The SharePoint App Bar is a new feature that will introduce a noticeable user interface (UI) change to SharePoint Online. 

Microsoft 365 is an evergreen environment with new services and features being constantly released. This allows users to take advantage of new capabilities as soon as they are available. This, however, means tenant administrators need to be aware of what is in the roadmap and understand the implications for your organisation.  

The SharePoint App Bar is currently in development and is due to be available in March 2021, with general release arriving shortly after this. Microsoft has documentation on the release profiles if you are unsure what these are. If you want to check your organisations release preferences you can check the admin center. 

SharePoint App Bar – what is it?

The SharePoint App Bar is a feature users have been requesting since the release of the modern experience in SharePoint Online. The App Bar is designed to provide a global interface for all users to help orientate them when browsing content in SharePoint Online, providing quick access to core navigation, sites, news and files.

The new navigation feature will be enabled by default in your organisation’s tenant, so if you are using the modern experience, end-users will see it straightawayAny legacy SharePoint classic sites, wiki pages or publishing pages will not display the new App Bar.

The SharePoint App Bar navigation shown below – left-hand side of a SharePoint page.

SharePoint Navbar – new features

Global navigation

The modern SharePoint interface has changed the way organisations structure content in SharePoint Online, moving from a traditional nested hierarchy to a flat structure. This has presented some challenges in providing a consistent set of links to users. Hub sites have supported these challenges by providing a virtual hierarchy with a common set of links, but this has its limitations.

Most organisations want a common set of links across SharePoint online, so that users can easily find important content such as policies, news and events. The SharePoint App Bar aims to solve this issue by enabling global navigation across SharePoint. Example global navigation tab shown here >

To utilise global navigation your organisation must first have a SharePoint home site. The home site is the location where SharePoint owners can configure what navigation options are shown in the navigation area.

When configuring the navigation options, you can use some of the new modern audience targeting features to hide or show links based on group membership to ensure users see the most relevant information.

My Sites

My Sites is specific to the user logged in and shows the sites they commonly access and are following, including sites which underpin Microsoft Teams. This provides users with personalised, relevant content and links to the useful resources they need for day-to-day activities. Example below:

My News

My News shows all the news stories relevant to the currently logged in user. It operates similar to the ‘Recommended for current user’ news source which is available when configuring a News web part. It uses Microsoft Graph to look for content which is relevant for the user. It is designed to ensure that content which is most relevant is brought to the top. Example below:

My Files

My Files provides a quick view for all recent files the user has been working on, powered by Microsoft Graph. A similar view is available in OneDrive and Microsoft Teams, keeping the user experience consistent on SharePoint App Bar. It enables quick access to the most important content users need from wherever they are. Example below:

These enhancements will make the new SharePoint App Bar an important tool to help employees find and quickly access important content. The release of this new feature provides an opportunity to review how your organisation uses SharePoint Online, what features you are using, how your sites are structured and how to get the best from communication sites, hub sites, home sites and the new SharePoint App Bar.

What does this mean for your organisation?

As the SharePoint App Bar will be enabled automatically, it is important for organisations to communicate this change by letting users know what the new feature is and what it means for them. You can decide to delay the introduction of this new feature by running a PowerShell command, however, this command will not stop the rollout of the new SharePoint App Bar, it will simply delay its introduction until later in 2021.

The best approach is to ensure you have an adoption and communication strategy in place for any upcoming changes. Incremental can help you develop an ongoing adoption and communication strategy, enabling full optimisation of every product update. Our consultants can review your current SharePoint Online environment and provide guidance on how to better use the solution and new features – get in touch today.