The recent introduction of Hub Sites in SharePoint signals a significant change in the way we create and organize site hierarchy. Traditionally when building SharePoint sites, one would create an isolated set of sites (site collections) and in those site collections would exist a hierarchy of sites. This was typical in an Intranet that would feature a home page hierarchy of department and project sites. The new path forward assumes a flatter approach, however, in which everything is an isolated site collection with no hierarchy of sites. While this does introduce a new level of consistency, we still need to be able to join these disparate sites. Hub sites allows us to do just that.
How Does it Work?
It all begins with an admin registering a site as a hub site. Once this is done, this site becomes the designated “parent” site, ready to have other sites joined to it. To join a site to the hub, simply select the hub in the Site Information pane.
After the site is associated to the hub site, several things happen. The hub site, and any other joined sites, display a new navigation bar at the top of the page, as shown:
While I like the new navigation bar, I’m concerned it may cause end-user frustration for those who get confused by the second horizontal set of links just under the site title.
The theme that was applied to the hub site is also applied to any sites joined to the hub. Search results within the hub site will also return content from the joined sites and news will bubble up to the hub site each time someone creates content in a joined site.
Why does this Matter?
Previously, hierarchical sites posed a problem when organizing sites and content. Suppose you work for an organization that frequently changes its department structure. If those department sites were setup hierarchically, what do you do when it’s time to reorganize? You can move content and sites around (to some degree) but there are times you may need a tool to simplify the process.
Disconnected site collections also posed a problem. Suppose a client’s site collection involves multiple teams and/or projects. Each team or project might spin-up a new site collection, at which point all the data starts to become siloed such that content in these sites would not be visible or accessible.
Hub Sites solve both of these issues by allowing users to break away from the rigid hierarchical approach while providing the connected navigation, content search and rollups that would not typically be available between site collections.
Hub sites are a new feature that provides clearer direction when it comes to planning site hierarchies while providing an easier way to connect sites. Though still a work-in-progress, this is a positive step in simplifying the organization process while also making sites flexible and connected. Still confused? Please feel free to contact Anexinet to discuss how your organization can start taking advantage of the new capabilities around SharePoint Hub Sites.
SharePoint/Office 365 Architect