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The Classic vs. Modern SharePoint Showdown: is it time to get Modern?

We’ve discussed before how quickly things move in the SharePoint world; we know how important it is to stay up to date so that our clients don’t have to. Part and parcel to that, however, is our belief that new doesn’t necessarily equal better, so we don’t always rush to recommend the latest release.

Such is the case with Modern SharePoint, which was available earlier this year as an intranet alternative to Classic SharePoint. Modern had a number of kinks to work out (and some still remain); we took our time on this one but are now ready to recommend it for many use cases.

What’s new in the User Interface for Modern?

Microsoft has put a major emphasis on Modern. Based on extensive feedback and an observation of current trends, Modern SharePoint offers an improved user interface, a tiles-centric view, and more intuitive use of images and video. It’s responsive, it’s faster than Classic, and it was designed from the ground up to address dozens of Classic UI shortcomings.

This means easy to maintain page layouts, with no more pre-selected, hard-coded options. The components of the pages are standardized, and external sharing is much easier and less restrictive.

Microsoft is also spending most of their resources on adding features to Modern. As of today, other mission-critical apps can be easily integrated, including Flow, PowerBI, and PowerApps.

Overall, the Modern version really catches up to the way websites have evolved, which will be a relief to users everywhere. Eventually, the Classic version will phase out – but those using the old model shouldn’t panic, we’re a long way away from that.

Why did we hold off?

We were cautious in recommending Modern until we were sure a few items were taken care of:

  • Hub sites, which provide a global navigation for Modern sites. Without those, the user experience was not up to par.

  • Three-level menus may not be best practice in web design, but they are wholly necessary for large intranets. Limiting to two levels makes for a messy menu or requires that companies rethink how they deliver important content.

  • General early-release bugs and quality issues.

With these concerns resolved, we can now focus on the positive aspects of Modern:

  • Usability: first and foremost, the usability is simply far superior. For example, users can maintain, sort, and filter lists more easily, and components of the Classic ribbon have been relocated to different, contextualized areas of a page.

  • One-stop portal: Modern SharePoint sites are backed by an Office 365 Group, which means they get an Exchange calendar and shared mailbox, a OneNote notebook, and more, in addition to lists and libraries. Microsoft Teams can also be layered on top of Modern Teams sites, but not on top of Classic sites.

  • UI Design maintenance: the updated platform makes it simple for non-technical content managers to rearrange page layouts. This eliminates the need for an intranet designer to make these types of changes, one of the more frustrating problems with Classic.

  • Configuring components: in the same vein as UI design, some Classic components required programmer-level knowledge of XSL style sheets, display templates, and other older web technologies. Modern makes these much easier to set up without any technical background.

  • Security: Times have changed, and Modern has tightened the edges to be more secure. On Classic, any JavaScript code could be run, in fact Script Editor Web Part and Content Editor Web Parts were provided for that very reason. That might seem benign, but it opens a company to unnecessary risk. Modern, on the other hand, will block JS that could be problematic.

For companies thinking about a new Intranet or collaboration spaces, we now believe Modern SharePoint should be part of the equation. Of course every company is different, and we assess current and future needs before making a recommendation. To learn more about our take on Modern vs Classic, contact us at

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