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Site templates for SharePoint Online Modern Sites – Introduction

Last updated on March 31, 2020

Welcome to my first post in my series on site templates for SharePoint Online. In this series, I will show you how to implement modern site templates in your SharePoint Online environment.

This post will provide you with context about the different aspects and technologies involved with modern templates. Other posts in this series will cover automating the process of publishing new templates and taking the automation to the next level by integration with Azure DevOps.

After this and the following post, you will be able to create a site template and add it to the site designs.

This is what the end result will look like

Some history…

Site templates are not new in SharePoint. However, with the introduction of modern sites, the way to use templates has changed significantly.

A new UI for creating sites was introduced. The classically available templates were hidden and the group-connected sites gained a prominent place.

Classic template experience in the old SharePoint admin center
Modern template experience in the new SharePoint admin center

Custom organizational site templates were frequently used in the classic site experience to apply company branding or other behavior to newly provisioned sites. Group-connected sites did not have an out-of-the-box option to select your own custom organizational site templates.

Microsoft acknowledged this issue and came up with site designs. Additionally, you can use the SharePoint PnP PowerShell library to export a template and apply that template to a newly created site.

Combining site designs with PnP PowerShell, you can do everything, and more, that you were able to do with the old templates. There’s a ton of great resources, with a lot of detailed information on how to utilize these tools. I want to give special mentions to a resource that helped me understand the ins and outs of these capabilities: Laura Kokkarinen’s Ultimate Guide to SharePoint Online Site Designs and Site Scripts

Now what?

In part 2 I will show you how to build your own site provisioning engine. This tool helps you unlock the power of site designs and the PnP PowerShell module in your environment.

However I will be deviating from Microsoft’s blueprint for this engine. This is because I believe in automation. The guide Microsoft provides requires a lot of manual actions. This creates the risk of deviation between implementations and mistakes. The aim of this series is fully automating deployment of the solution through Azure DevOps.

So far the introduction, let’s get started with the design of this solution!

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