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What's a Web Part for Anyways?

  Asked By: Blair    Date: May 31    Category: Sharepoint    Views: 942

IM(NAS)HO, a Web Part corresponds to the presentation layer of multi-tier "micro application" that is displayed on a Web Part page in a portal, team, workspace, My Site personal site or a custom SharePoint site.

I think what we need to think about is categories of Web Part Micro Applications (WPMAs) and the list of core Web Parts that are leveragable across the greatest number of WPMAs.

Also, there is a need to identify those categories of WPMAs where a generic Web Part presentation layer strategy won't work and a custom Web Part is required.

weblogs.asp.net/.../396004.aspx | Comments

Maybe I'm getting senile in my old(er) age. Maybe I'm just emotionally upset that my blog isn't listed on the usual ones for SharePoint. Maybe I'm just angry at the world. Anyways, I have to wonder about Web Parts and what is out there. Walk with me on this one. I look around and see lots of people writing new Web Parts which is great. But then I have to wonder is it really that great? Let's look at the classification of Web Parts that seem to be prevelant out there.

These are things that rollup information from the current site. This can be documents on a site, list items (rolled up and presented into a chart), or a list of sub sites under a parent to create a dynamic site map. CorasWorks has this nailed down pat with their suites of tools (even allowing you to create your own rollup no matter what or where the content is). There are lots of others that do pretty much the same (both free and commercial).

So many feeders and consumers we have a plethora of choices in this area.

Display User
I don't know how many times I see the "How do I show the user his name" Web Part. The variation on this is to display all users (much like the Members Web Part) pulling information from AD, another site, a list, etc.

Document Management
Lets face it. Some of the document features of a doclib are pretty sad (like the inability to simply move a doclib from one place to another without enabling Explorer View that I can't stand). I've seen a few Web Parts including a recent one that presents a different view of a document library (a more Explorer like interface with a treeview and the details).

Recent Updates
A Web Part that shows what's been going on like documents posted in the last x days, lists updated, who visited, etc.

Similar to the document management problem (and somewhat tied into the Rollups) is navigation. People seem to want different navigation so there are gobs of treeviews out there that show sites and subsites in every which way you can. This includes some other type of vertical navigation across an entire site like breadcrumbs and tabs.

Search Enhancements
A few of these have come out recently (including free ones from commercial vendors) basically enhancing the somewhat simple full-text search of WSS.

Did I miss anything? Probably. There are others out there. The point here is there really substance. The top 5 components on Microsofts Component Directory? A training kit that Microsoft created, 2 Web Parts that are bundled in with Office downloads, an RSS feeder, and an admin tool. What is it that people want besides what is already out there because frankly, these things listed are pretty standard fare. Is the SharePoint Web Part space that barren already? Where is that "killer" Web Part we've all been waiting for?

Or maybe the Web Part ideas are exhausted and what we really need are templates that cater to delivering complete solutions. Jim Duncan provided this through an experiment he did on building a blog site using WSS which looks awesome. Serge van den Oever (got your name right this time) also put together an enhanced dicussion list (still nothing as close to what I consider a discussion forum like phpBB, but great none the less). So maybe more list and site templates are what the community needs and not Web Parts? How about a Knowledge Base site template you can drop in and customize to your corporate needs. Or a Help Centre system complete with automated emails and ticket management. Not impossible to do and these templates can be built to adapt to anyones configuration if done correctly. Some of these solutions might contain custom Web Parts (like Jim's does) but again those are specialized for a specific purpose and not something anyone can use on any old Team site.

The Web Part framework was designed to provide a well crafted and simple system where you could plug anything (yes, anything) into a Web Part Page and benefit from it. Are the only Web Parts worth building the ones that solve a very specific business need like pulling SAP data from a backend system or talking to your corporate database systems? Is there nothing that is general enough that everyone wants, needs, desires that a Web Part could provide for you? I have yet to see the burning conversations in the newsgroups on "If only I had a Web Part that did...". Wouldn't that make people leap up and start building it (I know I sure would). It just isn't happening. So has the Web Part outlived it's glamour and the honeymoon is over already?



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