UX design for SharePoint Add-ins
Learn about the user experience (UX) options that you have when you build add-ins in SharePoint 2013.
Last modified: September 17, 2015
Applies to: apps for SharePoint | Office 365 | SharePoint Add-ins | SharePoint Foundation 2013 | SharePoint Server 2013
The name "apps for SharePoint" is changing to "SharePoint Add-ins". During the transition, the documentation and the UI of some SharePoint products and Visual Studio tools might still use the term "apps for SharePoint". For details, see New name for apps for Office and SharePoint.
As a developer, you should always give high priority to the user experience (UX) when you are creating add-ins. The model for SharePoint Add-ins offers many UX components and mechanisms that help you build a great user experience. The user experience in the add-in model is also flexible enough to let you use the techniques and platforms that best adapt to the needs of end users.
As the add-in developer, you have to know the architecture of your add-in. After you determine how your add-in will be distributed in remote and SharePoint platforms, you can decide among the available alternatives for building your add-in UX. You might ask yourself the following questions:
What can I use if I am creating a cloud-hosted add-in?
What can I use if I am creating a SharePoint-hosted add-in? For more information, see Choose patterns for developing and hosting your SharePoint Add-in.
How can I connect my UX to the host web? For more information, see Host webs, add-in webs, and SharePoint components in SharePoint 2013.
The following diagram shows the main scenarios and options to consider when you are designing your add-in UX.
In choosing your design, you should fundamentally consider which parts of your add-in are hosted in SharePoint and which are not. You should also consider how your add-in interacts with the host web.
Suppose that you determine that some of your user experience is not hosted in SharePoint. In these scenarios, it is expected that your end users go back and forth between a SharePoint website and the cloud-hosted add-in. You can use the techniques and tools in the platform, but SharePoint also provides resources to help you design a smooth experience for users.
The following UX resources are available for cloud-hosted add-ins in SharePoint 2013:
Stylesheet: You can reference a SharePoint website’s style sheet in your SharePoint Add-in and use it to style your webpages using the available classes. In addition, if the end users change the SharePoint website’s theme, your add-in can adopt the new set of styles without modifying the reference in your add-in. For more information, see Use a SharePoint website's style sheet in SharePoint Add-ins.
Figure 2 shows the resources in the model for SharePoint Add-ins for cloud-hosted add-ins.
If your add-in is hosted in SharePoint, the user experience is less likely to change very much when users move back and forth between the host web and the add-in web. When the add-in is deployed, the add-in web takes the style sheet and theme from the host web. You can still use the chrome control and style sheet in a SharePoint-hosted add-in, but the most significant difference with cloud-hosted scenarios is the availability of the add-in template.
The following UX resource is available for SharePoint-hosted add-ins:
Add-in template: The add-in template includes the app.master masterpage. It is the default option when you create an add-in web.
SharePoint-hosted add-ins also benefit themselves from existing resources and technologies in SharePoint such as the Ribbon, web part infrastructure and client-side rendering.
Some of the use cases for your add-in can be triggered from within the host web. SharePoint provides ways to open your add-in from a document library or list in addition to ways to show some of your add-in UX within SharePoint-hosted pages.
The following UX resources are available to connect your add-in UX to the host web:
Custom actions: You can use custom actions to connect the host web UX with your add-in. There are two types of custom actions: Ribbon or ECB. A custom action can send parameters such as the list or item on which it was invoked to a remote page. For more information, see Create custom actions to deploy with SharePoint Add-ins.
Add-in parts: You can include some of your add-in user experience in the host web by using add-in parts. The add-in part is available in the Web Part gallery in the host web when you deploy the add-in. Users can add the add-in part to a page by using the Web Part Adder control. For more information, see Create add-in parts to install with your SharePoint Add-in.
Figure 3 shows the resources in the model for SharePoint Add-ins to connect your add-in UX to the host web.
To learn how to use the add-in UX options in SharePoint Add-ins, see the following resources: