Home site, Hub sites, SharePoint Start page… Where’s the intranet landing page?

April 15, 2020

With Office 365 and the flat architecture of modern SharePoint Online sites, there’s a little bit more to plan for the intranet landing page.

The intranet landing page is often an essential hub for workplace information. With one quick glance, you should be able to grasp the most important news, updates, and events, which will help you to stay on top of the latest updates and feel connected to your organization.

In a classic on-premises SharePoint intranet world, an intranet landing page is simply the home (start) page of the intranet root site collection. But with Office 365 and the flat architecture of modern SharePoint Online sites, there’s a little bit more to plan!

In a nutshell, there are three possible aspects of landing pages in modern SharePoint Online intranet:

  • SharePoint Start, which is the default landing page of a SharePoint application in Office 365
  • SharePoint Home Site – a new configuration option, which allows you to guide users easily to one specific location (home) from the SharePoint mobile app and the SharePoint Start page
  • Site landing pages:
    • Intranet “root” site collection home page (intranet landing page)
    • Hub site home pages (hub landing pages)
    • Site collection home pages (site landing pages)

Let’s have a look at them one by one, and then walk through the common setups for the intranet landing page.


SharePoint Start

SharePoint Start (previously called SharePoint Home) is the out-of-the-box landing page of a SharePoint Online application in your Office 365 tenant. This means that whenever you click the “SharePoint” icon or text in the app launcher, office.com homepage or the Office 365 ribbon, you will be directed to the SharePoint Start page.

SharePoint Start page offers you a personalized view for sites and news based on your choices and frequent visits to sites. On this page, you can also create new sites or news posts and search, save, and follow content.

SharePoint Start page content can’t be customized, but admins can add featured links that are visible for everyone.

Picture 1: SharePoint Start page (new UI)

Read more about SharePoint Start page: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/discover-content-with-the-sharepoint-start-page-6b85097a-87e0-4611-a29a-dfd49b1a1220

SharePoint Home

SharePoint Home is a new configuration option that is not yet available in all tenants (roll out should be completed at the end of April 2020). SharePoint Home is not a specific page or site type. Instead, you can “promote” any existing communication site as a Home Site. You can only have one Home Site in your tenant at the moment.

When a site has been registered as a Home Site (via PowerShell), these four things will happen automatically:

  1. There will be a new Home icon available in the SharePoint mobile app for those users who have access to Home Site
  2. SharePoint Start page will show the header (hub navigation and site logo area) and the footer of Home Site – NOTE: Microsoft is making changes to this behaviour – follow your tenant message center for the latest information.
  3. Search scope in the Home Site will revert to Organization (instead of the default hub or site context scope)
  4. All news posts created in Home Site will be regarded as organizational news, which means that they’ll have a specific visual label in news roll-ups and they will appear on the SharePoint Start page.

Read more about Home Site: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/SharePoint/home-site

Landing pages

In modern SharePoint, site architecture is flat. This means that we don’t have any hierarchical site structures any more – no subsites! Instead, every section in the intranet has its own individual site, and sites sharing the same logical context are connected via hub site.

Based on the complexity of your intranet, you might end up with either one-hub intranet architecture or multi-hub intranet architecture. Here are some simple examples:

One-hub intranet has one intranet main site, which is registered as an intranet hub. All the other sites (HR, IT, Business Units, etc) are single sites connected to the intranet hub.

Multi-hub intranet has – you guessed it right – multiple hubs 😊 Usually in this case we have one intranet main site as well, but besides, all the main areas have their own hubs: for example, we might have an HR hub site connecting together HR benefits site, Recruitment site, Training and Career Paths center, etc. In this case, we need some kind of customization to connect these topic-specific hubs to the intranet main site, because there’s no out-of-the-box “hub of hubs” feature available yet.

But what about those landing pages? All sites have automatically one home page. This is the page where you land when accessing the site URL. A site home page has a specific layout without the header (title) area, and it also has a specific role. While all other pages in the site are either news posts or content pages, the home page is a landing page guiding users forward to the actual content; news posts, events or content pages.

Depending on your intranet architecture, you’ll have two or three levels of landing pages:

  1. Intranet main site home page
  2. Hub site home pages (optional – only in multi-hub intranets)
  3. Site home pages

All of these landing pages collect together the news, events, updates and other timely information, and highlight the most important or active content. But because they have different scopes and slightly different use cases, typical elements vary based on the landing page level. Here’s a list of the most common types of content in different landing pages:

  • Intranet landing page (intranet homepage)
    • News, either from the whole intranet or just the most important (main) news
    • Other timely information that is common for all users (global announcements, events, external feeds, recommended viewing)
    • Updates; new and updated content from the whole intranet
    • Banners or visual links highlighting most used or important content
    • Quick links/paths offering shortcuts to most common intranet use cases
    • Targeted content – e.g. news, updates or events filtered by my role, unit, location or other profile property
    • Recommended content based on my actions, groups I’m a member of and my organization (via Microsoft Graph)
    • Digital workplace and/or dashboard elements: my tasks, emails, calendar, latest reports or KPI’s, business-specific apps 
  • Hub landing page (e.g HR hub)
    • News and events from the sites of this hub
    • New and updated content from this hub
    • Banners or visual links highlighting most used or important sites (supporting hub navigation)
    • Quick links/paths offering shortcuts to most common use cases in this hub 
  • Site landing page (e.g. HR Benefits site)
    • News and events from this site
    • New and updated content from this site
    • Banners or visual links highlighting most used or important content in this site (supporting local navigation)
    • Site contact information and description of the site content and purpose

You can find beautiful and informative examples of different landing pages in the SharePoint Look Book: https://lookbook.microsoft.com/.

Where’s the intranet landing page?

In a modern one-hub intranet the most common practice is to have only one intranet landing page, which is the home page of the intranet hub site. In this case, the same page serves as a common landing page for all the employees – but can, of course, show targeted and personalized information based on the user’s organization, location, role, or interests.

In this one-hub, one-homepage model it’s recommended to set the intranet hub site as SharePoint Home site. This way users can easily access intranet home from the mobile app and SharePoint Start page.

Picture 2: Example of intranet landing pages in a multi-hub model with one common landing page registered as SharePoint Home site

The same applies to the multi-hub model if the hubs are based on common topics (like support functions HR, IT, etc – see picture above). But a multi-hub intranet can also be a collection of targeted mini-intranets: for example, every country or business unit might have the intranet hub of its own. In this case, it’s typical that users don’t share one common intranet landing page at all – instead, every hub home page acts as the intranet landing page for the employees of that country or business unit.

Because there’s always just one SharePoint Home site in the tenant, there are two options: you can either skip the Home Site feature for now (and wait for the possibility to assign different Home Sites for different users), or you can create one common intranet start page redirecting users to their own intranets automatically.

Summary

There are many ways to plan and implement your intranet site architecture, and the correct one is the one that suits your organization the best. Depending on your business requirements there might be for example

  • One common intranet hub with topic sites
    • The intranet landing page is the hub home page, and it can be registered as SharePoint Home site
  • One common intranet joining together multiple topic hubs
    • The intranet landing page is the home page of intranet main site, and it can be registered as SharePoint Home site
  • Multiple mini-intranets for organizational units or countries
    • There are multiple intranet landing pages. SharePoint Home site should only be registered if there’s a common “entry page” for all users of the tenant.

SharePoint Start page is the landing page for all SharePoint sites – not just intranet sites, but other communication and team sites as well. It can’t be customized but will show the branding and navigation of your (possible) SharePoint Home site.

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed the journey through intranet landing pages. See you next time!


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