SharePoint Online public-facing websites

Office 365 plans comes with support for public facing websites. No matter if you are using Small Business Plan (P Plan) or one of the Enterprise Plans (E Plans), you can create exactly one public facing website. The difference between plans is the fact that for P plan public website is created automatically at the root level immediately after you establish your account, and for the E plans it have to be created manually.

In this blog post I’ll show you how easy is to create and customize a public facing website hosted inside your SharePoint Online services.

How to create a new public facing website…

…in 5 easy steps:

  • Open the Microsoft Online Services administration center
    (https://[account_name]-admin.sharepoint.com).
  • Click on the Manage site collections link.
  • Click on a Public Website action in the New dropdown on the Site Collections ribbon.

Site collections administration center

  • A Create Your Website dialog will be opened. There are few options you need to configure in order to create a new public facing website:

 

Create new website dialog

  • Title – title for the new site collection.
  • URL – cannot be changed unless you configure alternate DNS settings in the Microsoft Online Services administration page.
  • Localization options – Language, Time Zone.
  • Administrator – one and only user, represents primary site collection administrator.
  • Storage Quota – maximum storage limit for the site collection, 300 MB should be enough.
  • Resource Usage Limit – maximum resource usage limit for the site collection; default value should be OK.
  • Commit the changes and wait for the site collection to be created. Once created, you’ll be able to navigate to the newly created website.

 

Default public facing website look and feel

Behind the scenes

It’s interesting to see what was created behind the scenes. On the first sight, public web site doesn’t look like a SharePoint site. However, it’s a simple site with a Page Library on it. Each link represents one page in the Page Library. To see the files in edit mode, you’ll need to click on the Member Login link.

Page library content

Page customization

If you open the Home page in edit mode, you’ll see that it looks pretty different from standard SharePoint pages. There are zones similar to web part zones, but here stops any similarity.

First, if you click anywhere in the header area, a header customization dialog will appear. Using this dialog you’ll be able to edit page title, description and logo.

Header customization dialog

Page content can be edited using standard text manipulation tools available on the Home ribbon tab.

Home ribbon tab

Using the Insert tab, you’ll be able to insert some standard object such us an image, line, hyperlink or table.

However, that’s not all you can put on you page. There is a set of gadgets you can insert on your page, e.g. Slide Show, HTML, Map & Direction, Video, Contact Us form or Weather gadget.

Gadgets

The very last tab contains a set of Design tools that can be used to change the look and feel of your page. There you can change page size, color scheme, background, layout, style sheet and much more.

Design tab

We’ll dig into design options in one of the future blog posts. See you soon.

8 thoughts on “SharePoint Online public-facing websites

  1. Mark Arthur

    Could you please tell me if the public facing sharepoint site could be customized using Sharepoint designer. If yes. How ?

    Consider i have an e-plan..

    Thanks

    Reply
  2. Sasa Tomicic Post author

    Hi Mark,
    the public facing website is not designed to be edited with SharePoint Designer. While not clearly stated in the P1 standard service description, the enterprise one clearly states that the public facing website can only be edited using the built-in editor. However, you can still access these files in SharePoint Designer but, you can only edit them in the Code View. Furthermore, any editing done in SharePoint Designer is not supported by Microsoft.

    Anyway, I’ll consider writing a bit more in detail about this topic in one of my future posts.

    Reply
  3. Sushan

    Hi,
    First thanks for the simple and easy to understand description.
    I have built a public facing website using the default domain ####.onmicrosoft.com and it is not getting published as a public site. Do I need to necessarily use a custom domain only or #####.onmicrosoft.com can be used as well (and I am not doing things correctly) to host it publicly ? Please help.
    I checked the following O365 help-online url – http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-smallbusinesses/gg549209.aspx

    Reply
  4. Sasa Tomicic Post author

    Hi Sushan,
    you do not need to use a custom domain, default #####.onmicrosoft.com domain name should be fine.
    When you say that the site is not published, what do you mean by that? Are you getting login dialog?
    If yes, the reason is in new SharePoint Online sites feature – open the site and check upper right corner. There you should find a link with the following text: “MAKE WEBSITE ONLINE”. Click on that link and follow instructions to make your site globally available.
    Regards,
    Sasa

    Reply
  5. Chris

    Hi there,
    I was planning on subscribing to SharePoint Online (Plan 2), in doing so, would I still be able to create a public facing website, or is that just for the Office 365 bundles?

    Reply
  6. Sasa Tomicic Post author

    Hi Chris,
    all SharePoint Online plans contains public facing web sites. The difference between P and E plans is the fact that in P plan, public facing web site is already provisioned once you activate plan. For E plans you have to create it manually.
    Regards

    Reply
  7. Steve

    I am not sure if I am missing something here or not but for love nor money I cannot see the gadget option when designing my public facing website, I have searched the Internet and reviewed what I can. Has it been removed now, or is it not available on the free trial which I am using.
    All I want to do is add a simple contact form but even using custom HTML code the submit button will not work as it needs to be done server side which I have read obviously cannot be edited.
    Any help or advice would be great

    Reply
  8. Sasa Tomicic Post author

    Steve,
    this have been changed in a meantime. Try to implement your requirement by using apps available through the Insert/Parts/Social Plugins menu option.

    Reply

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