Structure the Un-Structured:
Structured Data – Data that is organized, either hierarchically or in an existing taxonomy of some sort. This is data such as databases, Excel spreadsheets, Access databases, or even SharePoint lists that are organized and searchable by data types within the content (i.e. Name, Address, Phone, etc).
Unstructured Data – This is ad-hoc data contributed freely by end users. Examples of unstructured data include emails, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, audio/video files, images, etc. In other words, things that are not searchable (unless you added metadata or they get “crawled”, such as by an Index Server).
Semi-structured data – This is unstructured data that has been organized and/or has metadata attached. Examples of semi-structured data include SharePoint lists, Document libraries, Project and Team Sites, etc.
In previous versions of SharePoint, there has always been support for helping companies add “structure” to your unstructured data. SharePoint 2010 takes it up a notch or two (or three).
SharePoint 2010 Information Architecture:
SharePoint 2010 has many features and updates that help us to manage un-structured and semi-structured data even better. Here’s a quick run-down:
- Digital Asset Support – SharePoint 2010 has added native support for the following types of multi-meda files:
- Silverlight – Not only is this supported, Silverlight is actually used by many of SharePoint’s Administrative views and wizards. This makes for a very rich user experience.
- Video Support – Many new features have been added to enable a rich video experience in SharePoint 2010.
- Media Web Part allows you easily add Audio and Video files to your portal pages.
Additionally, there are Media Field controls for playing back video. This is a great feature if you’re using learning sites, personal video blogs (company broadcasts, etc). SharePoint 2010 gives you excellent control over playing back videw from a specific point, etc. Using progressive download, you can download the videos in “chunks”, so you can watch while it’s downloading.
- SharePoint 2010 includes new Audio and Image content types.
- Managing MetaData – Using Managed Metadata via terms and term sets, you can set pre-defined metadata terms and groups of terms for like content.
- Social Features – Social networking features have had a major overhaul in SharePoint 2010. Here are a few of the key new features:
- Social Tagging – “I Like It” tags help you remember your favorites (shows up in your MySites). You can use tags as suggestions to others in your MySite, as well.
- Rating scales – Allow users to rate content on a scale. (5 stars, for example). Users can then use ratings in search results to determine what content they wish to look at.
- Bookmarklets – Bookmerklets are used for tagging external sites to include in your MySites, in the Tags and Notes tab.
- NoteBoard – This is used for comment tracking and ad-hock discussions or Q/A sessions.
- Multi-user Office Support – Office Web Applications enable you to view and edit office documents in the browser. InfoPath, Excel, Visio, OneNote, etc.
So, that’s a quick lap around some of the new Information Architecture features added in SharePoint 2010. Many of these double as usability features and, in more ways than one, contribute to an even better SharePoint User Experience.