Last week at the Future of SharePoint event, Microsoft promised that many of the new features would be hitting first release soon. True to their promise, the updated Sites page is now being rolled out to First Release customers. This means that if you have signed up for FR, then over the next several weeks you will see the updated page within your tenant.
In this blog post, I will review some of updates so that you can be prepared for the changes when they appear for you.
What is changing
The first thing to review is exactly what is changing so you can know what to expect. Currently in the Office 365 App Launcher there is a tile called “Sites” that opens a directory page for your organization. Microsoft will rename the tile to “SharePoint” and will redirect you to a new, modern landing page. For the most part, the content that is displayed in the new landing page is very similar to what is displayed on the old page. The big differences are around how the content is displayed and where the content is generated from.
One of the most notable changes in this new page is that the promoted corporate links are no longer displayed on the home page in graphical images. The new modern layout shows the links on the bottom left in the quick launch area under a heading called Links.
Figure 1: The "current" style of promoted corporate links will be moved to a list of links on the left side of the page.
You can easily edit these links from the SharePoint landing page (assuming you have access to edit them). The idea is that each organization will put their common links here that they want everyone to have access to. These typically include your intranet site, your HR site and sometimes even Training sites.
On the classic Sites Page, the sites that you are following are displayed on the left side of the page, immediately below the Promoted links. On the new SharePoint page they are displayed on the left in the Quick Launch, immediately below the location to create new sites.
Figure 2: The old followed sites move below promoted links.
On the new SharePoint page, the Recent Sites area is replaced with the Frequent Sites.
Figure 3: The classic Recent Sites move to become more like boards in the Recent area at the top, and appear in the left navigation.
The Recommended Links on the Sites page have been replaced with Suggestions. The updated suggestions are generated through the Office Graph and they are designed to suggest sites to you based on your common activities and content.
Figure 4: SharePoint Online Recent Sites get a boost from Office Graph and become suggestions in the new modern layout.
What do these changes mean?
These changes are our first taste into the some of the new UX changes that will be coming to Office 365. They provide a crisp and clean way to view the data that is most relevant to us. Because this page is populated from information in Office Graph, it provides us with the most relevant information based on who we are, our role in the organization and our common actions. The site is designed to provide a quick insight into your most relevant data. The changes will be rolling out soon to everyone in First Release, and similar to other new features, when they are first pushed to the environment they are presented with some contextual guidance to get your users started.