Modern SharePoint UI vs. Classic UI - When to migrate to the new UI?

Wow, SharePoint has a sexy new modern UI. Let's see just what's behind those rose-colored glasses. What’s available (for real) and what's coming soon.

By Cathy Dew

Understanding the Differences Between the Classic and Modern User Interfaces in SharePoint Online—from a SharePoint Document Library to Lists and Beyond

If your enterprise uses SharePoint Online and you’ve been paying attention over the past year or so, then you probably know that Microsoft has slowly been rolling out new updates to the user interface. This new user interface—called the “Modern UI” (short for Modern User Interface) —will eventually be the standard (and perhaps only) interface for SharePoint Online. For now, there are some features in SharePoint that aren’t supported by the Modern UI, as well as others (such as a SharePoint document library) that work beautifully with Modern UI.

Need help figuring out the sexy new Modern UI? Click here to get Your Free Downloadable Guide 

The big question, if you are using SharePoint Online, is whether you should migrate to Modern UI or stick with Classic UI for next year or so? On the one hand, the new interface offers a fresh and upgraded user experience for some key SharePoint features. On the other hand, support for Modern UI is not universal across SharePoint Online just yet. There are also still a few bugs or issues with some features—suggesting that Microsoft might still need 12 -18 months to perfect the interface.

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether to migrate over to Modern UI now or wait until Microsoft has had some time to iron out the kinks. If you need a little help making the decision, though, read on for an overview of the pros and cons of Modern UI migration at this particular moment in time.


The Pros: Updated SharePoint Document Libraries, Team Sites, and Lists

The pros to the Modern UI are the new interfaces and features it will bring to critical parts of your SharePoint intranet. Here’s a brief overview of the SharePoint features that currently support Modern UI, as well as a few features that are expected to get the Modern UI update soon:

  • Modern SharePoint Document Libraries: The biggest reason to migrate to Modern UI right now is for the new SharePoint document library interface. Document libraries were the first place that Microsoft introduced the Modern UI. Apparently, they’ve heard the criticisms from users about the functionality of document libraries compared to OneDrive. Subsequently, the SharePoint team sat down with the OneDrive team and started taking features of OneDrive and building them into SharePoint’s document libraries. That hybridization is at the core of the new document library interface, which allows for more customization, easier switching of views, better filtering/sorting of documents, and more. If you’ve used OneDrive before and preferred it to the Classic UI of SharePoint document libraries, then you will appreciate the Modern UI update.
  • Modern Team Sites: Modern team sites was just released on March 14th, and if you were an Office 365 First Release users you’ve had the ability to test drive this the new feature. The Modern UI has become the primary interface for these new team sites, when you set them up through Office 365. When you create a new Office 365 Group, you have the choice of Exchange Group, or the new Office365 Team Site with the Modern UI. Essentially, the benefit here is one of simplification. When you create an Office 365 Group and add people/admins to the group, you will have also created a SharePoint team site. You don’t have to go into SharePoint and set up the team site separately, which saves time, effort, and inconvenience.
  • Modern Lists: The Modern UI for lists within your SharePoint intranet is all about improved collaboration. With the modern list experience, it’s easier to edit lists, configure approvals and versioning, set up alerts, incorporate rich data types, and give users the privileges to add new columns and information. The Modern UI with lists was also built with mobile devices in mind and are therefore much easier to access and use on smartphones and tablets. In general, stronger mobile integration is a big part of the push behind SharePoint’s Modern UI.

The Cons: Missing Features, Bugs, and Other Shortcomings with Modern UI

SharePoint document libraries, team sites, and lists are areas in which Modern UI is already making a big splash for enterprises that use SharePoint Online. However, for now, many of the features of Modern UI are still to come. Indeed, the list of features not supported with Modern UI is quite lengthy and may be troubling for businesses that are considering migration.

This Microsoft support page, for instance, highlights all of the document library features that are still only available with Classic UI. Just two important features not supported yet with Modern UI include the embedding of custom actions in the ribbon of your SharePoint site and alternate CSS on publishing sites. Also, users have reported a few bugs or issues with Modern UI, such as display hiccups with global and left navigation.

Click To Tweet

If you use SharePoint Online, should you migrate to Modern UI or stick with Classic UI for now?

The Bottom Line

From what we’ve seen of Modern UI so far, the future is bright for SharePoint Online. Feature rollouts for the new user interface should continue throughout the year and possibly beyond. In other words, while Modern UI is attractive right now (at least in some regards), it’s only going to get better.

With that said, you might still consider migrating over if you make considerable use of a SharePoint document library, lists, or team sites. The new features for these parts of SharePoint significantly increase usability and efficiency and are worth the updates. Discover which version of user interfaces best fits your prefernce. Explore our latest blog series to learn about missing features from the Modern UI, Part 1 and Part 2 to see what both Modern and Classic UI can do for you.

If you are interested in migrating from Classic to Modern UI, the SharePoint experts at 2 Plus 2 can help. Go online to schedule a free consultation with our team or call 510-652-7700 today.

Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.
Send me great news