SharePoint Knowledge Base

Oct 01
General Branding Guidelines for SharePoint Online

Our job as SharePoint consultants is not only to help our clients deploy SharePoint, but also to make it match their company image by applying custom branding onto their portals. This article provides you an overview of branding best practices.

What not to do:

  • Don't override the branding of the Office 365 Suite Bar.
  • Don't customize branding for personal sites.
  • Don't implement by default your custom branding by using custom master pages.

Common branding requirements:

  • Customize the look:
    • Implement a custom color scheme.
    • Show a custom logo.
    • Customize the look of the sign-in page.
    • Change the look of the navigation controls.
  • Adjust the layout:
    • Change the overall layout of information on pages.
    • Make the portal "responsive."
    • Show a custom footer.
  • Add more functionality:
    • Customize the behavior of the portal navigation.
    • Add custom controls (web parts) on pages.

General principles

Consider the following general principles when branding portals in a SharePoint Online environment:

  • The SharePoint Online service is constantly improving. Updates provisioned to the service may affect the Document Object Model (DOM) structure of out-of-the-box pages and the content of out-of-the-box files (for example, master pages). Developers must keep this in mind and should not rely on unsupported customization approaches (for example, the position of specific elements in the DOM structure of the page).
  • Avoid customizing master pages. Updates to the service may affect the structure of out-of-the-box master pages. If you have implemented a custom master page by copying the contents of any out-of-the-box master page, you must further monitor if this out-of-the-box master page is not updated, and re-implement these changes in your custom master page. Otherwise, some SharePoint functionality may behave incorrectly when your custom master page is in use. That's why customizing master pages leads to additional risks and maintenance costs, and we recommend that you avoid it when possible.
  • Customized branding of personal sites (OneDrive for Business sites) is not supported. You can apply custom color schemes via Office 365 tenant-level branding settings. Note that this applies to the default modern experience of OneDrive for Business.
  • SharePoint Online portals must be considered a part of the overall Office 365 ecosystem. That's why every portal now has an Office 365 Suite Bar, and customizing it is not supported (see the section Office 365 Suite Bar).
  • When planning branding and the structure of your navigation components, it is important to follow the recommendations outlined in Navigation solutions for SharePoint Online portals.
  • When extending portal functionality via custom controls (web parts), it is important to follow the recommendations in Performance guidance for SharePoint Online portals.
  • There are significant differences between branding approaches for "classic" vs "modern" sites and pages. For information about "modern" sites and pages, see Customizing "modern" team sites and Customizing "modern" site pages.

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