SharePoint Hub Sites: 3 Components of a Properly Designed Intranet

March 18, 2019   //   Communications & Messaging,

SharePoint hub sites were designed to help your organization overcome the universal struggle that comes with managing the ever-growing number of SharePoint sites and documents. By associating individual units of work into hubs, while enforcing consistent branding and navigation across these work-spaces, organizations can significantly improve productivity by making related content (news, events, documents, and sites) easily discoverable and searchable.

Setting up a SharePoint hub site is easy, but knowing how to logically structure and associate related content to get the most value from hub sites requires some careful planning.

Key Components of a Properly Designed Hub Site

The key components of a properly designed hub site include Site Structure, Navigation, and Security.

Site Structure

Site structure defines logical groupings of your workplace. When getting started with hubs, think about the hub as the home-base of related information that your users need to accomplish certain tasks. For example, an HR hub site would be a logical place for everyone in the organization to find Employee Benefits information, while the Cross-Department Collaboration hub site would serve as a way for individuals working on projects from different departments to share information. Here are some of the common ways we see companies structure their hub sites: by project, department, division, team, region, business unit, committee. Ultimately, the decision for how you structure your hub sites is up to you.

One of the greatest benefits of hub sites is that they allow you to eliminate the inflexibility and governance limitations of subsites, while still providing a way to create a shared experience among related content. This supports the common scenario in which you need to change your site structure to accommodate the evolving structure of your business. For example, if your HR department has decided to divide into two groups – HR and Recruiting – you can restructure your hub sites to match without needing to undergo an expensive migration.

Navigation

Navigation is key to enable users to move between sites of an Intranet in order to perform various job responsibilities that depend on consuming published information or collaborating on various assets. One of the biggest challenges with intranet design is figuring out how the navigation should be organized. When people arrive on your hub site, the majority of them will start by navigating to a relevant page. If users are not able to logically find the content they are looking for, we see a decrease in employee productivity. Even worse, if a user feels like a product or platform was not designed in a way to that meets their needs, they will no longer continue to adopt that product.

The hub owner is ultimately responsible for deciding which sites are reflected in the shared navigation. They have the option link to pages both within the hub and outside of it. But how do you decide what goes in your navigation?

Much like how we recommend putting the user’s needs at the center of your decisions around site structure, you should let user experience drive all your decisions around site navigation. Effective navigation should consider not just the information you want to present, but also the information your users need to consume. Here are some of the common ways we see companies organize the navigation of their hub sites: services, products, activities, audiences, resources, focus areas, or functions.

Security

When security is not implemented in a way that aligns with the overall site architecture, there is a risk that sensitive information is placed in an insecure area that is accessible by undesired audiences. While hub sites make it easier to find information, you still need to have a solid security strategy in place to ensure your sensitive data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

When it comes to securing your hub sites, an effective permissions strategy is a good place to start. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to give people the lowest permission level they need to perform their assigned tasks. Limiting access allows users to remain productive while addressing the risk of unintentional data leaks. As a second layer of security, we highly recommend adding two-factor authentication in Office 365. A basic version of this comes free with your Office 365 for business subscription. Visit Microsoft for detailed instructions on how to set up multi-factor authentication.

SharePoint is a robust tool for communication and collaboration between teams. Hub sites adds a new layer of organization to help users find the content they need. But like all cool tools, it’s only effective if you learn how to use it right! Contact Us to learn more about how to best apply these capabilities to your specific organization.

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