Tuesday, February 11, 2014

SharePoint 2013 Device Channels and Branding for Handheld devices

SharePoint 2013 Branding and User Interface DesignSharePoint 2013 provides its own solution for displaying layouts for mobile devices, this feature is known as device channels. You can setup device channels to look for keywords in a browser’s user agent string (the mechanism web browsers use to identify themselves to a web server) and SharePoint can apply an entirely different master page for each device channel. You could create a device channel that looks for the keyword “iPad” and any browser that includes that string in the user agent would have your device channel master page applied to it. Not only can you use device channels to swap out an entire master page, but you can also use something known as Device Channel Panels inside master pages and page layouts to include or remove specific parts of the page.

The nice thing about SharePoint’s device channels is that you don’t have to decide between them and responsive web design. You could certainly use both techniques on your site, but you would have to manage them slightly different since device channels are configured in the SharePoint site settings and RWD uses media queries in CSS3 style sheets. If you wanted to use device channels by themselves without RWD for mobile UI, here are some things to consider:

    Device channels could require more assets to manage – If you are using device channels to swap out the entire master page, you would need to manage two or more master pages. Master pages can be complicated, unless you have a specific need, it would be better to use Device Channel Panels to just change parts of the UI rather than the whole master page.
    Device channels rely on user agent strings – This is great if you can target your devices specifically from their user agent strings but can at times be limiting. For instance there are many varieties of Android devices from cellphones to tablets and many times their user agent does not declare the screen size. In some cases media queries can be more useful for targeting browser features like this.
    Device channels require the publishing feature in SharePoint – This is a feature that is only available in the full SharePoint Server 2013 product, not SharePoint Foundation. Also, many SharePoint administrators prefer to only provide site owners with simple team sites; in these cases you wouldn’t have access to use device channels

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