The days of heavily customising SharePoint to make it look attractive and render in a user friendly way on mobile devices are over. SharePoint Online is responsive and modern by default, saving us days of development trying to make it look not like SharePoint. So, with this task out of the way, what should we focus on when planning modern Intranet based on SharePoint Online?

  1. Branding.

With SharePoint Online, the out of the box branding options are limited to setting up the Theme, logo and some configuration options around page header and footer. Configuring the theme and the general layout of pages will help with consistency and provide users with similar experience across sites. Microsoft provided a very useful Look Book with samples of designs including the features and web parts used in those samples- https://sharepointlookbook.azurewebsites.net/.

  1. Structure and Navigation.

A well-planned structure and navigation between different areas of the Intranet will help users to find the content and information they’re looking for. There are several navigation elements which can be configured to enhance user’s experience:

  • Global Navigation
  • Hub Navigation
  • Current Navigation (Team Sites only)
  • Footer Links
  • In page Quick links

Configuring those elements correctly and planning for future growth will ensure the Intranet content can be easily discovered and accessed.

  1. Type of site template.

Type of template used to build a site will dictate the layout and features available for that site.

SharePoint currently offers 3 main types of templates: Communication Site, Team Site and Hub Site. Once a site is created as a Communication or Team Site, it cannot be changed to be based on a different template. Hub Site can be created based on Communication or Team site which provides slightly more flexibility. Type of site chosen for a given area will have several implications – i.e. Team Site is a part of an O365 Group and we can attach an MS Team to the group.

  1. Content ownership

Typically, two approaches are considered here – centralised model where the ownership sits with one team and decentralised where individual teams are given responsibility for their area. Permissions and security of the Intranets are then tailored to match the model.

  1. Migration of existing content.

An existing Intranet is always a good place to start. Good and bad points from user’s experience and feedback provide a valuable lessons that should be incorporated into the planning stage. The existing Intranet structure can also provide a good starting point for designing the new Intranet’s structure and navigation.

Those 5 points provide a good starting point for a discussion about a modern Intranet and can lead to a successful design.