New SharePoint App Bar and Global Navigation

Ashley Jolman, CSM

November 8, 2021

Providing access to organization-wide content can be difficult on SharePoint. Each site has its completely separate navigation, until now! The recently launched App Bar provides seamless access to other sites, relevant news, or recent files, from anywhere in SharePoint.

Intro 

The recently-launched App bar provides users with a consistent navigation experience to important content in SharePoint. The app bar appears as a sidebar on all SharePoint pages and gives access to sites, news, and files relevant to the current user. You can even configure a custom global navigation, or have the global navigation be sourced from your hub site navigation. Today we’ll look at what the app bar does and how it can be configured. 

The App Bar 

By default, the app bar now appears on the left side of your window while on every SharePoint page. It does not display for external guest users outside of your organization. The main purpose of the app bar is to allow the user to navigate to relevant content quickly and easily. Specifically, news, sites, and files personalized to the user are displayed in the app bar. This personalized experience is driven by artificial intelligence that tries to determine what content is most relevant to the user.  

The app bar contains 4 items:  

  1. Home icon  
  2. My Sites 
  3. My News: This shows recommended news posts based on what was published to the sites you have access to. 
  4. My Files: Displays a list of recently accessed files 

The only item that can be customized is the home button, the other buttons are fixed. 

Home Icon (Global Navigation) 

The home icon defaults to a link to your SharePoint Start Page (the same page you are brought to if you were to hit the SharePoint link from the O365 app launcher). 

Global navigation can be enabled for this icon and the logo, title, and source can be configured by your administrator according to your organization’s desires. For us, we’ve set this up as our company logo, and it links to our intranet. Our global navigation is set up to mirror our intranet’s hub site navigation. 

My Sites 

The My Sites icon shows the sites you frequently access, as well as the sites you follow. Follow more sites by simply clicking the star while visiting a site, and then you’ll have the benefit of being able to quickly access them from anywhere in SharePoint with this icon. 

My News 

The news icon shows recommended news posts from Communication sites to which the user has access.  A personalized news feed is displayed, curated with a priority on Organization news and sites the user frequents. 

Files 

The Files icon displays the recent files the user accessed from either SharePoint or OneDrive. 

Customizing the Home Icon to be Global Navigation 

The home icon is the only part of the App Bar that can be customized. You can convert this icon into global navigation. This navigation can be sourced from a specific site, or fully custom, depending on how you set it up.  Below we’ll explain the possible sources for navigation and how to set them up. 

Steps to Configure Global Navigation 

First, enable global navigation by going to the settings menu (if you’re a site owner), and switch the toggle button: 

Once enabled, you’ll have three additional customization options. This is where you can add your logo, a title, and select the navigation source. These are all optional. 

There are three sources for navigation: Home site, hub, or global navigation.  

  1. The home site navigation will allow the local site navigation to serve as the source of links. You can use the local site navigation of any site, so this source works whether you have a home site configured or not. 
  2. Hub navigation is for when you registered the home site as a hub and set up hub navigation. In that case, the hub site navigation serves as your set of links on the global navigation in the app bar. 

3. Global navigation is available as an option for when you don’t have a site registered as the hub and do not want to use a local site’s navigation. You can build the custom navigation links by clicking the ‘edit global navigation link.’ This navigation option is built independently of the hub or local navigations you already have. 

Make sure to save your selections, and then you’re all set! It will take a few minutes to propagate.  

Once this is set up, any changes you make to the navigation in your SharePoint site will be reflected in the global navigation in the app bar. Unless you edited a custom global navigation, that will need to be updated manually as needed. 

Other Notes 

  • The SharePoint app bar tabs cannot be disabled 
  • The app bar is not available on classic SharePoint sites. Microsoft has announced that in the future, administrators will be able to add it to classic sites.  
  • Organizations can temporarily disable the app bar on their SharePoint sites. I say temporary because as of October 2021, it will no longer be possible to disable it. 

The Downside 

One negative I’ve encountered is with doubling up menus. This is the case if you’ve established the home icon on the app bar to provide hub site navigation (which makes the most sense in a lot of cases). If your home site is a hub site and you have already configured a mega menu, you now have the same menu at both the top and left sides of your site. Note, this is not an issue if you are on a site that is not within your hub.  

Another potential issue is that the color on the app bar isn’t customizable, this could cause distress for some users who have spent long hours on the perfect look and feel of their intranet! 

Conclusion 

The SharePoint app bar was created to provide an improved user experience by providing global navigation and by displaying frequently accessed content personalized to the user. Overall, I am excited about this release and think it will be very valuable for both us and our clients. I love the personalized content available with just a click from anywhere in SharePoint. Since we have our home icon set up to link to our intranet, it’s a pleasant change to have that just a click away. I look forward to the convenience the app bar brings. 

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