Websites in SharePoint Online and SharePoint Server

The Public Website in SharePoint Online – which is part of Office 365 – can be used to quickly and easily create a professional online presence for your business or organization. The website is ideal for small and midsize businesses because it contains simple design tools to create and maintain a website on the Internet. If, on the other hand, you have much larger or complex website needs, such as web content management, multilingual sites, or online commerce, you should consider an Internet Publishing Site in SharePoint Server.

This article describes the Public Website in SharePoint Online and compares it to an Internet Publishing Site in SharePoint Server 2013 to help you understand the differences and choose the right platform for your business or organization.

In this article

What is the Public Website

The Public Website in SharePoint Online is a hosted site that can be customized using just a web browser. Once you sign into Office 365, you can immediately add and edit pages, change the site theme, optimize the site for SEO, add social media apps, and much more. You can even use advanced site design features like Design Manager to create a custom design from scratch. When finished, you can make the website public and then add a custom domain name (for example, It’s a great way to quickly and easily create a website without having to know how to edit HTML, upload pages, or build website features. See Get started with the Public Website.

If you look at the Office 365 service, you’ll see Public Website listed as one of the available features, along with hosted email, file sharing, web and mobile apps, and more. The website is a SharePoint Online site collection and it’s available in Office 365 for Small Business, Office 365 for Midsize Business, and Office 365 for Enterprise. See Compare Office 365 for business plans.

Learn more about what you can do in Public Website help for Office 365.

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What’s new in the Public Website

The Public Website in Office 365 includes several new features that help you create a professional website for your business or organization.

Feature Description
Design features New website customization options, including a new Site tab, composed looks, social media, website blog, publishing features, Design Manager, and much more.
Management features New site management features to manage permissions, storage, SEO, search reports, design galleries, make the website public, change its web address, and more.
App marketplace Browse, install, and manage the use of apps from the SharePoint Marketplace.
Friendly URLs Friendly URLs are now applied to the web pages on the Public Website. For example, the Contact Us page might look like
Search Engine Optimization Using new SEO features, you can improve the appearance and ranking of your public website in search engines like Bing and Google.
Domain names Using the new domain features in Office 365, you can add, update, and remove custom domain names applied to the Public Website.

Learn more about upgrading an existing public website to the latest website in Upgrade your public website.

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SharePoint Server Internet Publishing Site

In addition to the SharePoint Online Public Website, there’s another SharePoint-based website option tailored to larger businesses and organizations. It’s called an Internet Publishing Site, and you create this using SharePoint Server 2013. This type of site is suited to larger organizations that need robust, enterprise-scale sites with web content management, commerce capabilities, multilingual variations, line of business integration, and much more. Learn more in Internet, intranet, and extranet publishing sites in SharePoint Server 2013.

An Internet Publishing Site is not currently available in SharePoint Online. You need to build this type of site in SharePoint Server 2013 in an on-premises deployment. If you want to host the site in the cloud, you might consider hosting the SharePoint deployment in Microsoft Azure as described in SharePoint 2013 on Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Services.

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Website feature comparison

There are numerous differences between the Public Website in SharePoint Online, and the Internet Publishing Site in SharePoint Server. For starters, the Public Website offers a fast, simple, browser-based website that you can build in minutes, which is ideal for small to medium businesses. SharePoint Server Internet Publishing Sites offer a much larger, scalable, and dynamic website built with SharePoint’s Publishing Infrastructure, which is ideal for larger organizations and enterprises. Here’s a sampling of the features you will find in each offering.

Feature name SharePoint Online Website SharePoint Server Internet Feature summary
Browser-based page editing checkmark checkmark Create and edit web pages using just a web browser
Publishing pages checkmark checkmark Use SharePoint publishing pages with drafts, revisions, and so on
Master pages and layouts checkmark checkmark Access to master pages and publishing page layouts
Design Manager checkmark checkmark Advanced web design tools used to create, customize websites. (See note.)
Composed looks checkmark checkmark Gallery of themes that can be applied and then modified for the website
Term-based navigation checkmark checkmark Website navigation is based on SharePoint term sets
Friendly URLs checkmark checkmark Easy to read URLs that describe the page (like
Image renditions checkmark checkmark Render an image in different ways based on image templates
SEO settings checkmark checkmark Optimize the site’s appearance in public search engine results
Hosted online checkmark Website is online, in the cloud at all times, no uploading required
Public website features checkmark More themes, site features, social media, embedded CSS, and so on
Marketplace apps checkmark Ability to browse and install website apps from the SharePoint Marketplace
Site address, domain tools checkmark Online tools to manage your website address (URL) and domain names
External sharing checkmark Ability to securely share the site with external reviewers and designers
Publishing templates checkmark Site templates you can use to create a new Internet-facing website
Subsites, site hierarchies checkmark Ability to create hierarchies of subsites that make up the website
Content types, columns, fields checkmark Reusable collections of metadata for categories of items or documents.
Search features checkmark Customizable search with query rules, result sources, and result types
List and library Web Parts checkmark Ability to add list or library Web Parts to a page with custom views
Content Search Web Part checkmark Displays content based on a query to the SharePoint search index
Content Query Web Part checkmark Displays content based on a query to the SharePoint database
Cross-site publishing checkmark Supports multiple site collections with content reuse and delivery
Variations, translations checkmark Syncs content from a source location to other locations by audience
Catalog pages checkmark Renders search-based catalog content on publishing pages
Business Connectivity Services checkmark Integrate external data sources and services into the site
Publishing workflows checkmark Create and customize workflows that controls when content is published
Analytics processing, recommendations checkmark Add and configure personal usage events and generate reports from it

Learn more about the Content Query Web Part and the Content Search Web Part in SharePoint.

 Note    The Public Website Web Part gallery contains less Web Parts than the Internet Publishing Site Web Part gallery in SharePoint Server. Any Web Part not listed in the Public Website Web Part gallery is considered unsupported for the Public Website.
Also there are some differences with the Design Manager feature. In the SharePoint Online Public Website, you can additionally create themes and previews. In SharePoint Server Internet Publishing Sites, you can additionally create display templates, device channels, and design packages.

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Businesses that use the Public Website

Here’s a sampling of the types of businesses that might choose the SharePoint Online Public Website along with examples of how they might use the website for their business.

Type of business Use of the website
Retail store Promote the business and introduce products, provide hours of operation and contact information, include social media, add retail-related apps.
Restaurant Promote the business, provide lunch and dinner menu, provide hours, special accommodations, and add restaurant-related apps.
Law office Promote the business, describe previous cases, testimonials, schedule consultations, integrate with customer data on the Team sites, and add legal-related apps.
Medical office Introduce physicians and specialties, physician credentials, appointment hours, and printable forms for first time patients, display contact information, and medical-related apps.
Realtor Promote the realtor and the business, show gallery of homes, show listings from associated real estate service, provide contact information with phone, and add housing-related apps.
Consultant Describe and promote the business, services provided, customer testimonials, contact information, links to Team site documents, and add IT-related apps

Learn more about small businesses using Office 365 in Office 365 customer stories.

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Businesses that use Internet Publishing Sites

Here’s a sampling of the types of businesses that might choose SharePoint Server Internet Publishing Sites.

Type of business Use of the website
Online retail Use cross-site collection publishing to author and publish the site, use a product catalog to sell inventory, and integrate with commerce and secure checkout.
Government Use cross-site collection publishing to publish content, use content types and site columns to structure content, provide secure access to parts of the site, offer English and Spanish views.
Banking Use cross-site collection publishing to publish page content and list data, render pages in several languages, secured customer access, and integration with market systems.
Energy Use site hierarchies, content types, and columns to organize content, custom terms used in dynamic site navigation, content search web parts, and secure shareholder access.
University Use multiple sites and site collections with secured access for teachers and students, integrate with partner education services, and provide class registration.
Manufacturing Present large numbers of publishing pages and product pages with partner access to the sites, make it available in several languages.

Learn more about large businesses using SharePoint in SharePoint customer stories.

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Learn more

The Public Website is an example of a feature area that is significantly different between SharePoint Online and SharePoint Server on-premises. There are other differences as well between the two products though not as significant as the Public Website. To learn more about the differences between SharePoint Online and SharePoint Server, see Compare SharePoint Plans.

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Applies to:
SharePoint Online Enterprise (E3 & E4), SharePoint Online Midsized Business, SharePoint Online Small Business, SharePoint Online Website, SharePoint Server 2013 Enterprise