What is the modern SharePoint experience? Key benefits explained

SharePoint Modern Series

Each time I talk at a conference, a user group or a SharePoint Saturday, I mention the Modern SharePoint Experience. I can’t emphasize enough how important it has been for Microsoft’s collaboration platform. It’s truly saving SharePoint from a dark and dystopian future – like Microsoft has brought it back to life!

Other posts by Jasper about the modern SharePoint experience:

We tend to forget this because it’s been a few years since the introduction of Modern SharePoint – May 2016 to be precise. Because of this, I think it’s important to take a step back and remember the old SharePoint days once in a while.

I remember a time when we couldn’t even download multiple documents at once – we had to install a custom app from the SharePoint Store. Let’s just say I don’t really miss those days.

But let’s not dwell on that for too long!

All this to say that it puts our work relationship with SharePoint into perspective. That’s what I’ll be discussing in this first part of a series on the Modern SharePoint Experience.I hope you enjoy them!

The Transformation from Classic to Modern

The introduction of the Modern SharePoint Experience was, in my eyes, inevitable. The last time Microsoft brought us a new experience was with the introduction of SharePoint 2013, which dates to 2012. It was simply time for a change. But it’s human nature to like new and shiny things—so we were ready for a new experience after just three years.

Let’s not forget how rapidly our world changed with the rise of cloud services such as Dropbox and Slack. These tools were easier to use, received continuous updates, and were ready for the mobile era. Cloud services made our work lives easier, more fun, and efficient. SharePoint couldn’t keep up with those changes coming from the outside.

We were also at a time when mobility was becoming a crucial part of our work routine—everyone had a smartphone or a tablet. Working with these devices in combination with SharePoint was a poor experience, to say the least.

I’ll take it even further—let’s be honest, the user experience was horrible. Making SharePoint work on a mobile device required 3rd party apps or a ton of custom development, resulting in high costs, frustration, and delayed projects.

Executing the simplest of actions took a ton of clicks. Just look at the following example:

old sharepoint user experience

I’m speechless when I look at this screenshot.

Oh my. Instead of applying a “Big Bang” for the introduction of a new experience, Microsoft started slowly, and first introduced a new experience for OneDrive for Business:

modern experience

After OneDrive for Business, Microsoft moved on to Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) Group Document Libraries (back then it didn’t come with a fully connected SharePoint Team Site). This gave the product team time to review the usage and prepare for the launch within SharePoint Team Sites.

I really like how Microsoft didn’t force the new experience onto each company—we were able to try out the new experience before it became the default:

try out new experiences

This gave organizations, and the community, time to review the new experience and provide feedback. Microsoft listened, and kept updating the Modern Experience based on the feedback received.

They started rolling out the Modern SharePoint Experience to the new SharePoint Home Page, SharePoint Lists & Pages, Team Site, and finally Communication Sites.

Business Benefits of the Modern Experience

Since the introduction of the Modern SharePoint experience, I’ve been a huge fan, mostly because of the benefits it offers for businesses worldwide.

First, the user experience is easy to understand—truly user-friendly. One of the main improvements, one that really helps with user adoption, is the execution of tasks within the context of the browser session. For example:

execute tasks new experience

You can change the Document Library view without going into the settings of the Library, so you can immediately see the results of the changes. That’s fantastic because it saves a lot of time.

I really noticed the difference between Classic and Modern SharePoint Experiences in my training sessions. Business users needed fewer instructions, because the experience was self-explanatory. Because of this, we were able to reduce the amount of training time given. This made our adoption process, through an adoption playbook, more successful. We are dedicating an article to adopting the Modern Experience very soon. Stay tuned!

Although the usability changes were great, the biggest improvement was, of course, the introduction of the Microsoft SharePoint Mobile App!

Microsoft really stepped up their game and created their own SharePoint App for iOS and Android. This was great news because we don’t need to buy 3rd party apps anymore. The app they created decreases the need to create custom designs to make SharePoint workable on mobile devices. We were finally able to easily access our favourite SharePoint Intranet Portals from our mobile devices. I’ll discuss a little more the SharePoint App in a future article.

The introduction of the new SharePoint Start page, accessible through the Microsoft 365 (Office 365) App Launcher, brought a new self-service element to the creation of Team or Communication Sites:

self service creation page

This allows IT administrators to facilitate self-service site creation to (a selection of) end-users. Due to the fact SharePoint Online is hosted by Microsoft, we don’t need to worry about the SharePoint architecture, relieving us from the SharePoint Site Collection struggles. There is basically no limitation anymore, and subsites are part of the past. Administrators can shift their attention to what’s really important: Providing business benefits for their end-users by using SharePoint Online. It will make their work lives easier, more efficient and fun!

Moving from Classic to Modern

The business benefits speak for themselves. That said, moving away from classic to modern requires a plan of approach. Here are my recommendations:

  • Learn about the differences between classic and modern
  • Review your adoption playbook & materials
  • Review your governance strategy & plan

Learn about the differences between classic and modern

The modern experience applies to the following SharePoint components:

  • Document Libraries
  • Lists
  • Pages
  • Team Site
  • Publishing Site
  • Search

You need to be aware of the differences between classic and modern of all these components. There are still some feature gaps between the experiences. These are relevant towards any customization you might be using or 3rd party apps you acquired, and something we’ll discuss in detail in follow-up articles.

Review your Adoption Playbook & Materials

You have an adoption playbook and materials? Awesome! Now it’s time to get to work because the Modern Experience contains new features and design, so you’ll need to integrate those changes to your materials. The Modern Experience is also part of the Microsoft 365 update cycle, meaning monthly updates, which should be incorporated in your playbook. More about this topic in a future article.

Review your Governance Strategy & Plan

You don’t have a governance strategy and plan? Finish reading this article and start immediately! Governance is aimed at maintaining the quality of your Modern Workplace and the introduction of Modern SharePoint Experiences will come with some challenges.

For example: A new permission model was introduced for Team & Communication Sites, and the Team Site is connected to an Microsoft 365 Group. These two types of sites change the demand that we review and adapt our current governance strategy. Another important change impacting governance is the integration of Flow and PowerApps with SharePoint Lists & libraries. Without any control, end-users can create business workflows and mobile apps. We will be discussing more in future articles.


I always wonder—how long are we going to keep talking about the Modern SharePoint Experience? It was introduced in May 2016! That’s over two years ago. Eventually, we’ll have to stop calling it Modern and just call it what it is: the SharePoint Experience.

That said, we’ll probably keep using the term until the Classic Experience is fully deprecated. Mark my words: That day is inevitable. SharePoint Classic isn’t going to be around forever, I advise all companies to move, or start using, the Modern SharePoint Experience as soon as possible. The shortcomings have been reduced to such a level, the need for Classic SharePoint is almost gone. The advantages of mobiles, the ease of use it offers, and the SharePoint quick roll-out ensure businesses worldwide can benefit from the power of SharePoint within weeks rather than months.

The full journey of Modern SharePoint experience is here. Keep an eye out for the following, upcoming, articles:

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