SOLVED

Modern Team Sites vs. Communication Sites--is there really a difference?

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Super Contributor

I may be late to this conversation if it's been had already, but now that my organization has gained access to more Modern page design features (editable banner, Hero web part, Events web part, layout options), I'm left wondering if there is no fundamental difference between Modern Team Sites and Communication Sites other than what you start out with when the site is created. I'm looking mainly at how a Communication Site's structure can, as it seems to me, be built using webparts and configuration items available in Team sites.

 

Given that, currently, newly created Communication Sites are their own site collections, I'm not seeing a reason to start out with a Communication Site when I can just build one from a gutted Team site. Can anyone tell me what significant differences there are between a Modern Team Site and a Communication Site may be?

19 Replies
Well, a Communication Site is just a site template where you have a default page configured, some elements provisioned (such as the Calendar list) and so own...of course, you could this yourself customizing a modern team site

That's what I'd hoped to hear. Thanks!

If by "modern team site" you mean a site powered by Office 365 Groups then of course those "team sites" get all the related Office 365 Group services (Planner, OneNote, Outlook distribution list).  Communications sites don't get those.

Should've been more clear--I meant sites created under a site collection, not Office 365 Groups.

The introduction of Communication sites, and the similar/identical options for pages, has made us re-think about how on-prem sites will be migrated to online sites.

  • All of our existing team and project sites (created in separate /team and /project web applications in on-prem) are going to sites created in the SP Admin portal under /teams, with a very small amount becoming Group-based /teams sites (remember the setting can be changed between /teams and /sites). Project sites will have a PRJ naming prefix to differentiate them.
  • Our existing publication sites except the intranet will migrate to either SP Admin-created /teams sites or SharePoint Portal created /sites Communication sites. We see no requirement yet to create publication sites from SP Admin. Communication sites seem best for relatively small communication-focussed content, whereas some of our larger publication sites lend themselves more to the SP Admin-created modern team sites.
  • Our current intranet, a typical old-style information portal with organisational information, news, policies etc, may end up being split between a number of mostly Communication sites - for example, a dedicated site for policies, dedicated sites for organisational divisions using the 'showcase' template, news delivered in different ways (Yammer, site-based news, etc). What's driving a lot of this thought is mobile access.

The main point I'm making is that the new SP online environment providest the opportunity to re-think architecture and content layout - especially for mobile access.


@Andrew Warland wrote:

The main point I'm making is that the new SP online environment providest the opportunity to re-think architecture and content layout - especially for mobile access.


Great wrap-up, thanks. This kind of migration is a good point to sort things out and reorganize your content. But in so many cases you have people who actively prevent such thinking because "Everything has to stay as it is because the users are used to it in this way."...

best response confirmed by Matt Coats (Super Contributor)
Solution
There are a few under the covers things that I have found are different (but those are minor so far).

The main things I've found are:
1) Comm Site default pages have a full width web part zone (modern team sites dont)
2) Comm Site uses left navigation on top and has no "top navigation"
3) Team sites have left navigation, if you want to hide them you have to do it with some CSS

Other than that, I've technically been able to make Team sites look and act like comm sites, in most respects with a little CSS hackery. Like Andrew mentioned though, we are completely rethinking how we have done everything because of the new modern world, and we are having to do ALOT of mini-migrations from one site to another to make things make the most sense.

my pennies worth on this one is, that this is more a strategic separation than a technical one

You can see on the 'new site' dialgue that Microsoft are asking the basic question about a new site which is , collaboration or communication?

collaboration means a defined set of people who want to work together in a shared area, so this is tied to an O365 group.

communication means a vehicle to push out information and doesnt tie to a predefined group of people. so this is not ties to a group.

 

from a security and management perspective this is a very important first question as it dictates the site pattern on any platform and i think when you look at the way the 'new site' dialogue now flows you can see that patten being established. the fact that they have included a blank communications pattern site reinforces the fact that the style and webparts are not what makes it a comms site. Its the pattern.

 

so my guess is the style and webparts are not relevant as you have them in both patterns but setting the pattern is this is probably paving the way for features down the line that will be specific to the two basic patterns of site construction.

 

there are also parallels here with the old oslo vs seattle masterpages....

 

Let's choose to use the phrase 'Modern team site' to be a site collection w/out O365 Groups where the page and list experience is the Modern experience and 'Group team site' to describe a SharePoint site associated with an O365 Group where the page and list experience is the Modern page and list experience. A Classic team site is a team site using the classic page and list experience. Modern team sites and Classic team sites provide 80+ different settings links on the Site Settings page (for site collection administrators) and Group team sites provide 40+ different settings on the site settings page. We really just need a way to differentiate between a Site associated with a Group and a Standalone site, since standalone site collections can use either Modern or Classic experience or they could use a combination of Modern and Classic. Group team sites are much different since there are fewer settings and many properties of the site are managed via O365 Groups (e.g. you can change the Title of the site, but it will automatically be changed back to the Group name.).

Thanks @Brent Ellis.  After reading your reply I checked to see if I could switch the quick launch nav to be the top nav by switching to the Oslo masterpage (as you can using the classic page experience) and this just switches you back to using a classic page as your home page.  I guess I have alot to learn.... Do the Modern pages use master pages?

Hi Matt,

 

There is one difference which i noticed related to navigation.

There is left navigation and golabal navigation available in team site ,In case of communication site we have only global navigation and there is no left navigation.

 

Thanks.

Kiran

Brent is right here. Other than that haven't noticed any current differences, but I'm expecting a little more convergence or divergence in that regard, not sure which way Microsoft is leaning towards.

It was mentioned in the past, that a few additional rollup features, like corporate news are in the pipeline. They might be limited to Communication Sites. 

Also I wish I could adopt the comm site template to an Office 365 Group, because sometimes we have the need to group a few people together, but only a small subset of users are really creators/contributors and the navigation options in commsites are just more user friendly if you create a lot of pages.

 

guess we'll see more at Ignite.

Ivan you really highlight the typical communication type site pattern with a small group of specialised,write access editors/contributors and a much larger read-only audience who reads and participates. Each audience wants a very different experience and neither wants the powers or restrictions of the other. its a very common model in business for news, libraries, corporate knowledge etc.. We have in the past on-prem addressed this with cross-site publishing to give each audience a physically distinct UI experience over the same data and it will be interesting to see how SPO evolves to support this site pattern.
actually those small writers / large readers concept works just fine with just communication sites, but it's sometimes missing all the other Group Workloads. I sometimes would like to email all those users easily, but can't, as commsites don't have a mailbox.

Does anyone know how to change classification for Communication site? Is it only possible to select one during site creation?




 

from Ignite, at the end of this session in the Q&A they answer this question. The presenter Dave Cohen from the team delivering Comms sites says 'a resource for your whole company where a few contributors publishing information to your whole company to read.... very different to the permission basis for team sites'.

This very much confirms the distinction between the two types and how to select the right one.


@kath patterson wrote:

from Ignite, at the end of this session in the Q&A they answer this question. The presenter Dave Cohen from the team delivering Comms sites says 'a resource for your whole company where a few contributors publishing information to your whole company to read.... very different to the permission basis for team sites'.

This very much confirms the distinction between the two types and how to select the right one.


Just because someone said it doesn't really mean anything.  I've been to about 4 search results when Googling what the difference is, and nobody has addressed the question properly yet:

 

What limitations, if any, are there on one site or the other?  Just because one might be more geared towards one thing, doesn't change the fact that there might be a feature that is in now, or coming, that ties you to one site or the other.  I know myself, and others, probably want to make sure they don't go do a big re-design, and then get stuck in the future with, "Oh, your site has to be a Team Site and can't be converted to utilize this feature".

One way to help you decide is to have a look at the mobile experience. Currently, the Communication sites are a very nice interface for users, while team sites are pretty ordinary looking, present content as activity, files and lists, and are more 'functional'.

As we migrate our sites to SharePoint Online it's one of the first things I raise - let's have a look on a mobile device. For purely informative sites, the mobile experience is better in Comms sites. For functional, document/list based sites, the mobile experience is more practical in team sites.