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What is a Communication Site in SharePoint and why you might need one

My loyal blog followers are an inspiration for my blogs. I mentioned this previously that every single blog post on my site originates from a question by my loyal blog followers and clients. This post is no exception. I even decided to turn the actual verbiage of the question from my client into the blog title as well. Word for word, my client asked me once during the phone call “What the @#$% is a Communication Site and do we even need it?” I edited the title just slightly so it sounds more like a question and less of a frustration.  🙂  So let me now respond to the question.

What is a Communication Site?

Historically in SharePoint, we just had what’s now known as “classic” SharePoint Sites. Most of my blog posts are about them. They were and still are a great way to create department sites, document repositories, etc.

Then, we got the ability to modernize classical sites via modern pages. I documented how to do it in this post.

Then came Office 365 Group-connected SharePoint Sites. They are essentially good-old SharePoint sites, tied to other “social and collaboration apps” like Planner, Teams, Outlook. These are great for collaboration, project-type work/teams.

And now we have another option, called Communication Site. So, what is it exactly?

Communication Site in SharePoint

Communication Site is a new, distinct type of site template. What sets it apart from a regular Team Site is that Communication Site does not have the Quick Launch (left-hand-side menu). Just like an Office 365 Group Site, a new site collection is created when you create a Communication Site. However, unlike Office 365 Group, you do not get any other apps (like Planner or Teams). You just get a modern site as a separate site collection.

Communication Site in SharePoint

What are the benefits of a Communication Site?

There are a few distinct elements of Communication Site:

  • You get a modern, widescreen (no left-hand side navigation) site that allows you to build a visually appealing page
  • You get a Search Box in the upper-right hand corner (where it used to be with classic wiki pages)
  • You get several layouts/templates to choose from when building a site

What are the use cases for a Communication Site

So why and when you would need to use Communication site template to build a new site? Here are a few use cases:

  • An Intranet Landing Page. In my opinion, Communication Site template is great for the main Intranet site where you post company-wide events, announcements, weather, and common links
  • A company event that you want to share with and communicate to employees (i.e., Christmas Party or Company BBQ)
  • Department employee-facing site (i.e., HR Site where users can get HR info and download benefits/policies documents)
  • Company or Department status updates (i.e., Sales Site with embedded sales reports and dashboards that are to be shared with the whole company)
  • New Product Launch Site (i.e., Marketing Site with new product images, brochures, and announcements)
  • Any site that needs to be visually appealing, yet, does not require an Office 365 Group

How to create a Communication Site?

If you are convinced that Communication Site is a good fit, let me show you how to build one. There are several places where you can build a Communication Site from. I will demo you the most basic one, accessible to all end users. Yes, any Office 365 licensed user can create a Communication Site (just like an Office 365 Group).

  1. From the Office 365 App Launcher, click on SharePoint
  2. Click on Create site
  3. Next, from the two options choose Communication Site
  4. Next, you need to choose a template for your site – it is just a starting layout, you can change it later anyway. I personally like Topic one.Communication Site in SharePoint
  5. In the section on the right, you need to give the site a name (i.e., Christmas Party). It will automatically assign a URL based on the site name and advise you if URL is taken or not. You can edit URL as well below it, but once the site is created, you cannot change it later. Then you can provide a description for your site (so when you recover from the hangover after the Christmas Party, you remember why you created this site in the first place). Select the language and click Finish.
  6. That’s it – the site is created!
  7. You can now edit the page and adjust layout, web parts and content as necessary. I discuss how to do this here.
  8. Make sure to add users to your site under Permissions (otherwise, no one will be able to see your piece of art). Click on Gear Icon > Site permissions
  9. Then click on Share site and add users or security groups into respective SharePoint Security Groups (Members – if you want users to edit content or Visitors if you want them to read it only)

This is it! So in case you were wondering, just like my client, “What the @#$% is a Communication Site?”, You now know what it is. I think you will agree with me, it is @#$% awesome!

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