SharePoint Audiences

Written By: Knox Cameron -- 5/10/2011 -- join -- contribute -- (4718) comments -- printer friendly version

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Categories: Configurations, Design, Features, MOSS 2007, Permission Management, SharePoint 2010

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As stated earlier, targeting is the process of making information visible to some users but not others. In SharePoint, you will most often configure targeting on web parts and navigation links. It is also possible to target individual list items, but as we see later, there are limitations with this in practice.

It's important to note that targeting is not a security feature. If the user is not in the right audience or group, targeting will stop the information being shown on that page. However, this will not prevent the user from using other means to access the information, for example by viewing a different page.

Targeting web parts

You can set targeting on pretty much any web part. This will hide the web part if the user is not in the specified Target Audience. From the web part menu, select Edit Web Part (SharePoint 2010) or Modify Shared Web Part (SharePoint 2007).

Edit web part option in web part menu

Expand the 'Advanced' section and you will find Target Audiences at the bottom. Here, you can type the names of groups or audiences, then use the Check Names icon to verify them; or you can use the address book icon to look them up. Strangely, in 2010 the entry field has no border so it is effectively invisible, but you can still click there and type in it. You can enter the name of a global audience, SharePoint group, AD group or distribution list. You can enter multiple names separated by semi-colons.

Web part properties showing Target Audiences

Usually, it is easier to lookup names with the address book button. Here you have the option of searching on global audiences, AD groups and lists, or SharePoint groups.

Select audiences dialog

Once you save the web part properties and publish the page, the web part will not be visible to users who are not a member of the target audience. If you are not in the target audience, even as the site administrator you will not see it either, unless you edit the page.

A common requirement is to show one set of information to a specific set of users (for example, people within the group that owns the site) and different information to other users (for example, everyone else in the organization). To achieve this, you would need to add two web parts to the page, and select an appropriate audience for each.

As discussed earlier there is no way to target people who are not in a particular audience or group. This means you need to define audiences or groups that cover both cases. This is not hard to do with audiences, because you can define another audience (a "mirror image" audience) with the rules reversed, but difficult to achieve with groups, unless you already have groups defined with the required membership.

In theory, you could have lots of web parts on a page with different combinations of audiences to achieve a very dynamic web page that adjusts its content to the user. In practice this is difficult to build and maintain. Apart from the extra work to create more web parts, there is no straightforward way to test how the page will appear to users in different audiences.

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