microsoft maintains control of a set of master pages allowing them to update as they needed but giving us some tools to work with that we can use for branding.

  1. Master Page with Bootstrap framework built in and navigation controls wrapped with responsive needs; 6 – 8 additional blank content placeholders with set IDs that we can use for JavaScript Injection to customize and add in additional components.
  2. Master Page without responsive; 6 – 8 additional blank content placeholders with set IDs that we can use for JavaScript injection to customize and add in additional components.

This gives them the ability to add and edit, but giving us something that we can target for the customizations we want to make in our sites (headers, footers, additional logos, alerts, and more).

So what do you think?  Might this work for you? You will need to use JavaScript injection to fill these placeholders and CSS to position them. But if you knew that they would exist and it allowed the control needed to continue innovation would you use it?

Leave your comments on this blog, tweet me @catpaint1 or reach out on Yammer.

And to hear more thoughts on this idea and more listen to Episode 056 of the Microsoft Cloud Show where I joined Randy Drisgill, Marc Anderson, Jasper Oosterveld and host Andrew Connell to talk about Challenges facing UX Designers in the Cloud.

Do you have Questions?

Have a burning SharePoint question that you are in need of an answer to?  Simply join a group of 16 SharePoint MVPs on Reddit this week.

Come Join us, ask your questions and get answers. More details are below:

Q&A with the SharePoint MVP Experts Chat On Oct 29th @1pm EST or 10am PDT

We are launching our SharePoint MVP Expert Chats again! Have questions about SharePoint 2010 or 2013? Or SharePoint Online? Office 365? Please join us October 29th at 1pm EST or 10am PDT where you can have your questions answered live! We will be using the Reddit Ask Me Anything format. This is new to us but many of Microsoft teams are using this medium now. Please create a Reddit account beforehand so you can be ready to ask questions. More information on the chat and room location will be available on Oct 29th in the SharePoint forum. Hope you can join us!
Hope you can join us!
MVP Experts Participating:
1. Andrew Connell
2. Cathy Dew
3. Doug Hemminger
4. Doug Ware
5. Eric Shupps
6. Gavin Barron
7. John Ross
8. Kris Wagner
9. Randy Drisgill
10. Sahil Malik
11. Sean McNeill
12. Shane Young
13. Spencer Harbar
14. Todd Bleeker
15. Trevor Seward
16. Wictor Wilen

Office 365 Suite Bar Branding – (Pre App Launcher)

In the last few months I have seen and heard about a new option to brand the Suite Bar. This has been a challenge ever since SharePoint 2013 came about both for On Premises and Online.

One of the most common things that I have heard from customers is how to change the colors, logo and text in the Suite bar.  In SharePoint On Premises you can use CSS and Powershell to change the colors and text.

But when you move onto SharePoint Online and Office 365 in general that became much harder to do. You could at first use CSS to simply override the Styles that are used in SharePoint Online, but with a change in the spring, that became a challenge.  Once that change came through you would need to use JavaScript injection to get your customizations into the Suite Bar.

And while that would apply to SharePoint Online, it did not apply across the entire Office 365 suite.  So switching between the various platforms and products within Office 365 would change the Suite Bar across each product.

When the announcement of Office 365 Global Suite Bar themes came across, I was initially excited about giving this a try and stopping all of my other methods for customizing the Suite Bar.

It sounds really easy to work with. Simply set the “Theme” centrally as a Global Administrator from the Office 365 Admin Portal.


In the Office 365 Admin Portal locate your Tenant Name in the top right corner. Once you select this option you will get a page to fill out the properties.


From here you can choose a logo, pick your URL for where you would want the Logo to link to; accent colors, text and link colors and other Office 365 logo colors.

As you start to change these you will see colors changing in the Suite bar. 

Let’s go through each tab in the Suite Bar and see how it changes.







Yammer – Of Course doesn’t apply




About Me:





But what about my SharePoint Sites?

Team Sites:


Publishing Sites?



Well, so there we have it, it applies in some cases, but not in the most important ones. Our SharePoint sites are the location that we need to be able to change the branding the most.  So we still need to use JavaScript to change that now in Office 365. 

Oh and don’t get too comfortable with this, as it is all changing as of today in the Office Blogs announcement of the app launcher. 

Oh well, I guess we will continue to fight the good fight since this feature has only been out in First Release tenants for a month.

Stay posted for info on the new App Launcher once I finally get my hands on it.

A busy little SharePoint Cat

Wow, 2014 has been a whirlwind so far. Between planning SharePoint Saturday Huntsville in February, SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas in March, and planning a SharePoint Saturday in Nashville just last weekend. So many great community happenings and fun things to do.

Now that I have a second to breathe I want to acknowledge all the great people who have helped me, post a link to a new presentation, and note where you might find me next.

First off, I want to thank Microsoft for honoring with the SharePoint MVP designation for another year.  With each year that I have gotten this award I try to do more and more to say thank you to the SharePoint Community.

Now for thanks to people who have helped with different SharePoint Saturday events. SharePoint Saturday Huntsville would not have been a success without Mark Rackley (@mrackley)! And a giant thank you to all our speakers and sponsors.

SharePoint Saturday Nashville would not have been a success without Daniel Glenn, Elizabeth Hutson, Jamye Few, Brian Purdes, and Nesha Lankford! It was a great first SharePoint Saturday in Nashville and we look forward to many new events there in the future. Thanks to all our speakers and sponsors!

You can find my Become Your Own Business Analyst Presentation from SharePoint Saturday Nashville here.

Next up on my SharePoint Travel list is SPTechCon in San Francisco for the Women in SharePoint Panel luncheon.  If you are headed to San Fran, make sure you say hi. I’d love to chat and meet old friends and new friends.

SharePoint Conference 2014–The User Experience Designer’s Edition

The time is almost here when thousands of SharePoint professionals from around the globe descend on Las Vegas. I am honored to be one of the speakers at this years event and am looking forward to sharing my session with you. "SPC203 – Adjust the Perspective with Responsive Designs for SharePoint”

This year at the SharePoint Conference I have put together a group of recommended sessions for anyone who is a User Experience person.  Just some recommendations and things to watch out for. As a UX person for SharePoint there are so many great sessions this year on all the hot topics we need to be prepared for.  So get ready… set…. go to:




SPC 203 – Adjust the Perspective with Responsive Designs for SharePoint Cathy Dew 3/4 3:15 – 4:30
SPC 207 – Best Practices for Information Architecture and Enterprise Search Agnes Molnar and Sezai Komur 3/5 1:45 – 3:00
SPC 215 – Tips & Tricks to make the most out of your SharePoint site and Maximize Adoption Laura Rogers and Jennifer Mason 3/5 3:15 – 4:30
SPC 226 – Content Types, Managed Metadata and You Lori Gowin 3/5 5:00 – 6:15
SPC 228 – Deliver Adaptive and personalized experiences for your SharePoint 2013 sites Ryan Sockalosky 3/5 1:45 – 3:00
SPC 229 – Designing and Applying information architecture for SharePoint and Office 365 Agnes Molnar and Israel Vega Jr. 3/5 9:00 – 10:15
SPC 247 – Successful team collaboration with Yammer & SharePoint Steve Hopkins and Agnus Florance 3/4 5:00 – 6:15
SPC 265 – 6 Proven Steps to Get the Best Out of Search in SharePoint 2013 Paul Olenick 3/5 1:45 – 3:00
SPC 285 – No-code SharePoint 2013 Solutions for Power Users Asif Rehmani and Mark Gillis 3/4 3:15 – 4:30
SPC 290 – Branding Internet Facing web sites with SharePoint in the Cloud John Ross, Randy Drisgill 3/4 3:15 – 4:30
SPC 305 – SharePoint Web Templates for on-premises and the Cloud Mirjam Van Olst 3/4 5:00 – 6:15
SPC 311 – Nationwide: Building a World-Renowned Intranet with SharePoint 2013 and Yammer Jeff Schuman 3/4 9:00 – 10:15
SPC 321 – Customizing Search Experiences with Azure Hosted Data and Bing Maps Rainer Asbach and Timo Heidschuster 3/5 3:15 – 4:30
SPC 322- SharePoint 2013 Search Display Templates and query rules Matthew McDermott 3/6 9:00 – 10:15
SPC 326 – Customizing your SharePoint sites using the SharePoint Theming Engine Jonathan Keslin and Lionel Robinson 3/4 1:45 – 3:00
SPC 332 – Overview of Yammer App Development Brian Lyttle 3/4 9:00 – 10:15
SPC 337 – Search-driven Publishing in SharePoint Online Alex Pope and Helge Solheim 3/4 1:45 – 3:00
SPC 339 – SharePoint 2013 Hybrid End-to-End Sam Hassani 3/3 2:00 – 3:15
SPC 340 – SharePoint 2013 Search Analytics Nicki Borell and Thorsten Hans 3/5 9:00 – 10:15
SPC 345 – SharePoint for any screen size: an in-depth look into building responsive web design Eric Overfield and Rita Zhang 3/4 1:45 – 3:00
SPC 351 – Trends in Designing Portals for SharePoint 2013 Kanwal Hipple and Eric Lytle 3/3 3:45 – 5:00
SPC 357 – Developing an intranet on Office 365 Eric Shupps 3/5 9:00 – 10:15
SPC 359 – E-commerce solutions with Dynamics for Retail & SharePoint 2013 Balaji Balasubramanian and Meera Mahabala 3/5 5:00 – 6:00
SPC 365 – Governing & Configuring Organizational Sites in an Enterprise Environment Sean Squires 3/5 3:15 – 4:30
SPC 378 – Make your SharePoint social in 1-2-3! Runar Olsen and Thomas Molbach 3/4 9:00 – 10:15
SPC 388 – SharePoint 2013 Powering Web Sites and Mobile Apps Waldek Mastykarz 3/5 10:45 – 12:00
SPC 390 – Creating Internet Facing Websites with SharePoint on-premises or in the cloud Todd Baginski 3/5 3:15 – 4:30
SPC 398 – WCM in SharePoint 2013 for IT Pros from 0 to Infinity Faizan Khan and Robert Cullick 3/4 3:15 – 4:30

One other big thing at SPC this year is that we are doing another SharePoint Branders Gathering for lunch on Monday. Simply meet us at the Planet Technologies booth in the Expo Hall at noon on Monday and we will all sit together at lunch.  This is a great opportunity to network with other SharePoint branders at the conference and make some great friends for the entire event.

If you would like to be included on the MySPC meeting request, simple comment on one of the Yammer networks (SPYam or SPC14) and allow Meeting Requests on your Profile and I will send you a meeting request.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you again and meeting many more people at SPC. The most important thing of SPC is to not be afraid to come up and speak to anyone, it is your chance to meet and network with any SharePointer.

Viva Las Vegas and see you all soon!