SharePoint Subsite vs Site: How They Differ From Each Other

SharePoint Subsite vs Site: How They Differ From Each Other

Are you confused with subsites in SharePoint and how they differ from the “regular” site?

Well, you can already derive from the name itself that a subsite is somehow a “secondary” or a “sublevel” site. But what does it mean?

In this article, let’s explore the difference between a site and a subsite in SharePoint and how each one differs from the other.

Let’s get started.

SharePoint site vs subsite: What each term means

To clearly identify among the two, let’s start with their definitions:

  • SharePoint site: This term refers to the website or container of information and data. In the modern experience, this is the “site collection”.
  • SharePoint subsite: This term refers to the site that you can create within a site. It’s still a site on its own (website or container of information and data).

In general, sites and subsites can have one or more pages in them. Subsites are still technically sites — though they are contained under an existing site or site collection.

Creating a site (or site collection) in the modern experience happens in the intranet home (home button > create a site).

How to create a team site

This is the usual way of creating a site (or site collection, both are technically the same in the modern experience).

Now, to create a subsite, simply go to an existing site collection’s site contents page and you will see a “Subsites” tab.

In the site contents page, go to the subsites tab

You can create a subsite there by pressing the “New” button and then selecting “Subsite” from the options.

Once again, both the “root site” of the site collections (the site you see when you normally create a site) and its subsites are all sites.

Note: Inside a subsite, you can create another subsite by doing the same set of steps (go to “Site contents” and add a new “Subsite”).

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    Site vs Subsite in SharePoint: The Difference

    So if a site and a subsite are both “sites”, how do they differ then from each other?

    Well, that’s the main question here, isn’t it? There is one difference between them (aside from the fact that a subsite exists inside a site or a site collection).

    That’s template selection:

    When you create a “site” or a site collection, all the options for site templates are available — whether that’s a site with or without a Microsoft 365 group.

    In contrast, when you create a subsite, you still have various site templates available — but you can’t create one with a Microsoft 365 group.

    Limited number of site templates for subsites

    You also can’t create a communication site as a subsite (and logically, there must be no reason to do so).

    Now, one thing that others mistakenly think is how the user permissions in a subsite have to inherit the one from the parent site.

    But as you can see from the screenshot above, that’s not the case (at least not anymore). You can opt to have “unique permissions” where you can even create a new security group.

    Note: If you choose to have the same permissions with the parent site, you won’t be able to change the user permissions unless you’re also the administrator of the parent site.

    The Old Concept of Subsites

    Creating subsites is “sort of” an old concept. It was there before the concept of “site collections” and “hub sites” came into being.

    Back then, people used subsites for site hierarchy and organized departments in a logical way (though it has the potential to become a problem once it reaches more than four levels).

    With hub sites, you can create different site collections as you need and organize them into different hubs (which flattens the structure).

    The navigation is even easier with the hub feature since you can use common navigation and bring them under the same security sets as well.

    On the other hand, it’s good to know about subsites and the “alternate” though an archaic way of creating a site hierarchy in SharePoint.

    Do you have some questions regarding sites vs subsites? If so, feel free to include them in your comment below.

    For concerns and inquiries, please use the site’s contact page and I’ll reach out to you as soon as I possibly can.

    About Ryan Clark

    As the Principal Solutions Architect at Mr. SharePoint, I help companies of all sizes better leverage Modern Workplace and Digital Process Automation investments. I am also a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for Office Apps & Services.

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    Brian
    Brian
    1 month ago

    Good article. Straight and to the point. So many “legacy” items in SharePoint. I wish they had a way to shut it all down at once.

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