Hi, and welcome to my first blog post for SharePoint Solutions. I’m looking forward to meeting more of our students and clients in the coming weeks, but I thought I’d jump in and introduce myself through the blog. Today I want to talk about a basic topic that is nonetheless a little puzzling at first glance – the difference between the SharePoint Blank Site template and the Team Site template.
SharePoint Blank Site Template vs Team Site Template
You might be saying to yourself, “Well, that’s obvious; the Blank Site template is empty, while the Team Site template has some features already built out of the box.” That’s true, but the difference goes a little deeper; it can be a significant factor in which template you choose when creating a site collection or subsite.
As you probably know, SharePoint comes with a number of site templates available; the number depends on which edition of SharePoint you are running, but all editions have both the Blank template and the Team template. These templates also existed in previous versions of SharePoint. In the 2007 version and earlier, the Blank and Team templates were identical except for the fact that the Team template had a library and several lists already created and in place. In SharePoint 2010, however, that difference goes deeper.
One of the things we discuss in the class Introduction to SharePoint 2010 – Using SharePoint Foundation 2010 is the existence of three types of web pages in SharePoint: System pages, web part pages, and wiki pages. (In the course Introduction to SharePoint 2010 – Using SharePoint Server 2010 we also use a fourth type, publishing pages.)
In previous versions of SharePoint, the home page for all site templates was a web part page. You edited the home page by adding (or removing) web parts, including perhaps a Content Editor Web Part if you wanted a block of text, or an Image Web Part if you wanted a graphic. In SharePoint 2010, however, the home page of most web sites is a wiki page, and it is stored in a new type of library called Site Pages. These sites also have a library called Site Assets, where files like images for the wiki pages are stored.
The Team Site template is one of the templates that uses the wiki page as a home page. Because of this, you can easily edit the page right in the browser. When you go into Edit mode, you can delete the default text and add new text, just as you would in a word processor. You can add images, tables, and other elements. You also have a number of options for formatting text and changing the page layout, all with tools that appear in the contextual ribbon. This is a WYSIWYG interface that we are all used to in the modern computing world – what you see is what you get, and you can touch and change what you see directly.
In the Blank Site template, though, the home page functions like home pages in previous versions of SharePoint. You must use Web Parts for adding any content, including text and images. On a Blank site, the Site Pages and Site Assets libraries don’t exist. If you want a wiki page for the home page (or any other site content), you have to create the two libraries and the page from scratch, then create a new wiki page and flag it as the new default for the site if desired. Even if you don’t need to change the type of page for the home page, you still have to create the Site Pages and Site Assets libraries (or equivalents) if you want to create any other wiki pages for the site, because pages need to be stored in a library.
So, when should you choose the Blank Site template, and when should you choose the Team Site? My general rule of thumb is that I usually use the Blank Site only if I know that none of the usual Team lists are going to be needed (i.e., Calendar, Announcements) and that having a web part page instead of a wiki page will be acceptable. In these cases the content of the site is often planned to be highly customized by an experienced site owner or developer. Otherwise, I’ll just start with a Team site and just delete or hide those lists and libraries that won’t be used. That’s easier and faster than starting with the Blank Site and building out the wiki pages and associated library if they are desired.
In my role as a SharePoint administrator and consultant, I usually created sites for others to manage. Many of these site owners were new to SharePoint, or at least new to managing a SharePoint site. It was helpful for them to have some elements already in place so they could start to see the range of tools that SharePoint has. Being able to edit the home page without learning the intricacies of Content Editor Web Parts and Image Web Parts was helpful, too. This greatly reduced the learning curve for them and helped them get up and running more quickly.
You can get hands-on experience with site templates in a number of our SharePoint 2010 training classes and SharePoint 2013 training classes, including developing custom templates in Designing Document Management and Records Management Systems in SharePoint 2010.