Customising Microsoft Portals – What Skills Do I Need?

*** NOTE: ALL INFORMATION IS ACCURATE AT DATE OF PUBLISHING ***

Microsoft Portals for D365 are easy enough to set up from the Dynamics 365 Administration Centre. Once it’s set up, it could be used fairly close to the out of the box setup. What if you want something a little more customised and tailored specifically to your business? You might just need some additional skills to get it just the way you want it. This list is in no particular order, but all are things that will help when customising Microsoft Portals

So, what skills and knowledge are needed to create a good portal?

  • CRM Customisation Knowledge

    • Most likely if you are working on customising a portal it’s because you already know how to customise D365 or CRM. While a portal can just be made up of pages of content, the true power and value comes in when users can view or add D365 content. The ability to do this comes from Entity Forms and Entity Lists. Entity Forms use regular forms just as you would configure and display in D365. Entity Lists use system views to display lists of records. So, the more customisation experience in these two areas you have, the better.
  • CRM Workflow Knowledge

    • There are some out of the box workflows that get installed with the portal. Make sure you review them. Learn how to do things like change a password, and what happens when someone clicks on the forgotten password link. What do you want to happen if someone registers? Think about your process, and then make sure you create a workflow to help initiate and control the process. Consider how users will assign access to users of the portal. Should your workflow also assign a web role and generate an email to the portal user? Map it out then create the most logical workflows as needed.
  • CSS

    • CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. At least one stylesheet is used on a website and determines how things look. They control the fonts, colours, layout and overall design of a site. The portals have two default stylesheets, but you can add an additional one to override the styles already set, and add in new ones. Having an understanding of CSS isn’t essential but it can take your portal from looking like every other portal to WOW!
  • Branding

    • Your Marketing department/person will thank you for this one. Pay attention to your company or clients branding. In fact, ask them for a copy of their brand guidelines. This will include things like their preferred fonts and colours. If you are lucky, they might even have a handy document will all of the HEX colours listed. This will make it a LOT easier when editing your custom CSS file. Many organisations will want their portal to look like it ‘fits‘ in with their main website, so making sure the branding is taken in to consideration is key.
  • Meta Tags for SEO

    • If your marketing person asks about SEO for the portal…. this one is a bit tricker. These are tags in the code that can be used to help with Search Engine Optimisation, and ideally help Google know what your site is all about, and move it further up the search engine rankings. The Meta Title can be edited in the Header Content Snippet. However, there aren’t any out of the box places for the Meta Description or any keywords. You could use the javascript field on a web page to pull in data to use for different meta tags.
  • HTML Tags

    • Don’t confuse HTML tags with Meta tags. HTML tags are simple ways to determine how data is displayed. Something basic like displaying something in bold is coded by using <b> at the start of where you want the bold to begin, then a closing </b> where you want it to end. Italic is done with <i></i> and underline is <u></u>. While you might never need to know these things, it’s helpful if you can’t quite get a page looking the way you want it using the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. You can then simply look at the source code of the page and manually add in or remove tags that shouldn’t be there.
  • Image Sizes

    • Huge images can be one of the biggest drains on a website, and really slow things down. If you want to make sure your portals moves fast, try not to make it too image intensive. If you MUST have images, make sure they are compressed and optimised for displaying on the web.

As stated at the start, these are not a requirement to customise a Microsoft Portal, but, these skills sure do help when you run in to issue, or you want to make a really unique professional looking portal. Any other skills you think are useful? Let me know in the comments below.

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