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4 types of sites in SharePoint Online

It was Mark Twain who once said: “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” I am from Boston, Massachusetts, so that I can confirm, he was correct! And I feel like the same can be said about SharePoint Online and Office 365. Things change with lighting speed in there. What that means is that the features we have today might not have existed just a year ago. One great example – the modern site templates we now have. So with this post, I want to explain all of the types of sites in SharePoint Online (as of the writing of this post). Enjoy!

Site Template # 1: Team Site (with an Office 365 Group)

Think of this as a project or department team site where team collaboration takes place. For this sort of site, you want to use an Office 365 Group Site template. This will get you not just a SharePoint site for document collaboration, but also other apps to enhance your collaboration experience like Teams, Planner, Outlook. In this post, I describe in greater detail what an Office 365 Group is and what it consists of.

Users can create this type of site from many places (I describe most of these places here),  but the most common one would be to navigate to the SharePoint Home Page and do it from there.

This is how any end-user can create a Team Site

This is what a Team Site (connected to an Office 365 Group) looks like once created

Site Template # 2: Communication Site

Unlike the collaboration site above, this is more of a one-way information sharing. A great example is a Human Resources Employee site where employees can view the latest handbook, policies, request vacation, etc. For those types of sites, you want to use the Communication Site template. This is a wide-screen, visually appealing site that will allow you to share and pack lots of content into. Very important, Communication sites ARE NOT  linked to Teams/Planner/Outlook, like Office 365 Group sites. I provide a detailed description of Communication Sites in this post.

Again, users can create Communication Site from SharePoint Home Page, just like an Office 365 Group (Team Site) above.

This is how any end-user can create a Communication Site

This is what a Communication Site looks like once created

Site Template # 3: Team site without an Office 365 Group

The above two options are the only two templates that end users can create themselves. However, those of us with a lucky role of SharePoint Administrators also have additional options.

Another type of site you can build in SharePoint is somewhat of a deviation of a Team site I described above. It is essentially the same site template as used for an Office 365 Group Site, but the site is not connected to an Office 365 Group. It is for cases when users want just the SharePoint site without the bells and whistles of an Office 365 Group (Planner, Outlook, Teams). Here is how to create one:

  1. You need to have a SharePoint Admin role to be able to create this type of site
  2. Navigate to the Office 365 Admin portal
  3. Click on the SharePoint Admin Center
  4. Click on Active sites
  5. This is where you will get to see all your existing sites. Click on Create button
  6. You will see a familiar screen, with the two options we covered above. However, now that you logged in as an Admin to the Admin Center, you now see Other Options. Click on it.
  7. You will see a drop-down of choices, and the first one will say Team Site. I know it is confusing as it uses the same name of the site as Option 1, but this Team Site does not create an Office 365 Group, Teams, Outlook, or Planner. Fill in the blanks as necessary and click Finish to create a site.
  8. And this is what it looks like once created. Same look and feel as a “regular” Team site, but without the overhead of an Office 365 Group!

And by the way, if you ever create this type of site and then a year later decide to upgrade to an Office 365 Group – you are in luck!

Site Template # 4: Classic (Legacy) sites

Another type of site you can create from the SharePoint Admin Center is a classic site (to be precise, there are a few classic site templates that fall into this grouping/category, not one). In all honesty, I hardly can come up with the use case for them in modern SharePoint. Unless, of course, you smoked weed last night and mentally are traveling back to 2013. You would access those templates via Other Options we did above.

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