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Mark Kashman
‎05-16-2017 10:11 AM

Reach your audience via SharePoint communication sites in Office 365

‎05-16-2017 10:11 AM

SharePoint has always been at the core of collaboration – people working together on files, lists, and libraries. Our customer stories, like Shire Pharmaceuticals, share insights into the value of intranets that connect people and information seamlessly across use cases: from collaboration on to communication. Today, we are excited to usher in a new generation of the mobile and intelligent intranet, allowing you to communicate to people throughout your organization with beautiful, dynamic, mobile-ready communication sites and pages that keep everyone informed and engaged.


“The more we facilitate our employees to get information faster, to be more productive, the more that they can do to push therapies towards our patients." -- Nicole Rojas - Head of Digital Communications, Shire. Please review the full Shire video case study and learn more about their intranet they call The Hub.


To view more of what communication sites offer, please watch the new, related Microsoft Mechanics video, “An overview of SharePoint communication sites and pages,” and continue reading more information below, with screenshots and additional links.



Communication sites and related features will be released this coming summer. Let’s look at how they’ll work.

Create beautiful, dynamic communication sites

It is easy to move from working on the details of a project or campaign collaboratively in team sites to create broad-reach communication sites. Like SharePoint team sites, new communication sites are created in seconds by clicking Create site on SharePoint home in Office 365.  It is then easy to adjust page layouts and add web parts and to pull in valuable data and content from other services, like conversations from Yammer and videos from Microsoft Stream. The result is a vibrant, interactive, dynamic experiences for your site visitors.


A communication site shown in a desktop Web browser (left) and in the SharePoint mobile app (right). Features include a consistent logo, top navigation, page layouts, and new web parts: Hero, News, Events, Microsoft Stream, Yammer, and People (with more to come).A communication site shown in a desktop Web browser (left) and in the SharePoint mobile app (right). Features include a consistent logo, top navigation, page layouts, and new web parts: Hero, News, Events, Microsoft Stream, Yammer, and People (with more to come).

After the site is created, you create your pages – layering in your content, exactly how you want it to appear.  You select from single and multi-column layouts, leveraging dynamic web parts connected to various Office 365 services. Organizing and reorganizing web parts is easy, just drag and drop to tell your story the way you want.


When you create a communication site from SharePoint home in Office 365, you can choose from several site templates.When you create a communication site from SharePoint home in Office 365, you can choose from several site templates.

Communication sites dynamically pull in content from across Office 365. You have the right tools to design sites for upcoming events, campaigns, or product launches, report sites for teams to share their insights and expertise on topics, and many other scenarios where the key goal is to communicate effectively and broadly without barriers.


When you create a communication site, you are presented with several helpful tools:


Section layouts | You can use a variety of multi-column section layouts on your pages, to arrange information side-by-side – like an important video from Microsoft Stream to the left of a related Power BI dashboard. The page authoring toolbox has new Section layout choices.



Web Parts | You can use web parts to bring content and information from across Office 365 into your pages. Five new web parts will let you better inform and engage the audience of your communication site:

  • The Hero web part highlights important content
  • The People web part showcases notable members of the team
  • The Events web part calls out important upcoming events and lets you easily them to your calendar
  • The Microsoft Stream web part presents a gallery of videos from a Stream channel.


Learn more about using web parts on pages and news--an article that highlights all web parts available in SharePoint Online.


Theming | Preview and apply custom styling and colors to your sites. IT administrators can manage the custom themes that are available to the organization.


Top navigation | Make it easy for visitors to get to important pages with the top navigation. Click Edit to add, arrange, and modify menus and submenus.


Site usage | How is your site doing? Review charts and reports that show daily unique user trends, most active readers, and page views. These insights are right at your fingertips. Click the upper-right gear and select Site usage.


Custom web parts | If you’re a developer, you can use the SharePoint Framework (SPFx) to create fast, modern, client-side user experiences and web parts that authors can add to their pages in communication sites.

Reach and engage your audience

When you publish a page, you can be confident that your page reaches your audience wherever they are, no matter what device they are on. Your communication site looks great on the web, on PC or Mac, on mobile browsers, and in the SharePoint app. It, too, is easy to share communication sites and pages with others via email – just like you would share a document via the built-in share button in the upper right of the page.


Add the Yammer web part to engage your audience, to spark conversation, to encourage best practice sharing, and to solicit feedback. The Yammer web part embeds the feed from any Yammer group or topic into a SharePoint page in the browser. A new web part, coming this summer, will bring that experience to mobile devices as well.


A community built with a SharePoint communication site, including a web part showcasing featured community members, and an informative chart alongside a related Yammer discussion.A community built with a SharePoint communication site, including a web part showcasing featured community members, and an informative chart alongside a related Yammer discussion.

Collaborate and communicate throughout your intranet

With the combination of team sites connected to Office 365 groups and the reach of communication sites, SharePoint gives you the tools to collaborate, inform and engage, with a few core people or with broader audiences across the organization. Throughout the lifecycle of your projects, your launches, and your internal campaigns, the SharePoint intranet helps you move seamlessly from concept to final product – all with powerful, dynamic user experiences that do what you want them to do to clearly communicate your message throughout your company.



Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When will communication sites be available in Office 365?

A: Communication sites will begin roll out to Office 365 First Release customers Q2 CY 2017, with full worldwide rollout scheduled for Q3 CY 2017. This includes the five new web parts, section layouts, theming, editable navigation and the new site usage page. The same innovations will be available in SharePoint team sites, as well.

Q: How do communication sites compare to intranet sites based on the classic SharePoint publishing infrastructure?

A: Communication sites are complimentary to the sites and portals you’ve built using the SharePoint publishing infrastructure. The publishing infrastructure continues to be supported both on-premises and online. Communication sites are out-of-box sites you can use for internal campaigns, reports, product launches, and other scenarios that address broad audiences across the organization. Communication sites are easy to create: they require no code or design expertise. Simply point-and-click to add pages and parts. Communication sites are mobile-ready by default, looking great across browsers and devices, and in the SharePoint mobile app. For scenarios that go beyond those supported by communication sites today, Microsoft’s vibrant partner community has great expertise and offers services and tools that can help you build your mobile, intelligent intranet with SharePoint in Office 365.

Richard Black
Occasional Visitor

Looks neat, but when do we all get to see this for ourselves? I don't see any new in Office365/Sharepoint features yet?


Craig Debbo
Occasional Contributor

Is this replacing Publishing Sites? What is happening with pub. sites. We see modern team sites everywhere on our SPO site, but our primary site (root at /) is still a publishing site and there is NOTHING modern about it or its subsites.

Dennis Gaida
Occasional Contributor
This. looks. great. This actually goes in the direction of the "new Intranet start page". Awesome! Also finally multi column layout for modern pages.
Ivan Unger
Super Contributor

Love it. I have been waiting for this a while now! I have a few questions around the communications sites and SharePoint in general:

- for departmental intranet solutions - do you recommend one big "communications sites" container with subsites (is this still possible?) - or many separated communications sites containers per department?

- What is happening to the default root site collection? Will I be able to turn this into a Communications Site? If not, it's a pity the sweetest (shortest) URL cannot be properly modernized.

- what is the Events web part based on? Is this a new kind of list, can it pull from any list that has "title, start and end date" columns?

- are the SharePoint News comments based on Yammer conversations or something new and different?

- I haven't seen anything on updating SharePoint Home to finally show ALL the sites that I have permissions for - this is bad as newly created sites don't show up under "recently, liked, most viewed"

John Sanders

@Ivan Unger - The events webpart leverages the events list (also used by the existing Calendar feature). We have augmented it with some new fields to enable adding a link to an online meeting, add an image, show a map, etc.). You cannot point this at any arbitrary or custom list. This first version will be relatively scoped to show only specific fields in specific layouts. If you'd like other capabilities, we'd love to know what they are. Thanks.

Ivan Unger
Super Contributor

Hi @John Sanders,
What I wondering is, if I will be able to fill (publish/create and unpublish/delete) this events list through something like Flow/Azure Logic Apps.
Before todays #spsummit I was leaning towards a SharePoint calendar list (allows for Outlook Sync via GPO) that gets its data through a Logic App from an onPrem SQL Server.


The specific use case is an events web part that shows current events at our venue on some intranet site (communications pages) or as a complete separate web app. With the possibility of a drill down to get a complete list of upcoming events with additional metadata that are specific for internal usage, like the booked rooms, pax count, ... (your comment about "scoped ... specific fields" though seems to make that impossible at the moment)

Ivan Unger
Super Contributor

Also, some other questions:

  • Am I right to assume that "Communication Sites" are NOT linked to Office 365 Groups?
  • If so, how are the permissions handled and what are the default permisisons?
Sarah Parry
Senior Member

This looks great. I'm interested in the web part that pulls through documents from Document Libraries: will it be possible to link to any document library in the site collection or is it only the document library in the communication site itself? Thanks.

Scott Williamson
Frequent Visitor

@Mark Kashman When will first release users see these in Q2?  I know that is a tough question to answer but I have users clamoring for these already.  Thanks!



This is very useful, awesome new features. Could you please share the communication site images in higher resolution? Would be very helpful in socializing the new development.

John LaLonde
Occasional Visitor

The features that the Communications site template provides will fill a huge gap that we've had to rely on 3rd party or customization for......absolutely loving it!

Barbara Falchi
Occasional Visitor

Really intesting site tempolate, that seems to feel the gap with the intranet in a box solutions.
But it would be nice to know how Communication sites deal:

  • with multilanguage (it will be supported in a future?)
  • with each other: are they silos or ww can rollup content from each other?
  • with a supposed site collection root (i.e. corporate intranet home) with publishing feature enabled? can we rollup content from Community sites and tailor it based for example on user properties?
  • News Content types can be extended with custom properties?


Mark Kashman

@Richard Black - we noted that they're coming soon, with a target to begin rollout to first release by end of Q2 CY 2017. Check the first Q in the FAQ section above. Get your SP hands at the ready! "Create site" from SP home is about to get doubly powerful (team & comm). Boom!

Mark Kashman

@Craig Debbo: check the 2nd Q within the above FAQ section - tried to give a little front-loading to this common question as the publishing/communication portfolio grows from Microsoft and partners. We certainly are focused on performance throughout the platform for whatever sites you build, with great emphasis on how quickly they provision, and how easy it is to add content (pages, news, web parts (custom and 1st party), etc.. We publish network optimization guidance at http://aka.ms/tune where the SPO materials at that site focus on best practices and troubleshooting for portals built on SharePoint Online sites with the publishing features turned on. This, too, is an area of investment so that any site built on the publishing infrastructure will receive performance gain on both how we'll update the service with items we can adjust, plus bolstering any guidance and best practices we can put forth via the aka.ms/tune site. Your root site, in the way you describe, is focused on your company intranet portal. We, too, at MS support our copany intranet (we call it MSW) running in SPO using the publishign infrastrucutre, and we're all excited - including our Microsoft IT team - about using communication sites in parallel to existing team site and portals. In fact, we - the SharePoint, OneDrive and Yammer marketing team - propped up a the first commercially used SharePoint Communication site so that we could help spread awareness about what we announced at #SPSummit, and ongoing as a solid destination for our field sellers and partner teams to learn more about SP, OD and Yam; we call this site our SOY site. Want a little SOY sauce. Beyond the pun fun, it's a crucial tool for us to inform and engage our internal peers on all things SOY!

Mark Kashman

@Dennis Gaida Thx, Dennis. We're excited to kick them out to First Release customers soon and addressing the single column limitation was important to be included in this round of updates to the overall authroing canvas that powers pages, news across both site types (team, comm). And like how you phrased it. :-) - Mark.

Mark Kashman

@Ivan Unger Thx for the feedback, Ivan. I'll tackle a few of your Qs that remain in this one reply...

- We're getting good feedback about communication sites already, one being consistent about a mehtod to rollup numerous comm sites, and that would compliment the pattern we are establishing: page > collection of pages (communication site) > collection of communicaiton sites (broader comm portal (for lack of name) > ??? and beyond :-). We'll have more to say at Ignite as we refine comm sites, the underpinning pages, news, web parts ... and turn attention to the next level up and how to present a collection of a collection in a mindful way and at the right level ...

- We hear you about the root site. It's one we usually don't touch, but make sense with some of the new modern tech to review it. If you've not enabled any publsihign features, you could certainly create modern pages there and deem one your home page if you weanted.

- Events web part answered by @John Sanders :-).

- News comments are not Yammer powered, but unique tech we have so we could have per item comments - so stored in the same site collection and mapped to the pages it's located on.

- Good feedback on SP home - I'll pass it along to help promote all my stuff, not just stuff I'm active in; good feedback.

- Communication sites are not linked to one group like team sites, and you can permission a comm site with numerous group AAD objects. The site owner defines how broad to go - might be tailored to a few groups, or at company level if you were to use "Everyone except external users" as a broad-reach scenario.

Mark Kashman

@Sarah Parry The document library web part allows you to select any document library from the communication site's site collection from a drop-down menu, and then you choose how many files to show (you can get to them all, this is just a vertical sizing with in the web part zone). Like any site in SHarePoint, you can create numerous lists and libraries beyond the defaults. See this screenshot:


Document library web part settings pane.Document library web part settings pane.

Mark Kashman

@Scott Williamson It is a tough question that we're not scoping down beyond "Q2 CT 2017" - which if you look at the calendar narrows it down to "by end of June" :-). So soon/close/around the corner ... you choose your synonym. We like clamoring, and we know the want to know more. Clamoring for 'em won't last much longer. We'll move from clamor to glamour as they use them and ask how they every lived without them. ;).

Mark Kashman

@Sanjeev Arora I put a few highes-res I have here: https://1drv.ms/f/s!AjceVrOCdNWMjqZGFitcV7VPc7hw_A. You'll see a mix of Web and mobile (iOS and Andorid) - for how communication sites apear on PC/Mac and various mobile platforms. Hope that gives you what you need to help evangelize; and thanks, Mark.

Mark Kashman

@John LaLonde Great to hear! We're hoping to move the needle so customers buiuld less, and can certainly continue to build what they need if it's not there OOTB and critical; lots of good partner solutions and cusotm devs out there and SPO is getting more and more capable for devs: #SPFx :-).

Mark Kashman

@Barbara Falchi Appreciate your eyeballs and attention :-). We're excited to jump start the journey of communication sites now and iterating on what we've got already planned and consistent feedback to refine and validate, and often augment the priorities and planning.


On to your spoecific questions:

1) We certainly focus first on the first party chrome and text out-of-the-box, and know there are methods to enable multi-lingual for the body content customers/users contribute/write; nothing to share at this time, beyond awareness on our end of he space and multi-geo/lingual requirements.

2) The content is no different that if in a team site, meaning that search picks everything up (news, pages, document, list, etc from within the communicaiton site (which is a unique site collection per comm site). And once in the search index, you can do some amazing things, in addition to the content also being captured in your tenant's Microsoft Graph instance - meaning you get items from comm sites flowing in Delve, Discovery tab in OneDrive if it's a document/file, site activities on a site tile within SharePoint home in Office 365, etc. - and you can build a lot of great solutions using the Content by Search web part, or the new Highlighted Content web part.

3) Should be able to using the Content by Search web part - we call this search-based portals/pages

4) News articles are pages in a page library - and go from there :-)

Geoffrey Bronner
Frequent Contributor

Thanks for the additional info on sharing/permissions. Can we assume these sites will retain a more traditional owner/member/visitor permissions structure allowing the author to control who can make changes?



Ivan Unger
Super Contributor

@Mark Kashman thank you so much for the feedback. 

Gathering from that, I assume the "out of the box" road to take is to create smaller organizational team/comm sites and roll the up in some kind of "corporate portal" (read: Ignite Announcement) or, for those who want to custom develop/create, through various search webparts.

Got it.

The only thing left is some kind of overarching navigation with a more top/down (or Tree) approach than the current Sharepoint Home implementation. I'd like to through in a suggestion here, since it may be a tiny additional development step: you're already creating a new SharePoint Admin Center that lists all SiteCollections. I believe it is not that far off to create a webpart off of this that shows all sites (not just collections) with refiner options (owner, type [team vs comm], classification, created, last modified, kind [public vs private], ...) and one that is trimmed based on permissions. 

Brent Ellis
Valued Contributor

Some specific questions I posted over in the SharePoint forum, posting them here as well:


Are communication sites limited to newly created sites?  Can I apply the communication site pages to an existing publishing site or team site?


What happens if we have self-service site creation turned off (via SP home)?  Do admins have a way to manually create a communication site?


Is it possible to turn my top-level tenant SharePoint home page into a "communication site"?

Craig Debbo
Occasional Contributor

@Brent Ellis. Exactly Brent. Microsoft appears to suggest that there is no change and NO integration to publishing sites, and yet all they actually write is that pub. "infrastructure continues to be supported both on-premises and online". This response doesn't really give us the guidance we need. My "/" publishing site is plain vanilla SPO, no customization and all my SPO sites live underneath it. These types of deployments appear to be stranded. Maybe pub. sites are "SOY"-lite (to quote @Mark Kashman). I suspect that my path forward is to re-create all my publishing sites as new communication sites and then show how link them together (full linking story coming with Ignite conf ...?)

Geoffrey Bronner
Frequent Contributor

Seems like creating a modern page within a legacy publishing site and then promoting it to be the home page would effectively convert the site. That assumes all the same web parts would be available in that case.

Brent Ellis
Valued Contributor

@Geoffrey Bronner thatis more the question then, everything I am ready seems to indicate that it will not.  Comm Site will stand on their own it seems.  I would much rather see the ability to build these "modern pages" regardless where you are and have the same webpart feature set regardless of team site, publishing site, comm site, etc.


I suppose i'm not suprised, we've already had to do a significant amount of migration/effort to take advantage of O365 Group Sites (the right way), don't suppose this will be any different with Communication Sites.  I'd gotten used to the "no migrations" of SPO over the past few years, so much for that hiatus :)

Mark Owen
Occasional Visitor

Don't forget about analytics/measurement. Tying PowerBI into this to keep comms and managers happy with numbers would make this perfect.

Harold van de Kamp

Thanks for sharing all the details regarding the Communications Sites @Mark Kashman


Besides the save as draft and publish functionality, are other options coming also soon, e.g. scheduled page publishing with start and end dates?

And how about sending an article for approval, will that be available, or do we have to build that with e.g. Microsoft Flow or SharePoint Webhooks?

Mark Kashman

All great feature proposals, most of which we've on our backlog as we move beyond the First Release release soon. I'll ensure the feedback gets back to the team.

Ivan Unger
Super Contributor

Hi @Mark Kashman,

Some additional good feedback I've received from our communications team:

  • a new site grouping (in addition to Frequent sites and Suggested sites) on SharePoint Home especially for Communication Sites might be helpful, probably below the "News" grouping. 


Also can you clarify if CommSites can still have Subsites that inherit the same template? If so, I'm interested in the navigational options. 

All these questions originate from an Intranet perspective and how to onboard existing new users to a definitive information source within the company. One "big" site with subsites is easier to point to, than multiple separate sites, especially if there is no way to see which commsites exist (see grouping suggestion above). 

Annelise Martinsen
Occasional Visitor

Just a quick question - do you need to have publishing features activated on site collection level in order to use the new communication sites?

Eric Schrader
Occasional Visitor

Q2/Q3 cant come fast enough. Lets get this rolled out.

Drew Schafer
Occasional Visitor

Will we be able to convert a team site to a communication site?