SharePoint Hub Sites are here! The way in which we create SharePoint Sites appears to be changing. Since 2003, I’ve been stood on a soap box as a SharePoint instructor and speaker, explaining the importance of having well planned structured Site Collections that take content aggregation, permission inheritance, and navigation into consideration. We would always pay careful attention to the name, and location of the site. You can still create subsites in the classic way, but have you noticed that when you land on the SharePoint Home Page, that as well as seeing your frequently visited sites, and news from sites, that you have the option to create a new site. Upon clicking the ‘Create Site’ button, you can provide a title, description etc, but you don’t get to choose where it is created. It is created as a new site collection with an associated Office 365 Group.
Figure 1 – Create a Site from the SharePoint Home.
The figure below shows how you can initially set the type of site “communication site” or “Team Site”. You can then provide the title, description, Group email address, and privacy settings. The complexity has been removed, and sites can be generated very easily if you have the correct permissions. This is a big improvement for SharePoint permissions in my opinion. At the site creation, you will set the privacy settings to be private or public. Setting private will mean that only members in the Office 365 group will be able to access the site. With subsites, or root sites created in the classic way, careful consideration would be made to the Permission Inheritance, and SharePoint Group creation, and AD Group membership.
Figure 2 – Site creation
The question that immediately comes to mind is navigation and aggregation. Within a site collection, when you created a sub site, you could also choose whether you would like to display a link to your new site from the parent site, and also if you would like to inherit the parent sites navigation. If these new sites are being created as separate site collections, their won’t be such a thing as a parent site.
Content Aggregation will also surely suffer? It was always relatively easy to aggregate SharePoint list content that was relevant to the top level site. You would simply aggregate from the current site collection e.g. Display all tasks from the current site collection. Once more, if the sites are now created in separate site collection, aggregating content from relevant sites won’t be quite as simple? Or will it?
At Ignite 2017, Microsoft announced something called ‘SharePoint Hub Sites’ and they have started to appear in tenants throughout April 2018. SharePoint Hub Sites provide a mechanism whereby you can associate sites with a hub site. Take for example your Sales Team Site. You may, further down the line decide that you need to have a “Partners” site, and maybe a “Direct Sales” team site. Historically, “Sales” would have been the root site of a site collection, and “Direct Sales” and “Partners” would be subsites. Now of course, they can all be created as root sites, but “Sales” will be identified as the Hub Site, and “Direct Sales” & “Partners” will be associated to the Hub Site.
The SharePoint Hub Site structure helps with providing a consistent look and feel, navigation, simplified search, shared logo, and aggregation of content. Associated Sites will automatically contain a link back to the SharePoint hub site. You’ll also notice that you cannot change the theme of an associated site, since it will inherit the theme from the hub site. So much time was spent setting site logo’s and changing themes to provide a consistent look and feel with classic site collections and subsites. Any newly created Team Site can be associated with a Hub Site through choosing Site Information from the Settings Menu.
Figure 3 – Associating a site to a hub site using the Settings Menu.
SharePoint Hub Sites can be created using Powershell which is shown below. You can also refer to the following article from Microsoft which provides you with the option to copy/paste the Powershell commands: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/dev/features/hub-site/create-hub-site-with-powershell
Figure 4 – Create a Team Site with Powershell and register the site as a SharePoint Hub Site
Figure 5 – Create a Team Site and associate it with a SharePoint Hub Site.
You can then navigate to your associated site, and notice that it contains a link to the hub site. Through the Site Information, you can change the association to another SharePoint Hub Site.
Figure 6 – Associated Site with a link to a Hub Site, and the Site Information panel.
If you try to change the theme through the look and feel options within your associated site, you’ll notice that it is not possible, as this is now controlled via the SharePoint Hub Site.
Figure 7 – Theme option within an associated site.
We are currently working on our Lightning Conductor SPFx Client Side Web Part to take into consideration Hub Sites and Associated sites to improve content aggregation. The Lightning Conductor will be able to aggregate content easily by specifying a “Rollup from this site and associated sites” option. DeliverPoint will also take SharePoint Hub Sites into consideration for permission reporting and permissions management.