Applying site templates on a SharePoint Online site

Microsoft has added a new feature for SharePoint Online sites involving the ability to apply a site template to your site. They have provided a number of templates for both Communication sites and Team sites. I’m going to show you how it’s done, and then give you some guidance on what you need to consider before you try this out…

After your new site is created, select Settings > Apply a site template:

Based on the type of site that was created (Communications or Team Site), you’ll see a list of templates from Microsoft that you can select. Click on the thumbnail to see details about the template:

This particular template (Training and development team) description shows up, and I decide I want to use that one. I click Use template:

A dialog screen appears to show that the template is being applied:

And now that it’s applied, I have a new home page with the template theme layout, and it’s ready for me to start customizing:

One thing to notice is that the original home page (Home.aspx) is still out there, and you could always reset that to be your home page if you don’t like the new LearningTeamHome.aspx page:

Now that you know how to apply a template, here are some of my thoughts about what you should be considering before you do this…

  • This feature is only available to people who have Full Control or Site Administrator access to the site.
  • If you apply a template to an existing site, it will *not* merge content from your existing home page to the new template home page. You’ll need to build out the new home page as if you were starting from scratch.
  • THERE IS NO UNDO FEATURE! While a site template does not delete lists and libraries, you don’t get the ability to apply a template, decide you don’t like it, and then go back to what you had. You’d have to reset your original home page to be the home page once again, and you’d have to use Themes to change the colors back to what you had before.

I would strongly recommend that you only use this feature on new sites, and you do so before you start to build out the new site. If you apply a site template to a site already in use, it will change the home page and color themes, and your existing users will get no warning that you did this… the new template and themes will just start appearing.

Microsoft has a document explaining this new feature called Apply and customize SharePoint site templates. Again, I strongly advise reading through this before you decide to use the site template feature.

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