SharePoint is the Intranet of Choice for many organizations, but it has been a struggle to get the out-of-the-box SharePoint Intranet to look modern and beautiful. In the past, if you wanted to build a beautiful intranet for your organization, you had to hire a team of developers . Not anymore!
With the introduction of SharePoint Communication Sites, Microsoft has enabled organizations to create and customize a fast, beautiful, mobile ready intranet site in a short amount of time.
What is a SharePoint Communication Site?
A SharePoint Communication Site is a beautiful dynamic site that can be used for broader communications and allows you to reach a broad audience within your organization. It works across all devices and can be used to communicate effectively and broadly with your audience. Some examples or scenarios where organizations are using Communication sites are to promote or announce Events, Campaigns, Product Launches, News and Topics of Interest.
Features of SharePoint Communication Sites
A Simple Editing Experience that allows you to easily author pages using SharePoint web parts.
A Modern Interface and a mobile friendly site that works across all devices.
Enhanced with Rich capabilities and the ability to pull in data from other services.
Analytics and Usage Metrics on how the site and content is doing
Templates in Communication Sites
There are three types of design available in Communication Site:
The Topic design is used to share information such as news, events, and other content. Pick this design if you have a lot of useful information to share. You can use this design if you have a lot of information to share such as news, events, and other content.
The Showcase design can use photos or images to showcase a product, team, or event. Pick this design if you would like to promote an event or feature a team or product. You can use this design to showcase a product, team, or event using photos or images.
A blank design allows you to start from scratch and add the web parts you need. You can start with a blank site and make your design come to life quickly and easily.
How to Create a Communication Site
Creating a Communication Site is easy and can easily accomplished by a Power User. Sign into Office 365 and navigate to the SharePoint Home. Click the Office 365 ribbon in the top left corner and select SharePoint under Apps.
Click the Create site link and you will be presented with 2 site options. Select Communication Site.
Select one of three designs (Topic, Showcase or Blank). We covered the three designs earlier and showed how you can choose the best design according to your requirements.
Enter a Site Name and a description for the communication site. Click Finish to complete the setup of the communication site. That’s it, in a few minutes you will have created your first Communication Site!
Customizing Communication Sites
A key design element of a communication site is the Hero Web Part. A Hero Web part makes your page visually appealing and immediately draws interest to your page.
When you select a Topic or Showcase design, a Hero web part is added to your homepage by default. It includes images, text and links which can help you quickly get started. The Topic design default Hero web part has a five tiled layout and the Showcase design has a vertical layout with three layers.
Click the Edit Page to customize the page and modify the hero web part.
You can customize the layout options and choose either a tile layout or a layer layout. Click the edit details icon at the bottom of the page to change the image, link and Title.
You can also add a empty hero web part to a page and customize it from scratch.
Hover your mouse near the top left of the page and Click the + icon to view the section layout options. You can select the number of columns in your layout.
Choose One Column, Two Columns, Three Columns, One-third left column, One-third right column or a Full-width column. A Full-width column can be used to display a hero web part or an image at the top of your page. The ability to change the layout allows you to organize the content how you want and where you want it.
Adding content is easy in Communication Sites. To Add content to a column, click the + icon in the center of the page. Select the web part to add to the column.
You can also change the default theme to a custom theme. You can change the look of your Communication site by clicking the gear icon in top right corner of the Office 365 suite bar. Select Change the Look to customize the theme of the site.
Team Sites vs Communication Sites
Earlier, while creating a site in SharePoint we were presented with two options , one is the Team site and the other is the Communication Site. It can get confusing to decide what site type to choose when creating a SharePoint site. Below I have outlined few differences between the two, that will help you make the right decision.
A communication site is meant to push information out to a broad audience whereas a team site is meant for a group of people to collaboration in a shared area.
You cannot create a sub-site in a Communication Site unlike a Team Site. This goes along with Microsoft’s recommendation of avoiding the creation of sub-sites in SharePoint.
There is no Quick Launch or Left Navigation in Communication Sites. In a Team site you would have to use some custom CSS to hide the left navigation
There are three Sets of Designs Available in Communication Sites whereas only one option in Team Site.
Communication sites is not tied to an Office 365 Group. When a team site is created, we get a Office 365 group as well.
Benefits of Using Communication Sites
Here are some reasons, why I would recommend using Communication sites instead of building Custom SharePoint Sites using custom master pages and layouts:
- Communication Sites are easily configurable and it is easy for anyone to build a beautiful site with a few clicks.
- Communication Sites are mobile friendly and you can access them on all your devices. No more worrying about building a responsive design intranet.
- Allows you to easily showcase products and distribute news throughout your organization.
- Microsoft will keep enhancing this and making it better.
I hope you found this information valuable in helping you getting started with using Communication Sites in SharePoint Online.