A comprehensive guide to SharePoint Site templates

Get your answers to what are SharePoint Site templates? How to create custom SharePoint site templates? How to enable saving a list as a template? What's the difference between modern and classic SP sites? How to keep SharePoint secure?

Using SharePoint Online is easier than ever with the SharePoint templates. Whether you need a new team site for an upcoming project or a communications site for the annual town hall meeting, you can create one within a few minutes since the SharePoint site templates now work as a starting point for site-building.

And, not just default Microsoft SharePoint templates, you can create custom SharePoint site templates suitable for various workflows and business processes that your organization needs to address.

This article will explain the vital aspects of using SharePoint site templates, the method of creating templates, and common user questions. Hence, you can refer to this resource to begin your journey with SharePoint Online site templates.

What are SharePoint Site templates?

Site templates have long existed within the SharePoint ecosystem. However, Microsoft has recently rebranded Site design with Site templates. It has also developed a brand new UI for the site templates screen and an entry point called Apply a site template within all SharePoint site Settings panels.

This new approach gives users more freedom and the ability to fast-track their way of work. Non-technical users like content creators, event managers, hiring associates, and external vendors can easily create custom sites on your SharePoint Online ecosystem as per the predefined site templates.

As a result, you will save your time and resource utilization for enforcing the company norms for site design, branding, functionalities, and content. Thus, Site templates is yet another powerful automation tool from SharePoint Online.

Site templates from Microsoft

Site Templates from Microsoft

The Site templates screen shows the available site templates that you can apply to a SharePoint Online site. SharePoint organizes the templates in two separate tabs, and one of them is From Microsoft. This tab offers you scenario-based SharePoint Online templates.

Thus, you can effortlessly turn an out-of-the-box SharePoint subscription into a business process powerhouse. You can utilize any of the templates from the list to create effective SharePoint sites for team communications, hiring, event management, or project management.

To experience the design and usage dynamics, you can also visit the SharePoint look book portal. It houses a preview and description for all of the SharePoint templates that Microsoft offers you for free.

Site templates from your organization

These templates are essentially customized stuff as per your organization’s business requirements. They could be prebuilt definitions that have been developed to solve business problems.

Employees from your organization can use these to create custom sites for project needs. You can also develop bespoke site templates to package predefined features and options to facilitate site consistency across the business.

How to apply and customize any SharePoint Online templates

Apply and Customize Any SharePoint Online Templates

Applying and customizing SharePoint site templates is a quick and effortless task. If you are the owner of the SharePoint site or possess high-level permission from the SharePoint Online administrator, you can apply SharePoint templates to a site.

You may try the following steps to use a template:

  1. Create a team or communications site within your SharePoint workspace.
  2. Click on Home to see the site Settings icon (a gear) on the top right side.
  3. Click on site Settings to open site customization options.
  4. You’ll see an entry point called Apply a site template. Select it.
  5. You can pick any template From Microsoft or From your organization.
  6. Now, click on Use template to restructure the existing site.
  7. A progress bar will show you that SharePoint is applying the template.
  8. Once the processing is complete in the background the page will reload.
  9. Finally, you’ve successfully applied a SharePoint Online template.

Now, it is time to customize the template to rebrand the site according to your company’s guidelines. You’ll need site-member or site-owner level access to personalize the template.

For example, you want to apply the Project management site template from Microsoft to an ongoing project’s team site. There are numerous customizations available so that you can give your SharePoint site the best look, incorporate useful functionalities, and drive productivity.

The template automatically populates essential content for project management. For example, Calendar, Home page, Project tracker list, Document library, Issue tracker list, Status report template, and Recycle bin are a few necessary elements.

Customize your SharePoint Site template

Try the following instructions to edit these elements:

  1. Click on the Edit (pencil icon) on the upper right-side of the site.
  2. Now, select any of the elements, and you’ll see a left-side panel.
  3. Click on the Edit web part to open a right-side panel of customizations.
  4. Click on Save as draft or Republish to apply customizations.

How to create custom SharePoint Site templates

Organizations use custom SharePoint site templates to save time, bring consistency to intranet sites, and propagate data compliance everywhere. Custom templates offer portability, extensibility, and effortless development.

Here are the steps to create custom SharePoint Online templates:

  1. Disable the publishing features of your SharePoint site from which you want to create a template.
  2. Enable a custom script at the SharePoint tenant level by visiting the Settings of the SharePoint Admin Center.
  3. Now, go to the SharePoint site that you’ll be using as a template.
  4. For a modern SharePoint site, you need to navigate to View all site settings from Site Information within the Settings (gear icon) on the top right corner.
  5. You’ll see various entry point links within the Site Settings page.
  6. Look for Save Site as Template under the Site Actions header.
  7. If you have successfully disabled the publishing feature and activated the custom script, you will find the above option.
  8. SharePoint will ask you to choose a File name and Template name for the new template.
  9. Review the Include Content dialogue on the screen and check the Include Content box, if you want to make the content a part of the template.
  10. If the starting SharePoint site contains confidential content, don’t check the Include Content box.
  11. Click OK to continue with template creation.
  12. The next window will show the Operation Completed Successfully message.
  13. SharePoint will save the newly created template in the Solution Gallery.

SharePoint custom site templates are powerful tools that empower your team to deliver results efficiently and effortlessly. You can make your business process effective, productive, and save a lot of money by utilizing custom SharePoint site templates.

You can provide predefined themes, custom actions, business apps, site content, lists, libraries, and layouts through a site template so that users can create sites faster for repetitive tasks.

How to enable saving a list as a template in SharePoint Online

Saving lists as a template is another way to automate your SharePoint Online tasks. If you need to create the same lists of data in different SharePoint sites or need to migrate hundreds of lists, you can make use of list templates.

To use saving lists as templates, the first thing to do is to enable this hidden feature in your SharePoint Online ecosystem. You can try the following steps:

  1. Ensure that you’re the owner of the SharePoint Online site if it is a Microsoft 365 Groups site.
  2. If it is not a group site, you can perform the process if you are the site administrator.
  3. Activate custom scripting on your SharePoint site for advanced and extensive customization access.
  4. Select the list you want to save as a template, and then, click on the List Settings option.
  5. The settings screen consists of many advanced customizations, and among them, you’ll notice the Save list as template entry point. Click on it.
  6. You’ll need to choose a name for the list template so that you can recognize it later when you will apply the template somewhere else.
  7. Download the template to your computer.
  8. Go to the target site and access the Web Designer Galleries inside Site Settings.
  9. Under Web Designer Galleries you’ll find List templates.
  10. Click on List templates to upload the template from your computer.
  11. You’ve successfully migrated or created bulk lists using list templates on SharePoint Online.

The differences between modern and classic SharePoint sites

Modern and Classic SharePoint Sites

Modern and classic SharePoint sites mostly differ in their user interface (UI), usability, access to site data, and Microsoft apps integrations. Below are some of the major differences between these two SharePoint frameworks:

1. SharePoint team sites get better with modern SharePoint. There is a quick launch menu for effortless task creation, announcement, and calendar entries. The classic version doesn’t have such features.

2. The classic SharePoint sites have minimal elements on their home pages, like calendars, links, and announcements. But, the home page of modern SharePoint sites has many elements like quick links, news, document library, site activity, and so on.

3. Modern SharePoint sites can easily integrate with essential Microsoft 365 apps for the ultimate productivity and efficiency. You can access apps like Stream, Planner, Yammer, Microsoft Exchange Calendar, OneNote, and many more from your team sites without leaving your work on SharePoint.

4. The modern sites have robust features for lists and libraries. The UI of the modern SharePoint lists features sorting/grouping columns, column view, pinning documents, quick change of file info, and many more.

5. The classic SharePoint offers workflows for automating business processes. Configuring workflows is time-consuming and not user-friendly. However, modern SharePoint brings you Power Automate for easy automation of business processes. Power Automate can connect various data sources, lists, and libraries.

Useful questions that you might be asking

Here are some frequently asked questions that many SharePoint Online site template users have asked:

1. Who can create SharePoint Site templates?

You can create a SharePoint site template if you are the SharePoint Administrator or have a similar level of access in your organization’s SharePoint Online ecosystem.

Since you need to execute the appropriate PowerShell command to upload the template script JSON to the SharePoint tenant, you need to possess high-level technical expertise.

You must be well versed in SharePoint Online, site template scripts in the JSON file, and SharePoint PowerShell.

2. Who can use SharePoint Site templates?

Anyone within the organization’s SharePoint ecosystem can use the SharePoint site templates to create a team or communications sites provided they have the Create Site permission.

3. How do SharePoint site templates and site designs differ?

Site templates is a new terminology of SharePoint Online. Previously, Microsoft used Site design to define the starting point of creating SharePoint sites.

All of the features and experiences of Site design are now available in Site templates.

If you click on the Site settings on the right-side of your SharePoint site, you will notice that Microsoft has replaced Site designs with the Apply a site template entry point.

4. Where Do I Find SharePoint Templates?

Where Do I Find SharePoint Template

You can effortlessly find Office 365 SharePoint templates by navigating to the Apply a site template entry point from Site settings on your SharePoint team or communications site.

On the Select a template screen, you will see two tabs: From Microsoft and From your organization. You may find the latter one empty if your business has not created any custom SharePoint site templates yet.

SharePoint security

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