Create and use custom SharePoint site designs in Office 365
Published Jan 10 2018 09:00 AM 63.7K Views

With great sites comes great responsibility and structure. It is the focus of IT and content managers to enable the business to achieve their outcomes while staying in compliance with company guidelines and preferences. And now you can with the ability to further customize the ‘modern’ SharePoint sites experiences in a repeatable, programmatic way. We are pleased to announce that the ability to create and use custom site designs is rolling out to Targeted Release Office 365 customers.

A new site provisioned using a custom site design shows progress of adjustments happening automatically after provisioning completes.A new site provisioned using a custom site design shows progress of adjustments happening automatically after provisioning completes.

As SharePoint team sites and communication sites become more organized according to the business, they, too, need to best align with the preferred look & feel and structure via use of custom site themes and custom site designs. And a tenant-wide gallery helps to ensure each site can be assigned the right set of themes and designs by the right people; it is possible to assign who can pick and use specific designs at the time when they create new sites.

A diagram showing the common flow and anatomy of a custom site design at run time.A diagram showing the common flow and anatomy of a custom site design at run time.

Custom site designs and custom site themes apply to both team sites and communication sites, and provide you with flexibility and choice.

Let’s dive into the details.

Create and use custom site designs

This week, we'll begin rolling out support for SharePoint administrators to create and upload custom site scripts and site designs–alongside the previously released ability to manage custom site themes (NOTE: site theme configuration and customization is now released 100% worldwide production). Site designs help apply a consistent set of actions, such as setting the site theme, creating lists & columns, recording the new site URL to a log, or even sending an email to a person or group.


The site designs (and themes) are stored in a central, tenant-level gallery and can be applied to both team sites and communication sites. An approved user would see the custom site design as a choice during site creation after they click "Create site" from their SharePoint home in Office 365 after they select their site type. This custom site design is used to run and apply one or more site scripts for additional site configurations after the site is created.  


The new site design framework enables customers to create and apply additional site configurations programmatically through and after the SharePoint site creation experience—ensuring sites are configured correctly and consistently. To create and manage these files, you will need to be familiar with using our REST and PowerShell APIs as there is no visual experience available yet. It, too, is possible to leverage SharePoint development Patterns and Practices (PnP) more for complex scenarios; links to documentation and samples follow below.

Close up on the custom site design progress pane, showing various actions being applied after the site is provisioned.Close up on the custom site design progress pane, showing various actions being applied after the site is provisioned.

Powerful site scripting can be applied during and after site provisioning

As a part of the custom site design, you use site scripts to customize how SharePoint sites are being provisioned. To do this, you construct a JSON object (file) that describes the action(s) to be applied when the site is provisioned, or after. You can also start external Microsoft Flows for additional actions, if needed. Site scripts are non-destructive, so when they run (once or again), they ensure that the site matches the configuration prescribed in the script.


Available actions include:

  • Creating a new list
  • Applying a theme
  • Setting a site logo
  • Adding navigation
  • Triggering a Microsoft flow

To go deeper into the topic from a custom development perspective, please watch the SharePoint PnP developer webcast “Nov.30th.2017 community call” (link jumps to site design section), and learn more about creating custom site designs with the now available SharePoint site design and site script overview documentation, remote PnP provisioning, and SharePoint site script samples.

Out of the box themes, configuration option and custom site themes

Anytime is a valuable time to update your site to a professional look and feel. SharePoint site owners have new options for applying custom color palettes to sites, to make it easier to define and manage themes across site collections. This new capability provides site owners with eight configurable default themes that can be applied to all pages of the site; both within team sites and communication sites. Additionally, custom themes can be created and uploaded to a customer’s theme gallery and made available through the same Change the look panel within each site.

The Change the look pane, where you can use out-of-box site themes (which can be customized inline) or custom site themes.The Change the look pane, where you can use out-of-box site themes (which can be customized inline) or custom site themes.

The out-of-box SharePoint site themes meet the latest accessibility standards, with documented guidelines for creating accessible custom site themes.


To learn more about this previous released capability, please review the original release article, “New site theming options for SharePoint sites in Office 365.” And if you to go deeper into the topic from a custom perspective, please watch the SharePoint PnP developer webcast, “Custom themes with modern SharePoint sites;” in addition to documentation on creating and managing SharePoint site themes and use of the SharePoint theme generator tool.


We are always open to feedback via UserVoice and continued dialog in the SharePoint community in the Microsoft Tech Community —and we always have an eye on tweets to @SharePoint. Let us know.


—Mark Kashman, senior product manager for the SharePoint team


Note: you can now view the full, corresponding Microsoft Ignite 2017 breakout sessions:


This is great! can't wait to get it and try it out. Some of our clients have been waiting so they'll be happy.

Frequent Contributor

I saw you @Mark Kashman demo this on the call earlier this week for user group. Great article, wonderful demo, and can't wait to see this roll out to our tenant. Changing modern sites programmatically is a huge win. Thanks again for sharing! 


Great article @Mark Kashman!

Also like the fact that site design JSON schema has actions for adding content types and joining hub sites :)

Occasional Contributor

Amazing was waiting for long will spin up some cool sites.

Occasional Visitor

This is a good step in the modern experience for SharePoint. Is there a rough date on when this will be practical in a visual-manner instead of through REST and Powershell APIs? Is this something being worked on?

Valued Contributor

Hi @Jamil Stewart - looping in @Sean Squires who can share more - but expect that this would be something we highlight in our events this year and bring to market in the near future as a part of what is already in the plan. Sean talks about this in the video John highlights: 




Regular Contributor

Hi @Mark Kashman - We'd be interested in simply being able to upload a site collection template and users being able to select them from a list after clicking New Site from the SharePoint home page.  Is this likely to happen?





@Andrew Silcock, that sounds like adding a site design/site script: Is that what you're looking for? If so, it's generally available now. The Ignite video shared above also shows what it looks like in practice: “Using custom themes and designs to standardize the creation of clean, functional SharePoint” with Sean Squires.

Regular Contributor

@Jason Ortiz - This is close, but without the scripting.


I would like to upload a few site templates and have the user choose a template and the site be created based on the template.  Similar to how administrators are able to create a site collection based on a template at the moment.

@Andrew Silcock, if an admin uploads site designs via PowerShell, users will be able to select those from a dropdown list when they're creating Team or Communication sites. My understanding is that the site design can also reference a site script that will provision other resources on the site. Attached screenshot of a slide from Ignite video for reference.

Site Design & Script.PNG




Regular Contributor

Thanks, @Jason Ortiz (PFE) I will investigate this one further!


Hello Community & @Mark Kashman - General question on this approach of using Site Designs and/Or PnPProvisioningTemplates for creating custom site columns or content types... is this approach now recommended instead of using the Content Type Hub?  Or is there a way to use Site Designs and  PnPProvisioning combined with the CT Hub?



Tom Castiglia

Occasional Contributor

This is great feature, but how do we apply the site designs and site scripting to the subsites. All the blogs/documentation i have gone through so far are referring to the Group or Team Sites (Site Collections).

Now if we have a requirement to create a subsite within site collection then how this feature can be made available for the power users of the Team sites. 

In the past we had the ability to create the custom site templates which users were able to select while creating new subsites. Now that facility is no more recommended. Any idea?


Hi @Rajashekhar Sheelvant - Microsoft is guiding in favor of a flat site structure instead of using sub-sites.  Although sub-sites are possible in modern sites, in most cases you should consider a unique site collection (Modern Team site with Office 365 Group) for each site.  From a provisioning/templating perspective, this article describes the use of site designs and provisioning with PnP Powershell instead of classic site templates.  Does that answer your question?

Occasional Contributor

Hi there, is there a way to change the name of the site template title template.pngfrom the drop down picker?



@Fernando Melo, yes that should be possible with the SharePoint Online PowerShell or PnP PowerShell modules :) 

Just a quick example of code:

Connect-SPOService -Url
$sitedesign = Get-SPOSiteDesign | ? {$_.Title -eq "Contoso Electronics Team Site"}
Set-SPOSiteDesign -Identity $sitedesign.Id -Title "New Title Contoso Electronics Team Site"
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‎Jan 09 2018 02:00 PM
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