SharePoint: Audience Targeted Branding

A while ago I had an interesting requirement: to brand a SharePoint system in such a way that different users logging in to the same sites are served with different branding experiences. I have finally gotten around to blogging the trick I used…

[Note: This article assumes you are already competant with the theory of branding SharePoint. If not I suggest you look at Heather Solomon’s blog – she’s a branding guru]

The customer was fortunately using MOSS, so I settled on the idea of Audience Targeted Branding.


Audiences in MOSS are built by collecting together groups of users based on their Profile Properties. This may be based on location / company / domain / department ….? Content in lists and libraries can then be ‘targeted’ to these users – so the same page can be seen by 2 different users and each will see content relevant to them.

Great – but how do we extend this to include their branding experience?


The Branding I am referring to is performed using CSS. Since the master page is set once per site – this cannot be changed for each user – (you’d need to start looking into variations for that).

The basic idea is to load a different Style Sheet to the browser for each audience. This is actually easier than it sounds.


Say I want the users logging in from 1 location to see all the links in red, and other users to see all the links in green. I am using a MOSS site with the publishing feature activated. I follow this process:

1. Build the 2 audiences (in shared service admin), based on the location property in the user profile.

2. Create a general.css stylesheet that will the default one for the site. This will hold the majority of the CSS, including any branding that is shared by the users (ie. All Titles are Bold for everyone). Apply this CSS as the ‘Alternate CSS’ in the Master Page settings in the MOSS site.

3. Create a location1.css – the CSS file to be loaded on top of the default one when a user from location 1 logs in. In our example this will have the single command to turn hyplerlinks red.

4. Create a location2.css – same principle as step 3.

5. Create a custom list, and call it StyleSheets. Enable Audience targeting for the list. We will enter 2 items – each one being an HTML element importing the appropriate style sheet.


<link rel=’stylesheet’ type=’text/css’ href=’/Style Library/location1.css’>

<link rel=’stylesheet’ type=’text/css’ href=’/Style Library/location2.css’>

6. Target each item to the appropriate audience.

7. Now, open the page layout of the site in SPD. Insert a Content Query Web Part (not in a zone), and select to display the StyleSheet list, and tick ‘Apply Audience Filtering’ under the query options. Save and view the page.

8. Now – when you log in as the 2 different users, you should see a different list item being displayed by the CQWP. All that’s left is to force those list items to be rendered as html in the page, rather than being displayed as text.

9. Open ItemStyle.xsl under the Style Library/XSL Style Sheets.

10. Paste the following template at the end just before the element.

<xsl:template name=”HTMLInsert” match=”Row[@Style=’HTMLInsert’]” mode=”itemstyle”>
<xsl:variable name=”SafeLinkUrl”>
<xsl:call-template name=”OuterTemplate.GetSafeLink”>
<xsl:with-param name=”UrlColumnName” select=”‘LinkUrl'”/>
<xsl:variable name=”SafeImageUrl”>
<xsl:call-template name=”OuterTemplate.GetSafeStaticUrl”>
<xsl:with-param name=”UrlColumnName” select=”‘ImageUrl'”/>
<xsl:variable name=”DisplayTitle”>
<xsl:call-template name=”OuterTemplate.GetTitle”>
<xsl:with-param name=”Title” select=”@Title”/>
<xsl:with-param name=”UrlColumnName” select=”‘LinkUrl'”/>
<xsl:variable name=”LinkTarget”>
<xsl:if test=”@OpenInNewWindow = ‘True'” >_blank</xsl:if>
<xsl:call-template name=”OuterTemplate.CallPresenceStatusIconTemplate”/>

<xsl:value-of select=”$DisplayTitle” disable-output-escaping=”yes”/>

Save as a major version, and open the web part properties of the CQWP again.

11. Go down to ‘Presentation’ and select ‘HTMLInsert’ as the template to use.


Now the html elements in our targeted list should be inserted into the page at runtime as valid HTML – so the browser will actually call a different style sheet for each user.

Further Application

Using this method combined with content targeting, as well as image targeting (through the CQWP) can allow us to generate very different user experiences for each user.

Hope you can have fun with this!


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About davros85

Software Engineer @ Microsoft, working with key customers to help them be successful on Azure