Webinar Recap | Creating the Optimal Home Site for Your Digital Workspace

Thank you for your interest in “There’s No Place Like Home | Creating the Optimal Home Site for your Digital Workspace” If you were able to join us for the webinar, we sincerely thank you for being there. We hope you had as much fun how to create home sites as our speakers did sharing their knowledge with you. 

Didn’t get a chance to catch our session live? We’ve got you covered.

This Session:

Home sites are the most valuable real estate on your intranet. A home site is a modern communication site designated as the main landing site for the intranet. It’s a spot where you store all of your organization’s pertinent information for your users. And home sites are just as valuable for private websites as they are for public-facing ones. So what kind of information should you put on a home site and how do you organize it? During this webinar, Business Analyst Carolyn Gjerde and Senior UI/UX Designer Kunaal Sharma explained what a home site is, how to create one through SharePoint, and why personalizing your content makes it easier for users to navigate.

Episode Takeaways:

  • Configure the global navigation
  • Focus on day-to-day needs
  • Create a social feed
  • Edit with ease
  • Personalize your content
  • Consider making the home site your route site
  • Add the Viva Connections dashboard
  • Target your audiences
  • Know how to navigate the search function
  • Translate your content

Show Links:

Key Takeaways

8:58 – Configure the global navigation

Kunaal said Microsoft now allows you to enable and configure global navigation through the SharePoint mobile app.

“You also get the, if you’re on the SharePoint mobile app, that home button that you see there, it takes you to this home site, essentially. And then what else happens is you get to enable the global navigation. So one of the features that we’ve been waiting for so long from Microsoft is this. And so once you designate that, you have the ability to configure your global navigation for your intranet, essentially, around the home site. And then the whole talk that’s been there for the last two years, Viva, with the home site you get to enable Viva Connections in your Microsoft Teams instance. So with that, a lot of responsibilities come with these powers. So we’ve got to tread carefully, but also make it useful for our users and our employees.”

10:24 – Focus on day-to-day needs

Kunaal said if you want to create a truly helpful home site, it’s important to focus on the day-to-day needs that are the most relevant to your employees.

“There’s a whole bunch of requests that we get. And so we’ve pared that down on things that’s most common amongst it, and what do we need day to day? What do we need from our organization? And how do we create a collaborative, fun environment now that we’re all remote? So we’ve got to consider some of those social features. So tools and applications. I need access to applications or links or anything to get my day-to-day job done. So I need to get to that quickly from my home site. And then personalize information. So news that’s relevant for me, my job, my role, or my department. I want to see that right away. And then there’s also news and events pushed out by the organization. So understanding what’s happening around me. What’s happening outside? Is there a fun activity happening? When is the next holiday? I’ve got to know. It has to be in the front.”

12:17 – Create a social feed

Kunaal said the social aspect of your organization should be brought into your home site, because you want to engage your employees whenever possible.

“As I mentioned before, having some kind of social feed. This could be your Twitter or your Instagram, though in the SharePoint world you wouldn’t want to do Instagram because of the embedded web part and whatnot, but you can consider it. And then as well as bringing Yammer, so creating that social aspect to your organization and having that be visible on the home page. And then as well as campaigns happening around the organization, benefits comes around, later in the year so you can display something on the homepage that, ‘This is happening. Go sign up.’ Or even a big spot for a big announcement.

As for PixelMill’s case, merging with Creospark could have been a campaign that displays on our homepage. And then polls and quizzes, testing our employees with facts about the company. Do I understand what we do? Or just some fun little engaging polls and quizzes we can put out. And so when you do organize your homepage, uh, match it with your employee needs. I know I just pointed out a lot, but make it intuitive. So when we listen to our users and understand what they’re doing, we’ll create something engaging and intuitive for them.”

19:27 – Edit with ease

Kunaal said SharePoint is easy to edit. You can add sections and reorganize the layout to cater to your employees’ needs.

“One of the great things about SharePoint is how easily we can edit pages and things like that. So while in here you can go into edit mode on your home site, start adding your sections, add in your web part, and configure them to your needs. And once done you publish it. And as you’re going through, you ask yourself a couple of questions. How should I organize and lay out my home site? Earlier I did mention a lot of features that could potentially live on your home site. But one of the things is that you really want to listen to your users and understand how they’re working. What are they looking for first? And understanding that, and then marrying that up with the web parts that we do have available.”

20:27 – Personalize your content

Kunaal said to make sure relevant information is front and center on your site. He also recommended keeping your site’s design simple to make it easier to navigate.

“Start thinking about personalizing content for these groups of people, and what do they need to see? Relevant information. So as Carolyn pointed out, have a zone for audience targeted news. So that way I get to see news from just my department. Maybe I’m part of human resources, and I want to see town hall-type content. So those will be pushed up here. And one thing to note as you’re laying out your page, don’t mix and match these sections too much. Try to keep it as simple as possible. So keep it one column and add in some different zones here and there to just break up the layout, but don’t go from one column to half to a third, try to keep it very simple. So something to keep in mind as you’re creating your pages. And this is not just for the home site, but in general, for any landing pages that you’re doing in your intranet.”

22:29 – Consider making the home site your route site

Kunaal said if you haven’t already modernized your route site, you should contemplate making the home site your route site.

“Another bonus is that before you do the home site, if you haven’t already modernized your route site, do consider making the home site your route site. So what is a route site? Basically what it sounds like. It’s the root of your tenant. So whatever your URL is, it’ll look like this and nothing after that. So this is simple. If somebody types in ‘Pixelmill.sharepoint.com,’ they’ll jump to this page. They wouldn’t need to do the extra site pages, whatever additional texts that goes there. So before doing any hub flying or home site switch, do consider doing a route replacement and make that this, if you haven’t already. If you’re just creating a new tenant, there should already be a modern communication site created for you and consider that being your home site for future use.”

26:16 – Add the Viva Connections dashboard

Carolyn said the home site is a great place to add the Viva Connections dashboard. But if you share the tenant with multiple different divisions, you can’t use the Viva Connections app.

“The home site is the main landing page that will be surfaced in Microsoft Teams. And it’s also a great place to add the Viva Connections dashboard. And let’s just step back just a second. And what do we mean by when we say Viva Connections? And that’s really in Microsoft Teams, the Viva Connections app recognizes the home site as the URL to display. And the other piece is that Viva Connections dashboard.

So what all is showing here? This is the intranet in Teams, but it’s that home site again. That’s what’s showing is the home site, and you cannot use Viva Connect. You cannot add your intranet into Teams with the Viva Connections app without a home site. So it becomes very important. So unfortunately, if you’re with an organization where you cannot have a home site because you’re sharing the tenant with multiple different divisions, or there’s reasons why you can’t do that, you cannot use the Viva Connections app. Because it must be a home site, must be a modern communication site. So those are two things that you have to have.”

31:04 – Target your audiences

Carolyn said Microsoft is slowly adding in new ways to target audiences so you can prioritize specific content for specific audiences.

“Microsoft has, for maybe the last year and a half, slowly added additional web parts that can be targeted. But currently for right now, this is the list of things that can be targeted. So the quick links web part, news, again, global navigation or even site navigation can be audience targeted, events, the highlighted content web part, along with the Viva Connection dashboard cards can all be created with audience targeting. And what do we mean by audience targeting? That is where you can use a Microsoft 365 group or a security group to create audiences. And then once they are enabled, then you could designate ‘This should be available to the South American team’ versus ‘This should be available to the North American team.’ So what audience targeting doesn’t do is it doesn’t prevent someone from looking at content, but it just won’t display when the web part is targeted.”

42:34 – Know how to navigate the search function

Carolyn said Microsoft’s Search function is trained to be contextual, so you have to know where to search in order to use it well.

“Microsoft Search is really trained to be contextual. So when you’re in SharePoint, when you’re doing a search here, it’s pulling results that are SharePoint specific. And again, it remembers where you are. So if I’m in the home site, it thinks, ‘Oh, you want to search everything in the tenant,’ versus if I’m in the HR site, for example, and I’m searching benefits, it’s really going to look for benefits, information that lives in that HR site. Then again, when I’m in Teams and I’m searching ‘benefits.’ It’s probably thinking that I’m looking for a Team’s thread or a message in a Team’s channel about benefits. So that’s why it’s doing it, which makes sense if you’re in Teams in general, but it’s performing that same action, even if you’re in the tab for Viva Connections.”

48:12 – Translate your content

Carolyn said it’s important to know when to use a global language and when to employ translators to make content available in multiple languages.

“Sometimes there is a global language that is used across the organization, and perhaps there’s certain things that maybe would need to be in that. But maybe things like benefits, where that one’s a very common one that needs to be region-specific, and maybe that information might be handled better in a different language. So in that case you might create just a site for the French human resources benefits.

If SharePoint allows you to have the entire site be in multiple languages, so if it’s important for an organization to have the entire site translated into different languages, it’s possible using that, or create just a separate section for the different languages. The thing with language translations is it’s not automated. You need somebody on staff to translate that information into different languages. And you also, when a page is updated, it defaults to the default language. So for example, if the default language is English, when somebody creates a new page on the site, the English page is displayed and needs to be translated before it’s available in the other languages.”

Check out our next webinar on Thursday, May 26th!

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