Last month during Microsoft’s Virtual Summit, Communication Sites were unveiled to the world. This is something that had been on the table for some time, had always been mentioned as something that was coming no-one had ever really seen it. 

Well at that event they were officially demonstrated allowing you to create internal-company campaign sites. These sites can be created using core templates that work well on PC. MAC and SharePoint Mobile App.

The user interface is very easy to use as you are simply dragging and dropping components on the canvas of the web page. The page design can be changed too, by selecting the column layout you wish to use for the pages of the site.

Web parts can also be added to the pages allowing you to create rich page experiences that not only display static content you have typed but also add other services to the page such, Events, Group Calendar, Hero Web Part, People and even content from Microsoft’s Stream service.

These communication sites will allow you to create and share recurring updates beyond using email. With the pages allowing you to embed documents, video as well as dynamically pulling real-time data from across Office 365 you can be assured that these will be the sites you will use all the time.

The sites and page construct is built in such a way that they render within the SharePoint Mobile App and function almost the same as if they were rendered within the full desktop experience. Along with this, Microsoft shared with us that there are even more capabilities available to enhance your use of these sites.

Make your home page and sub-pages look great

Full-width layouts—The Hero and Image web parts can be placed in a section layout that spans the page from left to right, giving you ways to emphasize your most essential information.

Enhanced title region with custom header image—Visually represent your home page, news and subpages with a compelling header graphic and title. You control what portion of the image is the most important, so it looks great, and as intended, across web and mobile experiences.

Continue the discussion in context to ensure reach, retention and engagement

Comments on pages—Each news article and page can have its own set of comments. It is possible to use the Yammer web part for broad discussion scenarios as well as targeted responses to engage your viewers on the sole message and content on the page—all keeping within the context of the page.

Share news via email—When you share news via email from a communication site, it’s not just a blue link; it’s a visual, informative preview that adds context to both the email and the news article itself. Within the email, the recipient(s) will see a thumbnail, title, description and an optional message from the sender.

Dynamically pull in and display data, documents and information via web part improvements

Power BI and Microsoft Stream—Bring in interactive reports using the Power BI web part, and embed single videos or full channels from Microsoft Stream—the single destination within Office 365 for your cross-company video management. Both Power BI and Microsoft Stream are now generally available.

GIF support—When you add an Image web part into a news article or page, you can now include animated GIFs in your layout.

New “See all” pages—When there is more content than can be shown within the first view the Highlighted content and Site activity web parts, you can click See all to go to a full-page experience to see all the content and activity.

Updated News web part—Showcase your news using multiple layouts to highlight what’s important with greater flexibility. You can use the default Top story layout, view news as a list or side-by-side.

Officially they started rolling out last night to first releases tenants, and will then be pushed to all tenants in the coming month.

Microsoft also have a few events coming up that are worth attending to share and explore the value of communication sites.

  • SharePoint communication sites AMA—On Wednesday, June 28, 2017 from 9–10 a.m. PDT, bring your questions and feedback to the SharePoint communication sites AMA within this dedicated SharePoint community space of the Microsoft Tech Community for SharePoint. We’re inviting our deepest business and technical subject matter experts for an active, informative hour—driven by YOU!$
  • Jeff Teper takes over @SharePoint—On Tuesday, July 10, 2017 from 9:30–10:30 a.m. PDT, Jeff Teper, corporate vice president for SharePoint, OneDrive and Office, will take over the @SharePoint Twitter handle. He’ll tackle your questions and feedback both with written responses and video snippets as only he can—no tweet left behind!
  • LIVE customer + MVPs panel webinar—On Wednesday, July 13, 2017 at 8 a.m. PDT, join in to hear how one of our customers, Shire, successfully planned and implemented their new digital workspace—inclusive of communication sites. You will hear both from Shire employees and Office 365 MVPs. Register today.
  • On-demand webcast—On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, Farren Roper and I present the “SharePoint: Inform and engage your employees” business webcast. Be the first to be notified when it’s available: sign up today. And in advance, read the new, related eBook, “4 secrets to a connected workplace.”