Best practices for using global navigation in the SharePoint app bar

Published May 19 2021 09:00 AM 15K Views



Your tenant just got the new SharePoint app bar, and you are probably wondering how it should fit in with the rest of your intranet architecture. You may be asking yourself, what should be in the global navigation and what should be home site navigation? What if my home site is also a hub site? In this blog, we'll share best practices on how to think about global navigation, how to align with existing home site and hub navigation, and how to prepare for the app bar. 


What’s the SharePoint app bar?

First, let’s review the SharePoint app bar. The SharePoint app bar is a fixed navigation experience across all modern SharePoint sites that provides quick access to the most important sites, news, and files as well as the organization’s global navigation.


The SharePoint app bar can be broken down into two main parts:

  • Global navigation – Enable and customize the global navigation tab to display universally relevant links and use audience targeting to surface important content to specific audiences.
  • Personalized content – The remaining tabs in the SharePoint app bar consist of My sites, My news, and My files and dynamically displays personalized content based on insights from Microsoft Graph.

SharePoint App BarSharePoint App Bar




SharePoint global navigation and Viva Connections

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a new product offering called Microsoft Viva, an employee experience platform that brings together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights. 


One of the four pillars of Microsoft Viva is Viva Connections which uses SharePoint and Microsoft Teams to engage and connect your organization on a whole new level. To take full advantage of Viva Connections for desktop, make sure your organization has a home site and enable global navigation in the SharePoint app bar. When global navigation is enabled, your organization's most important intranet resources will display in Microsoft Teams. 


Re-thinking intranet wayfinding

Now that we’ve reviewed the basic concept behind the SharePoint app bar and global navigation, let’s explore how to re-think your organization’s intranet architecture to accommodate this new wayfinding resource.


Most intranet experiences begin “at the top” with a landing destination. This is the place where users go to catch up on the latest organizational news, find out about upcoming events, and access important resources. In SharePoint this top-level landing experience is called the home site. The home site is unlike all other SharePoint sites in the sense that it has many superpowers. The home site is a vital piece of a great intranet, but users need a more efficient option to navigate between intranet resources without having to go back to the home site first. That’s where global navigation comes in because it allows you to provide a consistent set of navigational links regardless of where the user is in the intranet. For example, let’s say the user is viewing the human resources site to confirm how many hours of vacation are available and also needs to view the current time-off request policy in the policies center. Instead of having to switch back and forth between sites, global navigation enables users to navigate to universally relevant resources (like HR policy) no matter their location in SharePoint.


Previously customers could achieve this using a SharePoint hub site and associating all other intranet sites to it. This approach is great too but it’s just starting point! As your organization grows, your intranet will need to scale too. Soon, you’ll realize that you need more and more hubs (families of related sites) and you’ll need to make decisions on what resources to prioritize.


Global navigation solves this issue by providing navigation across all sites. You can then choose to use SharePoint hub sites to group and sync branding, permissions and navigation of related sites based on your departments, divisions, regions, or portfolio.




How to think about global navigation

So, what should you use global navigation for? From talking to many customers across the years, we’ve learned successful global navigation designs focus on the most important resources like:

  • The home site itself and other top hubs and departmental sites (for example, HR)
  • Popular destinations for resources like benefits, company policies, and how to get support
  • Links to line of business apps and custom applications
  • Content relevant to the daily job functions of people in your organization

What does this mean for the home site navigation? The home site navigation transitions to focus more on wayfinding inside the home site as well and other relevant (but not critical) resources.

  • Wayfinding inside the home site
  • Links to news from inside the organization
  • Link to news from outside the organization
  • Organizational profiles and stories
  • Leadership teams, divisions, and stakeholders
  • Topics of interest
  • Public social feeds

Now, hub navigation can focus on resources related to the hub topic. For example, a human resources hub can have associated sites for all the different sites like benefits, payroll, time-off requests, and more. If the hub is for a division or department, it will have associated sites linked as topic sites that talk about business strategy, planning, metrics, leadership, and all the related teams within that division or topic. Learn more about how to think about home site, hub, and global navigation from the product team.


Next, decide the source for global navigation

Now that you know which resources are ideal for global navigation, it’s time to enable this feature and pick the source. We’ve given you multiple options so you can determine what best fits your needs.


First, to enable and customize global navigation, your organization must have a home site. From the home site’s home page, select Settings and then Global navigation.



Then you can decide which source the global navigation should pull from, either the home site navigation or the hub navigation (whether it’s officially a hub or not). Now for some organizations, this decision depends on how you want your home site navigation experience to look like, so here are some tips:

  • If you want global navigation to match the home site navigation, select the Home site navigation as the source. Then, decide to display or hide the site navigation on the home site
  • If you want global navigation to be different from the home site navigation, select Hub or global navigation (even if your home site is not a hub).
  • If the home site is already a hub, you can select either navigation source, but we recommend using hub navigation and hiding the site navigation to simplify the navigation experience.
  • Finally, if the home site is a hub and you’re using the extended header style, note that the site navigation automatically becomes hidden.


Example of global navigation at Microsoft

At Microsoft, our home site is also a hub site because there are multiple sites that power the Microsoft Web intranet experience from various news resources to a leadership connection site and more. For Microsoft’s global navigation, the home site navigation is the source and is hidden from the user interface on the home site.

The SP App bar used on Microsoft's intranetThe SP App bar used on Microsoft's intranet


Enable and customize global navigation today

The SharePoint app bar is now available to most SharePoint customers. If you already have a SharePoint home site, you are ready to enable and set up global navigation. Next, integrate your SharePoint intranet with Microsoft Teams by using Viva Connections for desktop.


If you do not already have the SharePoint home site, now is a great time to plan and create a home site for your organization. Consider getting a head start on your home site by using a template named The Landing from the SharePoint look book. Learn  more from the Microsoft product team on how to think about and plan home sites.


We hope you find this information useful and that it provides further clarity on you should think about leveraging global navigation for both SharePoint and Viva Connections.


More resources

Learn more about information architecture in SharePoint

Onboard end-users to the SharePoint app bar

Check out the Viva Connections desktop experience

Watch: Architecting your intelligent intranet

Frequent Contributor

Hello, does exist best practices how to use SharePoint app bar when the tenant is shared with more companies? All companies have their own intranet (hub sites) and their own homepage.


Hi @Miroslav Novák, thanks for reaching out. The best practices covered in this blog post do focus on organizations that share a single destination that's common to all users and where all users are part of the same tenant. It's good feedback that we should consider sharing best practices for scenarios like yours though. If I may ask, are all the users from the different companies in your scenario using the same tenant or are they permissioned as guests?

Senior Member

Hello! Thanks for this type of article, it helps a lot!


I am in the same situation as @Miroslav Novák. We have 70k users in a single tenant, with multiple companies, each company has its own intranet and homesite. My company has 3k employees and manages tenant. Is it possible to enable the app bar for my company only? Or at least, each company set up its own logo and "global" navigation? This would help to encourage the use of the appbar across the tenant. Otherwise, it would be impossible, unfortunately.


Note: all companies in this tenant share the same email pattern:, but the intranet sites are completely separate with groups and permissions, etc. We cannot and should not see the other intranets.

Frequent Contributor

Hi @Melissa Torres , in my case is one tenant where is on group of companies which are different legal entities. It means that all companies have their own business, needs and intranet solutions separated from each other. It is not about guests. We would like to use this new global SharePoint bar but we are not sure how. Thank you for your answer and @SoulFroys for share same scenario :)

New Contributor

Thank you Melissa, great tips!

How can I hide site navigation, in a hub site or in a "simple" site?

I know that it is automatically hidden with extended header layout... any other way to do that with other header layouts?


@SoulFroys Thanks for reaching out. At this time the SP app bar is global across all sites so there is no way to enable to only a group of related sites. A potential alternative is to leverage audience targeting in the global navigation to target individuals in the separate companies, but the global navigation logo entry point will be the same for everyone. If you're not already, I recommend using SP hub sites for the individual companies within your tenant and that also provides navigation across all the sites associated to the hub. 


@Miroslav Novák including you as well for my note above around alternative approach and mention of using SP hub sites




Hi @Elisabetta Sasselli you can hide the site navigation on communication sites for the other header layouts too. On a communication site, go to the gear menu and find 'Change the look'. Expand the Navigation node, and you should see a toggle for show/hide site navigation. :smile: Let me know if you can't find it. 

Senior Member

@Melissa Torres, Thanks for the answer. Please correct me if I am wrong, but implementing Viva Connections (and others we are interested in, such as Topics and Learning), it is recommended to enable the SP app bar (as explained here :), this means that in tenants like ours, with 70,000 potential users, will we not be able to take advantage of Viva Connections? If so, this is really frustrating, we are interested in buying Viva Topics and Learning too, but if they are not integrated into Teams (via Viva Connections), it makes no sense to us. Forgive me if I'm getting it wrong, but it is that I really need to understand the strategy of the Viva suite, so my interest in the SP app bar. My local vendor does not have this information unfortunately.

Regular Visitor

@SoulFroys  Hi,

Im in a similar situation as you are. Our Microsoft 365 Tenant hosts multiple organizations belonging to the same Group. We leveraged audience targeting and implemented a custom Sync logic for the Navigation. We Rolled out the SharePoint App bar and Viva Connections successfully last week. I'm happy to show you what we did on a Teams Call if this may help. 

New Contributor

We need the ability to have multiple home sites. Scenario:

1 tenant shared across multiple regions/countries (7) with multiple languages

each region/country (7) has its own hub site intranet as content is very specific to region and in own language

the hub site architecture is perfect but needs to be made available as subset hubs each with own home site. 

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‎May 18 2021 05:55 PM
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