Day 2 of the SharePoint European Best Practices Conference

Day 2 in sunny’ish London and a lovely start to the day with croissants and tea. I got there nice and early, had a wander around and met some nice people, including Philip Broadbery from a growing company called Fernhart New Mediathat seems to be going places…

The first talk I attended was Eric Shupps’talk on designing and deploying enterprise branding solutions using custom site definitions. This seems to be a contentious issue between some of the MVP’s with some interesting arguments in the Q&A session at the end of the day regarding declarative versus code solutions. I’m leaning more towards the code solution at the moment, but my recent experiences with site definitions has debunked a number of myths around their complexity and I’m not as scared of them as I once was… Eric was a very entertaining talker, a large presence on the stage, particularly in his large cowboy hat! Couple of useful tips I got from this included separating out the features and site definitions into different wsp’s. Quite often they get bundled together in deployments into one solution but what this means is that when you upgrade, the infrastructure will always recycle the app pools because you are re-provisioning onet.xml files etc, when quite often they haven’t changed and its only really the features that have changed. Having them separate alleviates that problem and makes live deployments less ‘impactful’. Another tip was a pointer to Patterns and Practices SharePoint Guidanceon codeplex which is a great resource for MOSS developers.

Next talk was by Ben Robbon customizing the Search UI in SharePoint 2007. This was actual quite a useful talk, as it was particularly pertinent to some problems we were facing with my current client. He suggested using the out-of-the-box search web parts where possible, and customising them using Xslt rather than re-inventing the wheel. He mentioned a few SEO things to help your sites, including organising your sites logically and having an up-to-date sitemap file in the root of your site. One suggestion was to have a custom timer job that uses the sitemap provider on the site collection to regenerate the sitemap xml file and then re-copy to the root.  A simple idea, but one I don’t think I’ve seen done anywhere…

Todd Bleekerwas up next to talk about best practices for creating custom field types. The amount of information that this guy can cram into a session is amazing. I was physically exhausted afterwards…! Some really good content here (too much to remember, let alone post but I should get that DVD so I’ll follow up). His main recommendation was to utilise User Controls for the UI of the control class of a custom field type and use a Value class to enable serialisation into a friendly object. This gives you the nice logical separation of ui/code and also the design surface and intellisense within Visual Studio. This is instead of using the rendering template xml that is currently the only documented way of doing this. Use the FieldEditorUserControl property in the fldtypes.xml file to point to your user control.

Andrew Connellswiftly followed with a talk on building high performance solutions on MOSS 2007. Again another talk crammed with content. Key things I picked out of this, was to minimise the perception of page load by using a lazy-load core.js (see Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 933823); look at image stitching/clustering to save on http requests for page furniture. This sort of works along the same principles as sprite batch files, where your images are in one long panorama, that you index with an offset of the image width, though its done via cropping in css. He suggested a company that has some useful tools to help with this as I imagine it would be a bit of a pig to do manually. The company was Get Run-time Page Optimizer.Another big area that can lead to rapid improvements is IIS Http compression. Dynamic compression level isn’t set by default for IIS7 sites, if you start by setting the level at 9 (10 is the max, but the CPU hit just isn’t worth it) and then scale it down until your cpu usage is acceptable it can give you performance improvements of 20%+ just by ‘checking a box’…

That was the last talk of the day but it was followed by a Developer Panel Q&A session which was quite interesting though difficult to write down. Lots of interesting talks about site definitions versus feature stapling, defining meta data at the site level (consensus seemed to be, set it on the default page of the site as its essentially the same thing). Hope these sessions are included on the DVD we get. Will let you know!

Anyway more fun tomorrow!

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