The list of names is actual data from a production system that my company is working with (no we did not write it, but we need to extract data from it). Carefully take a look at how many variations of spelling (and misspellings). This system has the user entering a location in a textbox and we can obviously see the problems that can occur because the user can enter anything they want.
This list is not from a SharePoint site but it got me thinking. We are asking SharePoint site owners to categorize content with columns and often the poor site owner is not a developer but someone just trying to work with SharePoint. The column create screen has many choices and the first on is a text box and often chosen because it’s the default. A textbox, where users, can enter anything! SharePoint search can’t find all the documents and the reports are wrong. The system does not work. Blame Microsoft!
Let that a look at the option to create columns:
Use Single line of text, multiple lines text when you truly expect variable data to be entered, such as a description, or comment.
Choice should be used to categorize information. That way everybody choose from the same pick list, no misspelling and user don’t need to guess how to categorize
Number, currency, data and time, yes / No, person group, hyperlink: Use those to limit type of values should be entered
Lookup (information already on this site): This is like a Choice column but the list of choices is already on a list on the site. Use this to centralize a list of value on the site. This allows you to share the list across multiple lists guaranteeing consistency
Managed Metadata: Is like a lookup list but it can be used by any site in the company. The pick list values centrally maintained by someone in your company (probably a content manager). If a list already exists, definitely use this list options. Someone else maintains the values!
External data: This is similar to the Managed Meta data, globally available to your sites. However, the list of values is not maintained in SharePoint but rather is extracted from existing systems in your company such as a payroll of manufacturing system. Same as before, if this exists, why duplicate what is already created.
With a little care about how we categorized information we will get much better results when looking for information.