Office 365 SharePoint

Creating pages vs. sub sites in SharePoint

Whenever I’m speaking about or conducting basic SharePoint user training, there is usually some confusion surrounding the use of pages vs. sub sites. I frequently get questions like “What is the difference between a sub site and a page?” and “When should I use a page vs. a sub site?”

In this post I will explain the difference between SharePoint sub sites and pages, how the global top navigation bar is affected by both of these objects, and a checklist in deciding which option you should choose when building out your SharePoint site.

NOTE: This article first appeared on the McGladrey Consulting Pros blog.

What is a page?

A page is basically an area to display content to users, such as images, hyperlinks, lists, libraries, web parts, and text. This content can be arranged and organized in whatever way the page creator chooses. The content area of a page is what you see below and to the right of the navigation elements of SharePoint.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

What is a sub site?

A site is a container of objects which can include lists, document libraries, and pages. A site can also contain nested sites called sub sites. Sometimes the terms site and sub site are used interchangeably. They are essentially the same thing, as a sub site is just a site that lives underneath another site.

Every site has at least one page, which would be the home or landing page. Additional pages can be added to the site by users.

How do pages and sub sites affect navigation?

The impact that a sub site has on the site’s navigation is dependent on whether the publishing feature is turned on.

If publishing is turned off, then you will need to either tell SharePoint that you want the sub site to appear in the global top navigation upon creation, or you can also add it manually later.

If the publishing feature is turned on, then you simply need to make sure that displaying sub sites automatically in the top navigation is enabled. To do this, open the site actions menu and click Site settings.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

Click the Navigation link under the Look and Feel section.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

Make sure that Structural Navigation is chosen and that the Show subsites box is checked in the Global Navigation section.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

You can also create a complete hierarchy of pages in your top navigation if you wish, however you’ll have to create those links manually. You will see how to do that below in the Creating a Page section.

Creating a sub-site

Let’s say that we have a Human Resources site, and under that site we want to create a self service area for employees to be able to update their contact information, request changes to their payroll information, request time off, etc. There will likely be several supporting lists and libraries that will need to be created in order to serve all this functionality. We want this self service area to be a dropdown menu link in the top navigation under the HR site. Also there may be different people within the HR team administering this site than the rest of the HR site, so it may require different permissions.

In this case I would create a sub site in order to keep all this supporting information together, and to keep the permissions administration clean.

To create a sub site, click on the site settings icon, then Site contents.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click new subsite.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

Give your site a name and address and select a template.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Create.

After you’ve created your sub site, notice that a link to it now automatically displays on the top navigation bar below the Human Resources site (if you have publishing enabled).

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

Creating a Page

Using our Human Resources site example, let’s say we wish to create an area to display benefits information to the users. It will be a simple list that contains the contact information to all of the companies that provide benefits for the company – health insurance and life insurance providers, etc. It will also have a library that stores the supporting documents for all the benefits. There are no special permissions needs around the list or library.

In this case I would create the list and library at the top level of the HR site and then create a page to display both of these in the form of web parts.

To create a page, click on the site settings icon, then Add a page.

Image-9

Give your page a name and click Create.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

This creates a blank page opened up in edit mode, ready for you to add content.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

After you have saved your page, you’ll need to manually place a link to it in the top navigation. Click EDIT LINKS next to the top navigation links.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

Click the + link button.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

Type in the name of your page and the relative address to the page (the relative address is the portion of the URL after the domain, including the leading forward slash) and click OK.

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

This will place the link at the top level, so you’ll need to click and drag the link underneath the Human Resources site, and then Save. Now you will see your link to your page like this:

Creating pages vs. subsites in SharePoint

Summary

Pages and sub sites are different ways of organizing and displaying information to your users. They each affect the navigation of your site in different ways, and depending on whether the publishing feature is turned on, could even make building the global top navigation bar completely effortless for you.

As to whether you should create a sub site or a page, the list below suggests that you should use sub sites when any of the following are true:

  • You need several supporting lists and libraries and wish to encapsulate them in their own area
  • You have separate permissions needs for a group of related information
  • You don’t want to manually create or manage top navigation links (if publishing feature is enabled)

Otherwise a page will suffice.

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28 Comments

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  • how to create multiple sets of links within a page? Coz my issue is, i am tryiing to create webpart link on the left with multiple links for 1 particular product.. then i tried to create another webpark link on the right pane,, with series of useful links only.. the problem is, when i insert that new webpart.. it showed a replica of the link list that i have created on the left.. and another thing is, when i delete something, of course to my thinking that they are different sets, but in fact they are not.. they are linked together.. when i delete something on the right, the left also was deleted and being updated…
    so may i know what should i do.. how to create, multiple link boxes in one page. kindly please help on this. thanks.

  • Hi Eric, I think that you should create a new library/links or whatever for each product. It you then put it on your site you have to choose app part Product1 and then add app part Produkt2.

  • Wendy,

    I am trying to create two new subsites and everytime it says, the website IT is in use. I only have 2 subsites, HR and Calendar so what can I check to fix this?

    Thanks,
    Rudy

    • Rudy, are you able to create a new subsite with some other name? I’m wondering if a site called IT was created at one point and got corrupted or something, so it’s not showing in your site contents page. If you can’t create a new site at all, with any name, then that’s a much bigger issue.

  • Thank you for this wonderful explanation of subsites vs pages. I opted for subsites but now am stuck on how to share staff list in HR subsite to be used in Assests list in Admin subsite. How can you make a column in Staff list in HR subsite appear as a lookup field in Assests list in Admin subsite when both subsites are at the same level with parent as root site? Your suggestions in designing this sort of structure will be most appreciated. Many thanks.

    • Hi Shareef, you have two options.

      1) You could move your staff lookup list to the root site collection and then create a lookup site column in the root site collection that pulls from that list (to create a site column, goto Site Settings > Site Columns > Create). Then you can add this site column to any list or library on your site, including those in sub sites.

      2) Another option would be to utilize the managed metadata service and create a managed metadata site column (if you have that option available with your subscription) instead of a lookup column. Create this site column at the root of your site collection as well.

      Hope this helps!
      Wendy

  • I was wondering if you have this information for SPOL? For my site, I go to Site Contents and at the bottom of the page it says “This site does no have any subsites” and has no option to add any (as in there is no blue plus). I tried to go to Navigation through the site setting and that option was nowhere to be found, clicked all of the links in the Look and Feel section.

    • Hi Kirsten,

      Everything mentioned in this post should also apply to SharePoint Online. In fact, all the screenshots were taken directly from my SPO site.

      Perhaps you don’t have the proper permissions to create subsites, or there is another issue with your account. I would suggest contacting your site administrator (if someone other than you) or your Office 365 admin – usually someone in your IT department – for assistance.

      Wendy

  • Thank you, Wendy. I got it to work. I appreciate your help. I’m the Office 365 Admin and the IT director for my company.

  • I’m working on a SharePoint site that has a volunteer page. Within that volunteer page there are five categories, each with a clickable image link to it’s own page. My issue is when I go to post a volunteer opportunity in one of the select page categories, the opportunity appears on all five pages instead of just the one I’m posting in. How do I resolve this?

    • Hi Cassondra, without being able to see your environment, it sounds like all 5 of the pages are showing all categories and aren’t filtered properly. Double check that the filters are set to only display the relevant category for each page.

  • Hi Wendy,
    We have our main team site setup and I need to add a separate site to support a new part of the business; this new site will have it’s own distinct users.
    Is it preferable to create a new team site at the ‘root’ level or a subsite to the existing team site?
    None of the info in the existing team site is applicable to the new part of the business.

  • Hi Wendy,
    I’ve managed to add some apps to a current page (a library). I’ve created another page (I think it is a subpage) but when I try and add apps, none of our company ones are there (including the ones that I have created). Is there something that turns on or off the availability of our apps to a page?

  • Practical commentary – I loved the information – Does someone know if I could get access to a blank a form document to type on ?

  • Hi Wendy,
    My question is if it is possible to convert a page to a sub-site? We have a number of pages, but are thinking that it may be beneficial to have sub-sites since we would like to have unique permissions for each site.

    • Kim, not necessarily. You could either create another document library and move your old documents to that one (like an Archive library), or just create views that don’t display more than 5000 documents. Document libraries can actually contain many more than 5000 documents, they just limit the user interface to displaying 5000 at a time to reduce performance lag.

    • Hi Jenny, I used to work at RSM (formerly McGladrey) and I wrote that article and cross-posted to my own blog (even link at the top of this article mentions it was first posted to the RSM blog). Looks like they took my name off of it since I no longer work there 🙂

  • Hi Wendy,
    thank you for the great article. I have one question, I keep looking for an answer and maybe its confusion over the words Permissions. I want to create either a folder or subsite under HR for different levels of compensations and not viewable by the whole team site, only viewable by just certain groups of users to be able to access this information?

  • Hi Wendy,

    First, thank you for this information – very useful! Second, I am hoping you could help with a request. I have created a 2-column page in SP2013. With our Document Library inserted as a web part into one column, I created hyperlinks to the doclibs different Views in the left column for easy access. However, if I click the view hyperlink it navigates off the page and directly to the library. Any ideas on how ti make it apply the view to the inserted document library web part?

    Thanks!

  • Novice to SharePoint, I recently took on the roll of creating our office SharePoint Worksite…and I am loving getting to know SharePoint. But I am having problems creating a multi-task for several users. When the first person created his task the system gave 100% completion, but not everyone had completed the task. How do I created a task, that will let me know when each user has completed the task? Your assistance is greatly appreciated.
    Thanks Beth 🙂

About Me

Wendy Neal

Wendy Neal

I am a .NET SharePoint Developer for DMI. I've worked with SharePoint since 2007. I love to share my passion for SharePoint and Office 365 by speaking at various industry and user group events, as well as writing articles for various publications and this blog.   Read More

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