Your Office 365 account includes a public-facing website that you can use to create a professional online presence for your business or organization. This article will help you understand the Public Website, how to use it, and how to customize it to meet the needs of your business. Watch the video below for a quick demo. The rest of this article appears below the video.
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About the Public Website
The Public Website in Office 365 is part of SharePoint Online, and it can be customized using many of the same tools and techniques used to customize any SharePoint-based website. The website itself is a standalone SharePoint site collection, similar to the Team Site collection. There is only one public website, and you cannot create additional public websites or subsites under the website in Office 365.
The Public Website includes a rich set of features that you use to customize and design your site. You can add and edit web pages, images, videos, custom applications, and more. All of this can be done using just your web browser – there are no third party editors or client programs required. If you decide you want to create a completely new design from scratch, you can do that too using the Design Manager, an advanced site design tool included with the Public Website.
When you finish customizing your website, you can apply your own custom domain to it, for example, www.yourcompany.com. Your customers and partners, as a result, can easily find you online and learn about your products or services. It’s also a powerful way to promote your business online and promote the address on your business cards, letter head, local advertisements, and so on.
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Getting to the Public Website
Once you sign into Office 365, you can quickly preview and start customizing your website. By default, the website is hidden from the public so that your visitors and customers don’t see a website that is under construction. As the owner of your website, you can still work on it and even invite designers to the site to help you work on it.
To get to your website, choose Public Website from the Admin Getting Started homepage. Alternatively, just click Sites from the Office 365 navigation bar at the top of the page. From there, choose Public Website. Initially, your website will look like this. For more information on getting to your site, including how to get to an existing Office 365 public website if you have one, see Edit your public website.
Another way to reach the public website is to open it directly from the Internet by entering the default website address in a web browser and then signing in. The default website address in Office 365 is your account name, followed by –public, followed by .sharepoint.com. So if your account name is “Contoso,” your default website address is “contoso-public.sharepoint.com.” Just enter this into a web browser, and you’ll see your website.
You can now start customizing the site using the website editor. When you finish customizing your website and you’re ready for your customers and partners to see it, you can share the site with them individually and even allow them to contribute to the website itself. When finished with this stage, you can add a custom domain name like “contoso.com,” which is a lot easier to remember for your customers and visitors, and it reflects your business brand.
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Getting around the Public Website
The first thing everyone likes to do with a new website is poke around and see what’s already on the site. If you click around your site, you’ll find a handful of sample pages – Home, About Us, Contact Us, Directions, and Blog. These are the essential pages on most websites so you’ll probably want to keep these. But as you click through these pages, you’ll find there is minimal text and images that you’ll want to replace with your own. After that, you’ll probably want to add new pages as required for your business, such as Products, Services, or Events.
But first, to learn what you can do with your website and the different ways to customize your website, click the Page tab. This displays the editing capabilities on the website so you can edit, manage, share, and publish individual pages. You also see a Site tab for editing at the site level, such as changing your site’s title, logo, and background.
If you click Edit from the Page tab, you’ll see additional page editing options, like formatting and positioning text as shown here.
From the Page tab, you see options to ad pages, change the page layout, edit page properties, and so on. On the Insert tab, you can add and embed images, tables, videos, custom applications, and more.
To access more settings for the website, click the Settings icon in the upper right corner of the page. This opens a menu where you can access some of the same settings above and in addition, add new apps, watch the Getting Started video, and access the Site Settings page for more options.
From the Site Settings page, you can access the site collection settings, the web design galleries, the Design Manager, and more. To return to one of your web pages, click any of the navigation links on your site, like Home, About Us, or Directions. Click the Page tab to resume editing your site. When finished, click Save. To make your changes live to other users of the site or the public (if the website is online), click Save and Publish.
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What’s new in the Public Website
Compared to the existing public website in Office 365, the new public website has been completely redesigned with new themes, apps, advanced design features, and more. The new Public Website includes the following improvements.
|New website themes and looks
||Over 40 new composed looks available to your website (see Change the look of your website).
|Change backgrounds, colors, fonts
||For each theme, you can change the background, fonts, colors, site layout, and more (see Change the look of your website).
||Publishing page management with draft editing, versioning, rollbacks, and more (see Add and edit pages on your public website).
|New page layouts
||New page layouts available to each page on the website (see Change the layout of a web page).
|Edit navigation links
||Easily add links, drag and drop, create link hierarchies, and more (see Customize the navigation on your website).
|Insert objects on the page
||Use the new built-in features, like Add maps and Embed video.
|Apps from the SharePoint store
||Add apps from the SharePoint Store, like the Contact Us, Social Media, and Web Analytics apps.
||Use the new blog with blog post management features, social media commenting, and more (see Manage your website blog).
|Search engine optimization
||Take advantage of the new friendly page URLs on your website and improve your search ranking with SEO (see Optimize your website for search).
||Use the new site elements for header and footer information on your website.
|New Style Sheets
||Open the new Style Sheet editor and use the sample CSS provided or add your own style sheets.
||For advanced website design or to create a new design from scratch, use Design Manager, which is available to your new public website. Also see Overview of Design Manager in SharePoint 2013.
If you already have an existing Office 365 public website, upgrade your public website so that you can use the improved design tools.
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Customizing the Public Website
You can customize the public website yourself or invite a web design professional to help you. The Public Website in Office 365 lets you do both and requires no third-party editors to customize the site because everything can be done with just your web browser as shown here.
In the following sections, you’ll learn about basic page customization, customizing the overall look and feel, and changing the design itself.
Add and customize pages
It’s important that your website contains useful and descriptive information so that your site visitors can learn about you at their convenience. At the very least, you need to tell your visitors and potential customers who you are, what you offer, and how they can reach you. This is why the default web pages on the Public Website are Home, About Us, Contact Us, Directions, and Blog. You can stick with these at first and update them. Then think about new web pages that could add value to your business, like Products, Services, Photo Gallery, or Schedule.
Here are the types of tasks you’ll perform when customizing pages:
Add new pages – To add new pages, click the Page tab and choose New. Give the page a name and click Create. Once you create the page you can start customizing it right away or repeat these steps to create more pages. To change the location of the page in the site navigation, choose Edit Links as described below.
Edit pages – To edit pages, click the Page tab and choose Edit. Just place your cursor in the Page Content box and start adding text, images, hyperlinks, and so on. On the Format Text tab, you can work with your text as if you were in a word processing program. On the Insert tab, you can add links, tables, images, video, and Web Parts that enrich your site. From the Page tab, you can also change the properties of the page, preview the page, change the page layout, and more
Save and publish pages – When you’re finished customizing pages, you’re ready to save them as drafts or publish them. To save a page as a draft that only you and other authenticated authors can see, choose Save. To publish the page so that all users, including the general public (if the website is online), choose Save and Publish. If on the other hand, you want to hide the last changes to a page, you can Unpublish the page, which you do from the Pages library. This is useful if you discover an error or potential liability in that version of the page.
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Change the look and feel
Just as important as the content on your website, the look and feel of your website conveys who you are and gives your business a professional look. You customize your site’s look and feel using the options on the Site tab, the Edit Links feature, and the Settings menu. By using these features, you can change your site title, logo, background, theme, and more. You might choose to customize the look and feel first before you create and edit pages. Or, create your pages first and then start with the look and feel. Or, just keep adjusting the two as you work on the website.
Here are the types of tasks you’ll perform when changing the look and feel:
Change the look and background – One of the biggest changes you can make to your site is changing the look and the background. The look includes the layout, color scheme, fonts, and more, and the background is the picture or art behind the page content. You can change both from the Site tab. Just click Change the Look and choose the design you want for your site. Once you select a design, choose a background, color scheme, layout, and font. To see what it will look like on your site, click Try it out. On the preview page, choose Yes, keep it to apply the look to your site or No, not quite there to keep trying out other looks.
Change the site navigation – Once you start adding pages to your site, you need to think how the links to those pages should appear and be organized on the site. To change the location of the navigation links, click Edit Links on the top or the left side of the website. Then drag the link to the new location in the navigation. To make a link appear in a submenu, drag the link onto another link instead of the main navigation. To remove a link, click the X that appears beside the link.
Change the title, logo and page elements – One of the first changes you’ll make to personalize your site is changing the title and logo, which you do from the Site tab. Click Edit Title, add your own title and description and click OK. To change the logo, click Edit Logo then choose From Computer or From SharePoint and browse to the image you want to use as your site logo. Then add a description. In addition to the title and logo, you can change common elements in the head, sidebar, and footer. Click Edit Site Elements to see the elements you can change on the page. This type of customization adds your business brand to your website.
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Customize the site design
So far, you’ve seen how to customize the public website using built-in features, designs, colors, and more. But what if you want to customize the site beyond what’s available in the website editor? For this, you have several options, described here from simplest to more complex.
Here are the types of tasks you’ll perform when customizing the site design itself:
Apply custom CSS – A powerful way to customize your site design is to use your own Cascading Style Sheet (CSS). Using CSS, you can apply your own design to your existing website design and override many of the default settings. For example, you might use CSS to create a unique navigation experience with custom icons, submenu positioning, and interactivity. To use your own CSS, go to the Site tab and choose Edit Style Sheet. You will, of course, need to develop your custom CSS on your own.
Customize the site in Design Manager – Design Manager is a separate set of tools that you can use to completely change your site design or create a new design. You can create designs from scratch and apply them to your site or package them up for other websites. Design Manager lets you create a custom look and feel, layouts, mobile channels, and more. You can start with a pure HTML file and turn it into a new look for the public website. This is one way to turn an existing website design into an Office 365 Public Website.
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Get feedback, make the site public, add a domain
When you finish customizing your website, you may want to invite people to your site to review it or make changes to it. Then, when ready, make the website public so that it can be seen on the Internet. Finally, to make it easy to find and remember your website for your customers, visitors, and more, add a custom domain name and start promoting your new website.
Here are the final tasks you’ll perform on the Public Website:
Share the site with specific people – If you like, you can share the website with others to get their feedback and even let them make changes to the site before making the site public. To share the site, choose Share, enter their name or email address, type a message for them, and under Show Options, choose the type of access they should have to the site (reader, designer, etc.). Then choose Share. These users will have access to the site even though the site still cannot be viewed on the Internet. Once you’ve collected their feedback or additions to the site, you might remove them before making the website public.
Make Website Online – When you’re all finished customizing the site, you’re ready to make the website public so that it can be seen on the Internet. This means that everyone, including anonymous users can see your website. You can make your website public, or online, from your website or from the Office 365 Admin page. From the website, click Website Offline (the current status of the site) and then choose Make Website Online. If you have any pages that are still in a draft state, you’ll be prompted to publish them. The website can now be seen by everyone.
Add a custom domain – Even though your web pages are published and the website is online, people may not be able to find your website at the current default domain name provided by Office365, which looks something like, http://yourcompany-public.sharepoint.com (where yourcompany is the name of your Office 365 account). To make your website easier to find, easier to remember, and easier to associate with your business, add a custom domain like www.yourcompany.com to your website and Office 365. This process starts by purchasing a domain name and then associating it with your website or redirecting a domain name you already own to your new website. These steps are performed on the Office 365 Admin pages.
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Using the website design tools in Office 365, you can create a professional online presence for your business or organization and then build your site by promoting your products, making the site interactive, using social media, and much more. With little effort, you can create a site like the Contoso Bistro example shown in the video Get started with the Public Website. Learn more on the Office365 website.
See Public Website help for Office 365.
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