The Benefits of SharePoint’s Hub Architecture Part I

To anyone like me who has been working to keep up with the many changes to SharePoint over the last few years, the words “major platform upgrade” bring back painful memories of cumulative updates and complicated infrastructure changes. Fortunately for us, with SharePoint Online, updates are released much more frequently and in much smaller pieces than with past versions of the SharePoint Platform. Unfortunately, that also means we need to pay much closer attention to the small features released by SharePoint to find those that could have a major impact. Today I’m going to share a few modern SharePoint features that can save you (or your company) time and money by eliminating some frequently performed and repetitive tasks while utilizing the latest in modern architecture and design.

Hubs & History

Some of the most repetitive and frequent tasks performed by Site Owners after creating a SharePoint site are:

  1.  Setting up the Site Navigation
  2. Applying company theme’s and styles

With a little bit of setup work by a SharePoint Admin, this time can be completely eliminated for most sites by using Hubs! Before we dive too deep into Hubs and what you can do with them, let’s talk a bit about their predecessor – subsites.

In the past, the only way to group sites together and benefit from inheritance was to create subsites within a Site Collection. In most cases this  led to a requirement to break permissions inheritance between the root Site Collection and children subsites, plus a justified fear of changing the root Site Collection for the unknown impact the change could have on children subsites.

Now, with SharePoint Online, any Communication or Team site can be registered by a SharePoint Administrator as a Hub, then either Administrators or Power Users can associate other Communication or Team sites to Hub sites. This frees up the parent/child relationship and allows users and administrators to freely re-arrange sites as needed without having to move sites, folders, files or even change security.

Theme & Navigation

SharePoint Hubs provide a way to organize & group site collections, but there are a few more benefits that make them a much better alternative to subsites. The most obvious benefit when looking at a Hub site is the additional navigation menu, but as you associate other site collections to the Hub you really start to see the benefit of accumulated time saved. The Hub navigation menu and applied theme are automatically applied to all sites that are associated to a Hub – meaning if you have 7 departments, each with their own Hub and have 200+ associated site collections, changes can be applied to only those 7 Hubs and will then automatically be inherited from the remaining 200+ sites.

Site Scripts & Design Templates

Some of the most exciting changes coming from the SharePoint Team are around Site Scripts and Site Designs. Now don’t let “Scripts” intimidate you – they’re a no-code, declarative JSON solution to perform small actions such as joining a hub site, updating navigation links, and applying a theme.

Designs might sound intimidating as well, but essentially they’re just ways to apply those Site Scripts either to existing sites or future sites as part of the creation process. If you’ve created a Communication site recently, you might have noticed the default design templates available for Showcase and Topic:

communication site design setup screen

Conclusion

There are even more benefits from using Hubs that I haven’t covered, such as gaining a shared search scope and shared/aggregated News that can be consumed in the News webpart, with even more features expected and on the Microsoft Feature Roadmap! By grouping your company intranet sites into Hubs, you’ll be saving your users time both due to the enhanced navigation and the automatically applied site theme & styling.

Come back later for part 2, where we will dive deeper into Site Designs and Site Scripts by looking at how to utilize MS Flow and Azure Resources in Site Designs and Site Scripts for more advanced automation!

References

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