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SharePoint Hub Sites: Some initial thoughts

What are they?

SharePoint hub sites were announced as a new site type by Microsoft at Ignite 2017. Hub sites can bring related sites together by sharing navigation, branding, and rolling up news and activity from all sites connected to that hub. What this means is the hub site itself defines a common and cohesive experience to be shared among its associated sites. After creating a hub site, you can configure existing team sites or communication sites to link to the hub. This process happens very quickly – a couple of clicks – and you can change the hub site a site is associated with at any time (for example if you need to do some restructuring).

Office 365 SharePoint Hub Site diagram

The Benefits

Creating a hub site also does some other pretty cool things: a search scope is automatically created which covers the hub and all its associated sites. This means users can search for content at the hub level and if it’s in any one of the associated sites, they’ll find it. In addition, the hub site also rolls up news and activity from all the other sites, so you can see this on the hub site homepage. This makes it a great landing page to consume this information in one place and something we were hoping to see from Microsoft in Office 365

Are there any gotchas?

This all sounds great if you have a simple structure of sites that only belong to one ‘hub’, but the reality is you may well have a more complex structure of sites needing to belong to more than one. The functionality currently only allows a one to one connection between site and hub. It’s clear to see the logical reasons behind this – the complexity around what happens to the shared navigation and branding if you ‘subscribe’ to multiple hubs would be a nightmare – but it does mean the other benefits such as shared search scopes and rolling up content are limited somewhat. I’d like to see a distinction between sharing branding and navigation versus rolling up content – rather than an all or nothing approach.

Unfortunately, the introduction of hub sites therefore doesn’t completely negate the need for a global custom branding/navigation solution for bigger intranet projects. If your site structure is more complex (perhaps even remotely complex!) the one to one restriction will no doubt cause issues. Hub sites aren’t coming until early 2018, so there’s time to consider whether these could work in your organisation. Perhaps we’ll see some further developments in this time. Once hub sites become available in First Release early next year, we’ll check them out and blog a more in depth assessment!

You can read more about hub sites in the official announcement here:
https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/SharePoint-Blog/SharePoint-hub-sites-new-in-Office-365/ba-p/109547

 

About the Author:

Stefanie Sloper
I have over 10 years’ experience working with Microsoft products as a developer and consultant. I enjoy designing and building business applications, in particular complex business processes. I’ve always been a technology nerd and love new mobile devices.