The Missing Features of SharePoint's Modern UI, Part 2

More to know on SharePoint's Modern UI missing features and what the differences really are between SharePoint Modern UI and Classic UI.

By Cathy Dew

Earlier this year, we looked at SharePoint Online’s brand new “Modern UI,” shining a light on some of the pros and cons of updating to the fresh user interface. On the plus side, we talked about how the new SharePoint UI had brought some lovely improvements to SharePoint document libraries, team sites, and lists. However, we also mentioned that SharePoint UI was still missing a lot of the features that companies may have come to rely upon while using Classic UI.

Five months later...

The new SharePoint UI design is still missing many features. The question is, will the lack of these features be a deal breaker for your enterprise? Or should you update now to enjoy the improvements that Modern UI has made over Classic UI?

In this second half of our two-part series, we’ll delve into a few more of the feature differences between the Classic and Modern UIs. In Part One, we discussed JavaScript Injection, Theming, and supported Web Parts. Today we’ll cover Document Libraries, your SharePoint root site, team sites, and integration with Flow and Power Apps.

We’re here to help

With these articles, we’ve tried to formulate a list of some of the important features that have yet to make their way to the new user interface. Hopefully, you’ll be able to use this information to decide whether to update now or wait until Modern UI establishes itself more.

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Here's how to decide whether to update now or wait a bit on SharePoint's Modern UI. #modernui

Document Libraries

Document libraries were the first place in SharePoint Online where Microsoft unveiled the Modern user interface. Indeed, in our first blog post about Modern UI, we said that the new document library interface was the top reason to make the switch from Classic. By incorporating features and ideas from OneDrive, Microsoft built a document library experience that is, on many levels, easier to use. Among other things, the Modern document libraries provide easier switching of views and better filtering features, making file discovery simpler.

Metadata Navigation is still missing

If there is one drawback to the document library interface in Modern UI, it’s that they still don’t support Metadata Navigation. For a good reason, this fact alone will be a deal breaker for some enterprises. If you have huge document libraries with complex content types and term store metadata, then you need Metadata Navigation, plain and simple. If you have simpler libraries with fewer documents and less complexity, you might be able to get away with Modern UI’s more vanilla setup.

SharePoint Root Site

SharePoint root sites in Modern UI have a few weaknesses. You can’t apply a Communications Template, you need to have Publishing Infrastructure activated to enjoy the best features, and you must be a First Release tenant. What this means is your branding will be different for the root site versus all your other site collections and sub-sites.

Is the First Release program right for you?

Ultimately, if your choice to update to Modern UI hinges upon root site management, all you need to ask yourself is whether you are okay being in the First Release program. With First Release, you get the latest Office 365 updates earlier than Standard Release tenants. This setup can be great if you are always chomping at the bit to test out the latest features. The drawback is that you have a lot less time and notice to prepare for changes. In First Release, it’s sometimes easy to be blindsided by new updates.

Team Sites

Like document libraries, team sites have been among the most praised features of SharePoint’s new Modern user interface. However, just because team sites have become a bit more convenient and easier to create with the new SharePoint UI doesn’t mean they don’t have their disadvantages.

Group sites are great! And really bad

The big perk of team sites in Modern UI is also the largest source of irritation. Microsoft has set things up so that when you create a Group in Office 365, you also automatically create a team site in SharePoint. The problem is that you can only manage Modern team sites through Office 365 Admin, instead of managing them in SharePoint itself. If you want to add admins or group members to a team site, you need to do it through Office 365.

A similar system exists with MS Teams and Yammer Public Groups. Just like when you create an Office 365 Group, creating a new MS Team or Yammer Public Group results in the automatic creation of a Modern UI Team Site. At least for the moment, though, Microsoft says these sites have “the same limitations as an Office 365 Group.”

Getting around the admin

This arrangement isn’t that big of a deal by itself. It takes some getting used to, and it can be convenient if you have an Office 365 Group and want that group to have its own SharePoint team site. The problem is that Office 365 Groups are still lacking some of the features you might expect from your team site. Most crucially, Office 365 Groups does not currently support workflow features. In other words, if you want to set up a workflow for a team project, you can’t do it within a modern team site.

(For the record, Microsoft says it is working on a feature that will give users the ability to manage Office 365 connected team sites via the SharePoint home page.)

Counterpoint: The Arrival of Flow and PowerApps

As you can see, the SharePoint Modern UI experience still lacks many of the features that were popular in the Classic UI. However, it’s important to note that Microsoft has also added a few new features to the Modern interface.

Last year, Microsoft introduced two brand new tools to their ecosystem: Microsoft Flow and Microsoft PowerApps. Flow allows for automation of repetitive business tasks, while PowerApps allows business to build apps (without coding) that connect to external cloud services and data sources. These two tools also integrate with one another, for extra efficiency.

Both tools are supported by SharePoint’s Modern UI and are usable in Modern libraries and lists. If you have been waiting to try out Flow or PowerApps, their presence in Modern UI might sway you towards an update.

Get Help with Your Decision from 2Plus2

Still not sure whether Classic UI or Modern UI is right for your enterprise? At 2Plus2, our team of SharePoint consultants would be happy to discuss your situation further. By hearing a bit more about your business and how you use SharePoint, we can give you tailored advice on whether you should update to Modern UI now or wait a few more months. Call us at 510-652-7700 to schedule a free consultation today. 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.
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