SharePoint look book templates have been available for a few years now, first released at Ignite 2018. But after two years, look book templates have started to become more user friendly, with more design options available. We have been receiving more and more inquiries about look book templates recently and can hopefully answer some of those questions here.
What is a look book templates?
In the most basic terms, a look book template is a Microsoft designed site template for your SharePoint Online Intranet. Look book templates come with pre-configured pages loaded with webparts, customized layouts, and visual design. Once a template is deployed to your site you can customize the look even farther by changing out colors to match your corporate branding, deleting and adding webparts, and moving webparts around on the pages. Using a template from the SharePoint look book does NOT limit your ability to customize SharePoint, but rather gives you a solid starting point for the visual design and layout of your Intranet. The SharePoint look book templates are only available as Modern site templates, for more information about the differences between Modern and Classic SharePoint sites please see this Kiefer blog post by Kiefer Principal Consultant, Andy Coyle. Look book templates are also a great way to quickly show end users what is possible in the Modern UI if you are considering a change from Classic to Modern.
Will look book templates end up like the FAB 40 Templates?
If you have been into SharePoint for awhile you may remember the infamous FAB 40 Templates that were heavily used in SharePoint 2007 and 2010. These templates did not carry over to SharePoint 2013+, and it was difficult and time intensive to get work arounds for these missing templates. Look book templates are very different from these past templates. Since look book templates only include visual design and existing Modern webparts there should not be major issues down the road, like there was with the FAB 40 Templates.
Are look book templates difficult to deploy?
Microsoft has made the deployment of look book templates incredibly simple, but just because it is simple it does not mean that everyone can deploy them. First, you must be a Global Administrator to deploy look book templates, SharePoint Administrator permissions are not enough! This requirement alone will limit the users that can deploy a look book template to your Intranet. The next thing to remember is that when you deploy a template it creates a new Site Collection. Currently there is not a way to deploy a look book template to an existing Site Collection. This means that up front planning must be done if you intend to use look books to build out your Intranet.
I have deployed a look book template, now what?
Before you start giving users access to your newly created site collection, there are a few tasks to complete. Depending on the look book template that you have selected you will need to do some cleanup and polishing to get the site ready. First of all, you may notice that there is quite a bit of demo content in the site. This demo content will need to be replaced with your corporate data. The theme colors may need to be updated to reflect your corporate branding. Some look book templates include links that go to nothing, these will need to be updated or removed. Several look book templates include webparts to display data that does not exist, once your corporate data has been loaded into the site some configuration of these webparts may be necessary. As you can see deployment is only the first step of the process, there are many steps to complete before your site will be ready for use. These tasks will vary greatly depending on the look book templates you select.
Look book templates are an excellent starting point for your Intranet’s visual design, but still do not provide a complete Intranet solution. There are still several tasks to complete before a site built using a SharePoint look book template is ready for production. Look book templates do not address other important areas of building out an Intranet such as Information Architecture, Permissions, Retention of Data, Search, Navigation, and Site Structure (Hub Sites, Child Site Collections, and Sub Sites).
SharePoint has come a long way, and many of the more recent changes to SharePoint has made for a better user experience. Kiefer can help your organization plan for, build, and assist you in deploying an enterprise intranet. Contact Kiefer to learn more about the tools and best practices that can help you in building an engaging intranet experience for your organization.