Sharepoint Best Practice – include "Unknown" and "Other" in your choice lists

is to INcorrectly set default values for your choice fields in various lists.


When you create Sharepoint lists which have “choice” fields, ALWAYS include the value “Unknown”, and set it as the DEFAULT value.
This way, whenever a user creates a new list item, fills in only a few details and hits “Save”, the resulting list entry contains the value “Unknown” wherever The User did not know what to choose… which is JUST as it SHOULD be.

This may seem like an obvious best practice, but I assure you all it’s NOT. Without exception at every single client I have ever worked (typically about 3-6 projects per year), the Sharepoint content I see is “polluted” with default values which simply are NOT accurate:

  • myriad Tasks list items all have a Priority of “A” even when they’re NOT
  • excessive Risks list items all have a Status of “In-progress” even when¬†they’re NOT
  • oodles of Issues list items all have a Status of “Critical” even when they’re NOT;

It’s no wonder so many clients implement Sharepoint and then ABANDON IT when it comes to actually collaborating – they’ve set themselves up for failure. By thinking they’re “streamlining” their data entry with “default” values, they actually end up polluting the content, resulting in frustrated team mates working on perceive “critical” items that turn out to be¬†low priorities. The end result is that people with good intentions actually SABOTAGE their Sharepoint installations, and everyone stops using it…


All that’s required to right this common wrong is to promote the best practice that:
“ALL Sharepoint Lists with Choice Fields shall start with the value ‘Unknown’ (set as default) and end with the value ‘Other’. Period. ”

On a Project Website, in the Project Tasks List, the PRIORITY (choice) field should contain the following values:

0 Unknown                         <= set as the default value !
1 A                                        <= to be completed within 1  business day
2 B                                         <= to be completed within 1 business week
3 C                                         <= to be completed as time permits)
4 Other

On the same Project website, in the Task list, in the STATUS (choice field)

0 Unknown
1 Not Started
2 In-Progress
3 Pending
4 Deferred
5 Completed
6 Cancelled
7 Other

The end result is suprisingly powerful…

  • Content becomes ACCURATE
  • People start to BELIEVE in The Content again
  • This belief stimulates USAGE of Sharepoint
  • Using Sharepoint¬†enhances Collaboration
  • Enhanced Collaboration¬†increases Productivity
  • Increased Productivity¬†realizes an ROI for¬†Sharepoint

All from something as simple as¬†making & keeping The Content accurate…



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