SharePoint Classic vs. SharePoint Modern: A Kiefer Assessment (Part 1)

Microsoft SharePoint supports two basic User Interfaces (UI) designs; The “Classic” experience, and the “Modern” experience.  The “Classic” experience is a highly customizable user interface that integrates SharePoint lists and libraries.  The “Modern” experience is mobile ready, (currently) limits the visual customization that can be done, makes the creators’ experience more intuitive, and makes the user’s experience more collaborative. Many clients have asked us if they should use SharePoint “Modern” instead of “Classic”?

Included for reference below are some screen captures from Microsoft’s site showing the differences between the “Modern” and “Classic” experiences.

Images of both SharePoint Classic and Modern lists and libraries
Image og classic and modern team sites in SharePoint
Image of SharePoint pages in both classic and modern

We wrote this blog to examine some of the decision points regarding when to use SharePoint’s “Modern” experience versus the “Classic” experience.  The decision is different for every SharePoint implementation and one is not better than the other.  At the time of this writing, “Modern” is easier to use, but is immature, and only addresses a fraction of the capabilities of the “Classic” experience. 

In addition to the blog, we’ve published the SharePoint Classic vs. Modern: Tale of the Tape overview. You can download it here.

Clickable banner for a free SharePoint classic vs. modern infographic

Should I use “Modern” if I’ve never used SharePoint before?

If you have never used SharePoint before, use the “Modern” experience.  Microsoft has made it extremely easy to configure and manage.  Your organization’s style choices are limited so there is little time spent on customization issues such as selecting fonts, or colors, or styles.

Other benefits include:

  • Page editing and publication is easy and quick
  • Web part configuration is much easier and more self-explanatory
  • Searching options are limited, but powerful based on MS-Graph.  Search will be able to search across Office 365, giving results outside of the traditional SharePoint boundaries, and results that are more relevant to the current user.
  • Hub sites allow a more democratized and flexible hierarchy.
  • Pages are responsive and cross-browser.

Should I convert my “Classic” site to the “Modern” experience?

There is no immediate need to convert a “Classic” site to a “Modern” site.  Microsoft will continue to support “Classic”, and there are no announced plans to sunset its support.  However, Microsoft does examine its telemetry on SharePoint usage, and there is no doubt a tipping point will be reached where it is no longer practical for them to support the code base that supports “Classic”.  I am certain that when that tipping point is reached, Microsoft will announce an estimated end date for “Classic” support.

If your organization relies on many of the existing SharePoint 2013 features there is still a long way to go (years probably) for “Modern” (and “Modern’s” eventual integration with other MS Apps) to get parity with “Classic’s” feature set. A “Classic” site should not be converted to “Modern” until your organization is ready to take the plunge into the “Modern” way of doing things, not just in SharePoint, but the full office 365 suite.     

The conversion from “Classic” to “Modern” is not a simple process since all sites and the pages contained in those sites must be examined.  In some cases, “Modern” will not support the existing business function supplied by “Classic” and the entire site must be refactored. 

If your sites are already in Office 365, Microsoft provides a tool to assist in the conversion effort.  This tool was released in January of 2018 and is called the SharePoint Modernization scanner.  It analyzes a SharePoint online site to determine how ready it is for “Modern”.  You can get it here:

Banner to download a free non-technical white paper on how to get the most out of SharePoint

Can “Modern” and “Classic” Co-Exist?

The “Modern” and “Classic” experiences can peacefully co-exist on the same web site.  Some pages on a site can be “Modern”, and others can be “Classic”.  Even on a “Modern” site, list and library views can be switched back and forth from the “Modern” experience to the “Classic”.

While this capability exists, we do not recommend this practice as it doesn’t provide a cohesive web site to your users and increases user confusion.  This option must be thoroughly considered because your organization receives the good and bad of both experiences.

Part 2 of this blog will address the pros and cons of SharePoint’s modern experience. You can read it here.


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