Standardizing Site Guidelines using Modern Search in SharePoint Online

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I was chatting with Sue Hanley this weekend and she pointed out a new feature I hadn’t noticed before on the modern page Highlighted Content web part in SharePoint Online. The option will allow you to point to a completely different site and pull search results from there. Thanks for pointing this out Sue… this is awesome!

I can think of many use-cases for this functionality and I’ll cover one of them in this post.

Scenario: I have a standard department site layout used when creating every department site across my tenant. This layout could be manually configured or provisioned through automation. On the homepage of every site, I want to display 2 standard pieces of information on the top right corner:

  • Site Usage Guidelines
  • Site Owner Agreement

These will explain the organization’s guidelines for the site and is governance in action. Examples of the types of guidance in these are: what to store in a department site, the handling controls for the information, site owner responsibilities, etc. We want these guidelines to be consistent across all department sites in our tenant.

Like any good content management professional would tell you, we will NOT be storing a copy of the guidance on each site, but rather linking to a central location where it it stored. In this way, if the guidance changes, we only have to change it in the central location.

Following are the steps to do this using modern pages.


Decide where to store them

For this example, I created a modern SharePoint Communication site called Governance Center to store all corporate-wide governance and training material. I’ll create the Site Usage Guidelines and Site Owner Agreement content as modern pages on the site. Although I could have created them as documents, I’ve chosen modern pages because they can be displayed in a visually appealing way.


Design the Information Architecture

We need a way to identify the Site Usage Guidelines and Site Owner Agreement on the Governance Center to automatically display on the Department home page. We could do this several different ways:

  • On the Governance Center, create a custom Site Page content type and create each page we want shown on the department home page based on the custom content type. Then, on the Department site, filter the search web part on the content type managed property.
  • On the Governance Center, create a site column and add it to the Site Pages library on the default Site Page content type. Then, on the Department site, filter the search web part on the site column managed property
  • Combination of the above 2 options

We will go with the third option above. On the Governance Center I’ll create a custom Site Page content type called Site Guidance Page. I’ll add a Yes/No site column to it called ShowOnDepartmentHome.

This provides the flexibility to have numerous Site Guidance Pages displayed together on the Governance Communication site if I wanted to and individually identify any Site Guidance Page to also be displayed on a Department site’s home page through a search web part, in this case the Site Usage Guidelines and Site Owner Agreement.

Here is the content type definition for Site Guidance Page.

ContentTypeDefinition

Add this custom content type to the Site Pages library on the Governance Center communication site.

SitePagesContentTypes


Create Site Guidance and Site Owner Pages

Create 2 new Site Guidance Pages, one for each of the Site Usage Guideline and the Site Owner Agreement (below).

CreateNewSiteGuidancePage

Add the relevant guidance and content on each page. We will use the new Page Detail feature to set the page property, ShowOnDepartmentHome, to Yes for each page.

PageDetail

For demonstration, I created a third page of the same content type, but set the ShowOnDepartmentHome to No. This page should not appear on the Department site’s homepage. Below is a view of the pages added to the Site Pages library on the Governance Center site.

SitePagesView

Wait for them to be indexed by the search engine and for the crawled and managed properties to be generated.

CrawledPropertyNames


Create Department Site and Home Page

This can be done manually (what I’ve done here), or in an automated way. I created a Modern Team Site for a department. I’ve also added a Highlighted Content web part to the home page of the site to show the above 2 pages in a visually appealing, consistent way. This would be done for every department site across our tenant.

Here are the settings for the Highlighted Content web part:

 

 

… and here is the home page of the Department site showing the filtered site pages from the Governance site. On the right-hand side, the Highlighted Content web part is circled:

DepartmentHomePage
Department site pulling standard content from another site

This is awesome! One place to update the content and many locations dynamically displaying it across the tenant!


I hope this post has got your creative juices flowing for ways you can build out your own environments by leveraging search – it really is a smart way of surfacing content across your tenant. This capability has been available in Classic SharePoint search for a long time – it’s great to see it starting to come to the Modern world.

Thanks for reading.

-JCK


Credit: Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

13 comments

  1. This is awesome and will fit in really well with what I want to accomplish as we start migrating to O365!!! Nice work!!

  2. Great concept, but properties I add to Page Library are not indexed or mapped to managed properties (although the same columns work on a document library). Logged a call with Microsoft. Has anyone else had a problem with Managed Properties on a page library?

      1. Hi Joanne,

        Just by way of an update on my initial post.

        A few weeks ago I was experiencing the issue you mentioned on document libraries, I couldn’t get it to work, therefore opened call with Microsoft they changed permissions to allow the Sharepoint Administrator group to populate the managed properties. Then by adding a Sharepoint Administrator to the site collection it worked exactly as you mention in your blog. Great I have working solution to managed properties!

        Now I apply site columns to a pages library it just will not populate managed the managed properties (site columns added to document libraries continue work just fine). I opened another call with Microsoft (as mentioned above), today they reported this was a limitation of Sharepoint on-line and I should raise on UserVoice as a feature request.

        Not expecting a solution, just to let you the feedback I received.

        Dave

      2. Hi Dave, Thanks for update…I do this all the time with page libraries so there must be some differences between what we’re doing.
        Joanne

      3. Hi again… thought of another thing to maybe get you out of the bind you’re in. I’m assuming the crawled properties have been generated for the site columns you’re adding to your site pages library? Have you tried mapping them to the Refinable pre-created managed properties, requesting another crawl, and using them instead?
        -JCK

  3. Hi Joanne, thanks for the suggestion. I tried using the Refinable managed property but still no luck.

    So, I created a new Team site collection (previously I was working with Communication site) replicated all the steps. Yes it works! Great – I’m happy to set up my Governance in a Team site 😊.

    In the interest of trying to determine a reason, I created a new Communicate site, repeated all the steps once again, and still nothing searchable from the Pages Library. It would appear in my tenant, managed properties / search is not working on a Page Library in a Communication site ☹

    Thanks for the post and your follow-up.

    Dave

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