Two new branding features from SharePoint 2013 that stand out are “Composed Looks” and “Device Channels.” Composed Looks is a simple way to create a theme using master page, a color set, a font and an image. The Composed Looks feature gives the user the ability to select the font or color palette regardless of the master page that is created for them. You can also create multiple Composed Looks for multiple regions (e.g. Portal, Collaboration site etc.)
Device Channels are a way to apply a certain look to a certain device. A device can belong to multiple channels. Publishing sites in SharePoint 2013 are optimized for mobile development, and the Device Channels feature can be used to fine-tune how mobile users experience the site. Device Channels also leverage the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) capability.
Both of these features can be leveraged by users for designing either Intranet or Internet web sites. They ensure that Internet sites will also cater to the growing mobile audience using smartphones and tablets.
Our Take: There is some controversy among SharePoint pundits around the new Design Manager feature, and how mature and easy it is to use. The new branding model is not proven, and early reviews still call branding activities cumbersome. However, there are some solid benefits that will become more evident as use of Design Manager matures. Designers can still use master pages if they choose to, so Microsoft has not deprecated that functionality. We are seeing designers use a combination of old and new design features. The out-of-box rendering, particularly for mobile views, is still somewhat weak and requires custom development.
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Jim Kane is the Director of Collaboration and Knowledge Management (KM) at Paragon Solutions. Jim leads the KM practice with a focus on knowledge management and SharePoint-based solutions that support day-to-day business optimization via virtual problem solving, communities of practice, knowledge repositories, role-based communication portals, partner collaboration, and information dashboards. He is co-author of a patent, “Methods of Knowledge Management,” and has over 15 years of experience teaching at the college level as an adjunct instructor. Jim has presented at numerous regional and national conferences on the topics of Knowledge Communities, Adoption Strategies for SharePoint, and Global SharePoint deployments.