Plan the Public Website

Your Office 365 subscription may include a website that you can make available on the Internet. You can customize the Public Website to create a professional online presence for your business or organization.

Note   The SharePoint Online Public Website information in this article only applies if your organization purchased Office 365 prior to March 9, 2015. If you purchased Office 365 after March 9, 2015, use an Office 365 website hosting partner.

Before you take your website online, it’s a good idea to do some up-front planning to make sure that things go smoothly.

Screenshot of the default Home page of a Public Website in SharePoint Online

The Public Website includes several sample pages: Home, About Us, Contact Us, Directions, and Blog. These pages are ready for you to customize - add your company name, and contact information, change the color scheme, and so on.
Drawing that highlights the default pages in a Public Website on SharePoint Online
You can open the website and explore these pages right away – just open the SharePoint admin center and you’ll find the Public Website listed with the site collections.

At first, for Office 365 customers, the Public Website is offline. This lets you take care of all the customization before you make the website available to everyone on the Internet. You can change the web address to a custom domain. And, you can make your Public Website look and function exactly as you want it to. For example, you can make sure that the site design, colors, and images reflect your company brand. You can invite the right people to help you design the website, share the design for approval, and test the functionality, all before it is available on the Internet. Then, when you think it is ready, you can make it appear online.

Deciding what to include on your Public Website is an important part of the planning process. It’s important for your customers and site visitors to have the right information about your organization and the services you provides. You might want contact information for your company, videos and photos of your products and services, or a map that shows your office location.

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More about planning a Public Website

Plan to customize the Public Website

Plan to use a custom domain

Next Steps

Plan to customize the Public Website

You can customize the Public Website yourself, or you can invite a design professional to help you. You can even combine these methods. Even if you lack web design experience, the website editor can help you quickly get results. Your website includes predefined composed looks that you can just select. A powerful text editor lets you control fonts and paragraphs, and you can add images, maps, videos, and so on.

For step-by-step guidance on how to create and customize a Public Website, see Get started with the Public Website.

Explore the website environment

The tools and tabs in the website editor can help you design and customize pages. There are three main tabs, which are always visible, and one contextual tab, which appears when you edit an image. Each tab has options relevant to a set of tasks:
Screenshot of the default tabs for customizing a Public Website on SharePoint Online

  • The Browse tab overlays the other tabs and allows an unobstructed view of the page.

  • The Page tab contains buttons that let you edit a page, its layout, and elements on the page. For example, the buttons that control the size and position of text are on this tab. When you edit a Page, an additional Insert tab with buttons lets you insert images, videos, hyperlinks, or custom applications.

The Site tab has buttons for editing at a site or a page level, such as changing the website title, logo, and background.

Explore your options

Before you start to customize your Public Website, it's a good idea to decide how you want to answer some core questions:

  • Who is your audience? The less web-savvy your audience is, the more careful your plans have to be

  • Do you want the website to be accessible for people with disabilities?

  • What do you want to achieve with your website? Do you just want to provide contact information and driving directions to your office, or do you want to sell products from the site?

  • How big is the website? Will you have many pages that people can visit? What about image and video files? These files can be very large, and you might have to check storage limits on the site.

  • What kind of navigation, theme, style, and color scheme best matches your organization’s branding?

  • Do you want to add maps, videos, and so on?

  • Will you use any customized web parts, code, or apps on your site?

Some planning questions may not be obvious until you start to work with your site. Because the Public Website helps simplify the design process, it’s easy to explore different ideas.

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Plan to use a custom domain

You can change the website address (the URL) for your Public Website. You can change it from the default address to a custom domain, or change it from one domain name to another.

Using a custom domain name makes your website easier to remember, easier to find, and easier to associate with your business. For example, if you have a restaurant called Contoso Bistro, your website address could be http://www.contosobistro.com. Your email addresses can use the custom domain, too, such as: AnnaL@contosobistro.com.

Screenshot of the website address section of a Public Website on SharePoint Online. This address uses a custom domain, ContosoBistro.com

There are several important steps to take to make sure that your custom domain works with SharePoint Online:

  • You must own the domain name    Your organization must have purchased the domain name and it must be registered with a domain registrar.

  • Add the domain to Office 365 and set up the DNS records    When you sign up for services in Office 365, you'll be able to specify the domain name you want to use for the services that you purchase. If you want to also use the custom name for e-mail (Exchange Online) and messaging (Lync Online), you can set this up at the beginning.
    To learn how to use a custom domain for Exchange, Lync, and SharePoint Online, see Use SharePoint Online on a custom domain together with other services.
    To learn how to use a custom domain for only SharePoint Online, see Use a custom domain for the SharePoint Online Public Website address.

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Next Steps

Set up a Public Website

Work with your two Office 365 Public Websites

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Return to SharePoint Online Planning Guide for Office 365 for business

Applies To: SharePoint Online



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