Microsoft, Your Webpages Need Help

Ok, this is a serious entry now. I know that a lot of my pokes at microsoft have been tongue in cheek and more for rant factor than serious argument (though there are plenty of those).

Anyway… yesterday I was talking with $newboss about making our jobs easier. Read on for more…


p>Right now we have notes and information for various aspects of deployment of our products in several different places:

  • MS Outlook for email between myself, my colleagues regarding $workstuff
  • MS Outlook for tasks of things that are needed to be done
  • MS Project for project planning, but this doesn’t allow me to (as far as I know) export needed info via outlook tasks, or integrate into things like my PDA
  • MS Outlook for syncing with my Pocket PC PDA
  • An Excel file with the current status of our installs, who is in charge, a nice color coded good/bad/ugly field, and any notes regarding what is needed to be done…. all created and updated by hand
  • An in-house created program for tracking time, projects, TODO items, overtime, etc.

Notice how none of the programs above really talk to each other nicely. Now we don’t have Exchange set up (yet), which could create some interaction between Project and Outlook (I think).

My point. Yes, I do have a point.

Someone mentioned something like “what about sharepoint, isn’t that supposed to help with things like that?” So I says to myself “yes, it probably would, office and business interaction are where Microsoft is trying to be.” Ok, so I head to the logical location of to see what it does.

Ugh, what a horrible page. I’m sorry Microsoft, but the page does nothing for me. I see a mass of words at the top:

SharePoint Products and Technologies facilitate collaboration within an organization and with partners and customers. Using the combined collaboration features of Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server 2003, users in your organization can easily create, manage, and build their own collaborative Web sites and make them available throughout the organization. Learn more about SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Windows SharePoint Services to determine which is right for your organization.

Which makes my eyes glass over immediately. Lots of big words, which (IMHO) is not a good thing when trying to sell to people. No screenshots. No good description IMHO of what this could do for me, and I’m here and looking for real information, not just idly browsing.

I’ve talked about the difference between Microsoft and Apple before. This is a case in point here. If you head over to (for example) OS/X Tiger preview page (or any Apple product page for that matter) and check it out. The top text is still kinda “big” here as well, but look, lots of screenshots. Descriptions beside them telling how each featured screenshot will help me. A sidebar with 13 other pages, each with similar, logically grouped together “selling points”.

The sharepoint has none of these things. When you do dig down (two clicks) to the Sharepoint product information page, there are no screenshots, and the descriptions are… “bland” to say the least. The features page is similarly bland, but is getting almost to the point of useful information.

If Microsoft could redesign their webpages to be a big less technical and a bit more friendly and “grab” the user a bit more right from the get go, maybe that would increase sales? Who knows, I could be responsible for having my company purchase licenses for sharepoint, but the only way I’ve gotten the information I need is by researching for writing down this rant! Maybe Robert can talk to the folks in charge for me and get them to make their pages a bit more friendly, and a bit less cookie cutter. I’m sure that this information and good reasons why sharepoint (or something else) would work, but having to dig through thousands of MSDN/ASP.NET/dotnetblogger blogs isn’t something that I’m going to do when trying to get quick information. The info is there, but you have to dig. I don’t like digging, and I don’t think others do either.

5 Comments on “Microsoft, Your Webpages Need Help”

  1. We should have it, we have a ‘buy once get everything for life’ deal with MS I think, and are running 2k3. Exchange is being set up as we speak as well.
    PS Reply: What’s in the resource kit, and yes, I probably would like it.
    PPS Reply: Will be doing that myself at home when I find hardware to build another box.
    PPPS Reply: Yes, I think we are.

  2. Be careful if introducing SharePoint to non-geeks. An absolutely awful default interface, kinda like the marketing site for SharePoint.

  3. I was gonna jump in at the top and say “but those do integrate” until you brought up the whole Exchange angle. There is some integration between Project 2003 and Outlook 2003 if you put in a Project 2003 server (yes, another server product).
    SharePoint Services appears to be a free product; you just have to put in a Windows 2003 Server to get them. SharePoint Portal is another level added on top of the services. I’m still trying to figure out the services myself right now.
    In the end, a combination of Project Server, Exchange and SharePoint Services would definitely be able to integrate all of the pieces into a whole. I hope to get there someday myself.

  4. SharePoint services is free with windows 2003. It works well for groups collaborating on projects, tasks, etc. and you can easily import these things into your outlook (ps get exchange going). You can think of sharepoint (IMHO) as a forum (a little crude though), calendar, document repository with version control, task list, picture gallery, etc. For the most integration Office 2003 is recommended which provides more than we have now (office xp).
    This is working very well for us, and I would like Portal services as it seems to bring things to a user interface connected easy to multiple sharepoints to the user rather than one going to multiple sharepoints. Portal services is pricy though.
    PS, you can borrow the resource kit if you need from me

  5. We have the same problem at work: information silos, duplicated information, whatever you wish to call it today.
    I started doing some research to see what it would take to integrate Exchange, some SQL Databases, the billing system, Sharepoint, .NET, etc. Seems like learning enough of each seperate product to be able to seamlessly integrate them would take months.
    I totally agree that too much marketing propeganda is glitter and gloss, and totally misses the technical audience.
    I dedicated a Windows 2003 server for development of something like you’re looking for (MSSQL/Sharepoint/IIS/Exchange/etc)… but it hasn’t been touched since it was installed 🙁