Understanding SharePoint Online Hub-Sites

SharePoint Hub sites are the new method to structure organisational sites under an umbrella site. They operate with all site types (classic and modern) but are really best suited to the modern experience site where global navigation and branding can be pushed to all associated sites.

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Classic SharePoint Information Architecture for Intranets

Traditionally, intranets used SharePoint Classic Publishing sites, typically deployed as a single site collection, and an array of sub and sub-sub sites to make up the site structure (information architecture).

The limitations of this route are:

  • A fixed site structure is difficult to move sub-sites to alternative locations i.e. where a divisional site moves under a different directorate site
  • Resources and performance are limited to the limits of a single Site Collection

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New SharePoint Information Architecture Methodology

The new SharePoint IA methodology is to establish a flat site structure as opposed to a hierarchical (nested) site structure. The flat site structure resolves potential resourcing and performance issues. Furthermore, a flat site structure allows for total flexibility where hierarchical structures are concerned.

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Sub-sites are not Group connected so the collaboration benefits one gains with Team sites does not filter down to sub-sites. Another reason to avoid a nested site structure.

Hub sites are used to associate other modern Communication or Team Sites under one umbrella with common global navigation and other features that build continuity across sites. Hierarchy within the site is assumed by virtue of the navigation and how that is set out.

An intranet may include just the one Hub Site with a host of Communications and Team sites associated to it. Conversely, multiple Hub Sites may be deployed for (say) organisation directorates where departmental sites relate to one specific directorate.

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With Hub Sites you can quickly move an associated site to another Hub Site, thus resolving the issue of a departmental site under the incorrect directorate (or similar).

Planning your IA at the outset is always best practice, but you can’t account for organisational changes. Hub sites build in a degree of flexibility that any IT Admin will appreciate when it comes to long term management and structural changes.

Like any high-level design process, the benefits and limitations of the various routes available have to be considered carefully for the longevity of the solution.

SharePoint Mobile App

Another benefit of the flat site structure is to do with how sites are accessed via the SharePoint mobile App. If you have used SharePoint Mobile App you will quickly understand the issues of a nested site structure vs the flat site structure. SharePoint Online sites are nicely managed under the SharePoint Mobile App using the flexible, flat IA methodology.

Hub Site features

  • Global navigation consistent across associated sites, soon with mega menu option
  • News roll-up with options to select source sites, build news bulletins, manage news views and audience targeting (circa Q1 2019)
  • Central resources library (circa Q1 2019)
  • Branding (Theme) pushed to associated sites
  • Search results managed across associated sites
  • Permission remain unique across associated sites

Hub Site limitations

  • The number of hub sites that can be deployed within a single tenancy is now 100
  • A SharePoint site can only associate with one hub site
  • Hub sites cannot associate with other hub sites (other than by navigation)
  • Classic SharePoint sites are not the intended site type for hub sites. A Classic hub site will be limited; global navigation, news and content roll-up are not supported.
  • If SharePoint multi-geo is used, only sites within the same geographical location can be associated with a hub site
  • Global navigation is not security trimmed (yet)

I’m sure there are others, but I hope you find the above useful in your Intranet deployment and planning.

by David Turnbull > SharePoint

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