Planning and Designing Your SharePoint Communication Site
Published Jun 23 2023 12:04 PM 3,892 Views

Greetings to our amazing nonprofits. There has been a recent surge in the interest of SharePoint communication sites for our nonprofit organizations, and this article is designed to help you plan and execute the creation of your sites. First, let's discuss the differences between a SharePoint Team site and a SharePoint communication site, as you may be more familiar with the former. Afterwards, we will discuss tips that can help you plan and design your site. 


Both Communication Sites and Team Sites are part of SharePoint's suite of tools designed to foster collaboration and communication in organizations. However, they have distinct purposes and are used differently.


SharePoint Team sites are used as a means of collaboration and communication amongst a particular team, department, project or group. They provide a digital workspace where you and your team members can come together to work on projects and tasks while sharing documents, files, a shared calendar etc. for the group.


SharePoint Communication sites on the other hand, are utilized to broadcast information on a much larger scale. They provide a platform for sharing news, reports, updates, and other relevant information. For example, an organization might utilize a Communication Site to share company-wide announcements, events or to grant access to reports or policies that are beneficial to everyone. These sites are typically less centered around collaboration since their main purpose is to distribute information as opposed to encouraging interactive teamwork like in Team sites.


Both Communication and Team sites are customizable and allow for adding web parts and integration of many of the tools that you and your team members are most familiar with. Since the focus of the article is Communication sites, let’s get into tips for planning and executing the creation of your site. Referencing this guide can help you strategize, plan, and organize with your team how you want your SharePoint Communication Site to look. Please note that the process for building out your SharePoint site requires some manual labor and may not be an overnight process depending on the type of content and organization your site requires. It is however going to save you lots of time versus having to hard code an entire website. It can also save you lots of resources and money as SharePoint developers exist but at an expensive penny.




Planning Before Designing


It’s vital to have a clear strategy and vision for your site. Here's are some suggestions to get you thinking.


What Do You Plan to Use This Site For?


  •              To launch a product or service?
  •              Provide access to documentation and share information with your organization?
  •              Share news and events.


Who is Your Audience?


  • What do you want your audience to achieve with the site? Better team collaboration?  A centralized information source? Find onboarding documents and processes? Your goals should guide your design and content decisions.
  • What are their priorities? (Creating a team survey is helpful as your priorities may not be the same as your audience).
  • What do you want viewers to see?


Governance Strategy

  • Have you designated who the content contributors will be?
  • Who has permission to do what?
  • Who oversees updating content?
  • Who updates the contents?
  • Will there be an approval process before new content is officially uploaded?
  • How frequently is content to be updated?
  • How will changes be communicated to the rest of the organization?


Planning During Designing


Design and Navigation


  • How easy is it to navigate your site?
  • Are you able to find exactly what you need? Say someone is looking for onboard documents, is it easy to tell where to find them?
  • How appealing is your design? Is it bland? Do you have visuals?
  • What sections, web parts, pages, images, and documents do you want to have on your site?


Site Layout and Organization


  • Are High Priority contents placed first?
  • Are you utilizing the option to create separate pages (tabs) instead of cramming everything onto one page?
  • Did you provide links to additional information?
  • Does it look too cluttered?
  • Do you have a variety of different web parts? (Used to store content/ information such as documents, a container for events, news section etc.)
  • Do you have a balanced number of high-quality images for people that are visual learners?
  • How many pages/tabs will you have in the navigation bar? Write down each page/tab on separate lines and underneath each begin to draft out the content, images, information, documents etc. you want for each section.


Planning Post Designing


Measure the Success of Your Site


It is a good idea to discuss with your team how you want to measure the success of your site creation. You can do so by utilizing the following options or a method of your choice.


  • Creating a survey in Microsoft Forms.
  • Can you find what you need?
  • Is the site easy to navigate?
  • What is missing?
  • What would you like to see more of?
  • Running a poll via the Polls app in a Microsoft Teams meeting.
  • Pull usage reports from the Microsoft SharePoint Admin center.


How To Start Designing Your Site


  1. After you’ve mapped out your site’s structure, including the hierarchy of pages and the content each will host, let’s start creating. Sign into SharePoint by going to > apps > all apps > SharePoint and navigate to the appropriate site that you want to edit and skip to step 4. If the site has not yet been created, select Create Site.




2. Select the appropriate site type: Communication or Team Site, add a title, description and select create site.



3. You will have the option to keep the default template, browse through different templates created within SharePoint and choose one, or select a blank template and build your site from scratch.

4. In any of the cases you decide, when you are ready to start editing your site, navigate to the top right corner and select Edit. If you would like to start with the navigation bar first, please choose the corresponding edit button.




5. To add a web part, hover at the top of a section to reveal a gray addition symbol.




6. Choose the type of webpart you would like to add to this section. Be sure to pay attention to additional detail options after making your selection.




7. For this example, I chose to add a Hero section. Hero sections are oversized banners that are usually the first thing people find when visiting your site. They are found under your navigation bar and logo and you can use this section to draw attention to what your site is about.




8. Above is a template for 5 links that I can add to this hero section. Notice at the top of the section there are options to edit this layout. I can change the format of the tiles and I can change the number of tiles I want in my hero section.

9. In the photo below you will see that I changed my hero section to include one tile. Here you can add any type of content you’d like such as a image, video, document etc. For this demo, I added a stock image and added text.




10. To continue building out your site, repeat these steps to add all desired webparts. Once you have finished making the desired changes you can chose to save as a draft and continue later or you can select Republish and this will allow anyone who visits your site to see all the changes you’ve made.



Additional Tips


• Build in Phases: Start with core components such as the homepage and primary navigation. Then proceed to secondary pages, gradually adding features as users become more comfortable.

• Perform User Testing: Gather feedback from a small group of users before a full roll-out. This will allow you to identify and correct any issues before the official launch.

• Review and Iterate: Regularly review the site's performance against your objectives. Use user feedback and analytics to continuously improve the site.


Building a SharePoint Communications Site requires thoughtful strategy, detailed planning, and meticulous organization. By following these steps, you can create a site that is engaging, user-friendly, and valuable to your audience, ultimately improving collaboration and communication within your organization.

Remember that SharePoint is not a 'set it and forget it' tool. It requires ongoing attention, management, and improvements to ensure its longevity and continued relevance within your organization. Through continuous learning, adaptation, and application of best practices, your SharePoint Communications Site can serve as a powerful tool for communication and collaboration.


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‎Jan 26 2024 10:35 AM
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