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How to brand SharePoint and Office 365 Out of the Box

First impression counts. So if you created your Intranet/sites in SharePoint, I strongly encourage that you change them from the default “blue and white” SharePoint colors and brand according to your company colors. With this blog post, I would like to explain the few options that you have in SharePoint out of the box to spice up your site. I will admit right away, that out of the box branding capabilities of SharePoint are not what you might expect. With that being said, I encourage that you check out this post that talks more about pros and cons of custom development.

You can manage branding in 3 places in SharePoint and Office 365:

  1. Office 365 Theme
  2. Personal User Theme
  3. SharePoint Look and Feel

Option 1. Office 365 Theme

Office 365 Theme adjusts branding not just in SharePoint, but in the whole Office 365 environment. This means that if you go to Outlook Mail or OneDrive, Office 365 Theme will be consistent. Screenshots below show the different default themes for each of the Offcie 365 assets.

branding3

 

branding4

 

To configure Office 365 Theme, do the following:

  1. In Office 365 Admin Center, click on Organization Profile under Settingsbranding1
  2. Scroll a bit down to Manage custom themes for your organization and click Editbranding2
  3. On next screen, you can customize settings related to Office 365 Theme. Make changes as necessary, then click SaveHow to brand SharePoint

Few notes on the changes you can make:

  • URL for a clickable logo. This is huge! Not only you can insert a logo of your company right in the middle of a banner, but you can also make it clickable. A good idea would be to point it to SharePoint Intranet Homepage for example. This way if I am working on OneDrive or checking Outlook email, I can easily get to SharePoint Intranet in 1 click, without going to SharePoint Tile first.
  • Prevent users from overriding theming with their own. As I will describe it in the following section, users can set their own custom themes. If you check this box, the users will not be able to override the “global” theme with their own.
  • Changes will not be instant and take some time to take effect across Office 365, up to 24 hours.
  • If at any point, you do not like the changes you made, you can remove individual changes (logo, color modifications) or completely remove the whole custom themingHow to brand SharePoint

After all is set and done, this is what a custom theme looks like on SharePoint Site. Same look and feel will appear on other Offcie 365 assets (Mail, OneDrive).

branding7

Option 2: Personal User Theme

No matter whether global custom theme was set or not by the Global Office 365 Admin, any Office 365 user can also set their own look and feel. Here are the steps to do that:

  1. From either OneDrive or Outlook, click on the Gear icon
  2. Mid-way through the pull-down, choose the custom theme you would like to apply. Click SaveHow to brand SharePoint

Notes:

  • If the Administrator checks off “Prevent users from overriding theming with their own” box in Option 1 above, the users will not be able to overwrite the global theme with their user theme
  • Personal User Theme only brands “personal” Office 365 assets, like OneDrive, Mail, etc. Personal User Theme will not be available in SharePoint (see proof below)

branding7 branding8

Option 3: SharePoint Look and Feel

The previous two options revolved around Office 365. SharePoint has few of its own branding capabilities up in its sleeve! To brand a SharePoint site, perform the following steps:

  1. Click the Gear icon, Change the Lookbranding10
  2. Choose any of the “pre-set” templates from the list. I recommend that you click on the one in the top-left and customize it according to your preferencesHow to brand SharePoint
  3. Once you click on the theme, you can then customize few available settings.branding12
  4. Last, but not least, make sure you upload a company logo. To do that, go to Gear Icon > Site Settings > Title, description, and logo (under Look and Feel)branding13
  5. You can upload a logo from computer or point to it if it already exists somewhere in SharePointbranding14

Notes:

  • Background Image: I recommend some sort of background image on the Intranet Homepage, but on the regular department or team sites, that could be a bit distracting.
  • Site Layout: Stay with Seattle, do not change to Oslo, otherwise, you will lose your top navigation. Read this article to learn more about this.
  • Colors: Try to stay with white/light backgrounds. Working with black/dark backgrounds might be cool the first 10 minutes but will become a strain on your eyes after a while
  • Color Palettes: If none of the out-of-the-box colors fit your brand, or the tone of the color is a bit off, you can customize the colors without any coding with the help of free Color Palette Tool that is available as a download from Microsoft. You can reference this very detailed post, by SharePoint MVP and another SharePoint consultant, Marc Anderson
  • Logo: Any new sites you create in your site collection will automatically inherit the logo from your parent site. You can overwrite the logo locally at each site if you wish
  • It is important to note that in a regular (non-publishing) site collection, you have to set the custom look and feel on each site separately. There is no way to inherit a theme unless you enable publishing features on a site collection. To read more about publishing features, click here. Image below shows how to inherit a theme from the parent site, but once again, this functionality is only available when you enable publishing features on a site collection/site.branding15

 

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