Earlier this year we started preparations to migrate our intranet from Classic to Modern SharePoint. I’ve pulled together some of experiences so far…
On first look, SharePoint Modern is more attractive and easier to manage than SharePoint Classic, which now feels even more clunky in comparison.
We probably over-customised our Classic intranet to achieve our desired design. But in the Modern world, the features are more “out of the box” and configurable.
While there’s less opportunity for coding tweaks, we found enough options to achieve a fresh redesign. (Yes, we chose pink as a secondary colour! More about colours later).
The new web parts have a wider range of display options and are easy to drag and drop within layouts. They respond better at different screen sizes too meaning a lot less work on what was a fiddly mobile experience in Classic.
We found ourselves using more standard features and less from our intranet-in-a-box product. Microsoft’s News, Quicklinks and Call to Action web parts play a significant role on the home page and landing pages.
There are some that don’t quite work for us too, particularly the Yammer and Twitter web parts which aren’t flexible enough or suitable for smaller areas.
It’s not all about the looks
There are a whole catalogue of stock images and icons available in Modern making it easier to create banners and graphics instantly.
However, it can be easy to get carried away with a new box of toys. We’ve tried to maintain a balanced approach, ensuring any key information isn’t relegated in place of a cute sausage dog in a box. (Note to self: Only use cute animal pic if it benefits the reader.)
Modern sites offer a colour theme too with primary, secondary and supporting colours which permeate through to various layouts and web parts. There are default Microsoft themes, or you can create your own.
Rather than a blank canvas, this gives some useful boundaries to work within. At times it feels like a bit of a dark art to work out exactly where your colours will surface, with one eye on accessibility standards for certain combinations (we aim for WCAG AA standards).
There was plenty of testing with the full catalogue of web parts and online contrast checker to ensure our configured themes worked for us.
Structure and navigation challenges
What I like about the Classic site structure is it’s neat and tidy with one site collection (SC) branching off to several sub sites.
The Modern structure, with multiple SCs connected to a main “hub”, meant a rethink of our information architecture.
With around 40 sections to map out, we were advised to limit the number of SCs, but not overfill them. This took some time to figure out and resulted in some individual Classic sites (for example, HR, Wellbeing, Recruitment) moving under the same SC umbrella.
This has made Site Contents a bit busy behind the scenes and resulted in more complex permissions at site, library and page folder level.
The navigation for users also takes some getting used to. In Modern, there is no breadcrumb or left hand menu that we had in Classic, so we’re reliant on our global navigation (“Megamenu”, part of our intranet-in-a-box product) and search.
You could argue this simplifies the UX and encourages more use of the search, but it also risks leaving users a bit disorientated as there’s no visual clue where they are without checking the URL.
A way around this could be to introduce more in-page links back to a landing page, but this becomes a very manual process and laborious to manage if links change.
Perhaps as intranet managers we’re overly sensitive to this one, we’ll wait and see…
Content dictating the plan
With 80 intranet publishers and 40 sections, we soon realised there was no chance of moving all our content to Modern in one convenient migration window.
Also, we didn’t want to lift and shift. The intranet is three years old, and naturally some content has slipped with pages, document libraries and lists in need of attention.
We agreed a content review was needed with publishers where we share analytics, review audit dates, ownership and revisit the purpose of existing content.
Even minor improvements take time so we estimated nine months to give ourselves and our intranet authors enough leeway.
The value of search and permissions
Having both intranet environments on SharePoint has allowed us to take a more iterative approach to migrating content. The two key elements are the search and permissions.
We have two intranet sites running, but our “normal” users can only see what we give them access to. Once a section is ready to go live, we hide the old one and reveal the new one after some minor changes to the global menu.
The search is also permission-based so we configured it to index both Classic and Modern sites. One slight drawback to this hybrid search is we can’t seem to hide OneDrive results.
Once we’ve moved fully to Modern and turn off Classic, we can reconfigure the search and hopefully resolve the issue. Tips welcome!
In the next article I’ll cover some of the publisher experience and feedback since we’ve moved to Modern.
Thanks for reading, hope this was useful. Please contact me with any questions/comments @tpchip.