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PHOTO: Eugen Str

With all the buzz around modernizing your SharePoint Online sites, one thing has remained a little bit of a mystery: how to do it. Modern sites have not been available at the root of SharePoint Online until recently, which left everyone with a bit of a mix and match experience for what often acts as the central focus point for your whole organization.

The good news is Microsoft has finally provided multiple options to modernize your root site home page, so you can quickly and easily transition, no matter what scenario you currently have in place.

Updating Your SharePoint Root Site Home Page: 4 Scenarios

I suspect one of the first things you’ll look to do is delete your classic root site and try to create a modern one. This is NOT the answer. In fact, the Microsoft blog includes the following warning about modernizing your root site:

sharepoint warning

So … what should you do instead? Well, as with anything in Office 365 and SharePoint — it depends. There are different approaches depending on the current state of your SharePoint online environment.

Related Article: SharePoint Conference 2019 Introduces Home Sites, Sensitivity Labels

Scenario 1: My SharePoint root site home page is already a modern communication site

Answer: Lucky you! If your tenant was created after April 2019, Microsoft had rolled out brand new tenants with a modern SharePoint site at the root. You can quit reading now as this blog won’t apply to you.

Scenario 2: You’ve been in SharePoint Online for a while, so you have intranet content that resides in the root site and you have deployed a “classic” home page

classic homepage

(COMING SOON — This feature was delayed based on early adopter feedback. We will update this blog when the feature becomes available. The roadmap estimates Q3/Sept 2019)

Answer: You can now create communication site pages at the root of a classic site collection by enabling a site feature. Currently, the root site can be converted only if the classic publishing feature was never turned on.

This step is only available by running a PowerShell command:

Enable-SPOCommSite

You can find more information on the Microsoft site.

Related Article: How SharePoint Communication Sites Impact Governance

Scenario 3:  Your intranet home is a modern communication site, but that site collection is not the root site

classic homepage

Answer: Use the site swap command that allows you to “swap the location of a source site with a target site, while archiving the original target site.”

In other words, if you have your modern intranet home page at https://contoso.sharepoint.com/sites/intranet, you can now swap that site with the classic root site at https://contoso.sharepoint.com.

This is also completed using PowerShell:

Invoke-SPOSiteSwap - SourceUrl
https://contoso.sharepoint.com/sites/CommunicationSite - TargetUrl
https://contoso.sharepoint.com - ArchiveUrl
https://contoso.sharepoint.com/sites/Archive

Once again, the Microsoft site provides further information.

Scenario 4: This is all great, but I really want the new home sites functionality. Is there anything I can or should do now?

Answer: Go ahead and take any of the above steps. It will not hurt your ability to implement home sites when they become available. The folks at Microsoft tell us that home sites are like modern communication site templates with "superpowers."

The idea is this site will act as the central hub for your entire organization, but with a focus on content that is relevant to you and your role in the company. Home sites will roll up relevant news and events from across all of the sites a person has access to, and includes a search bar that searches ‘everything’ as well.

Learn more about SharePoint home sites.

sharepoint homesites

It’s worth mentioning each of these steps comes with some caveats. Make sure to check out the additional links provided in each section for detail on current limitations and common errors.

Related Article: Why It's Time to Update Your Legacy SharePoint Intranet

The Important Takeaways

  • Don’t delete your root site collection, ever!
  • Enable Communication Site features on a classic root site collection to retain your content, but give it a new look and feel.
  • Use the Site-Swap feature to move a modern communications site to the root for easier access (no more redirects).
  • Go ahead and implement a modern communication site home page now and still feel free to implement home sites when they become available.

Regardless of the state of your current environment, Microsoft now has you covered so you can easily modernize your root site collection, without the need for migration tools and without the risk of losing any business-critical data.