Here's the main question: what is the best practices for designing custom master pages on SharePoint Online?

Here's some background info: I've been designing and developing SharePoint master pages on various on-premises platforms. My usual design and development process is as follows:

  1. Design in HTML
  2. Use "Design Manager" to upload and convert the HTML page
  3. Use the "Snippet Gallery" to customize web part zones
  4. Create page layouts
  5. Enable the new master page via "Site Settings" > "Master page"

Is this the best practice for SharePoint Online?

I do a lot of work in Visual Studio and use TFS for source control. In the past, SharePoint 2013 allowed the development of master page and any customized page layouts to be packaged as SharePoint solution file (.WSP) then deployed via SharePoint PowerShell as a farm solution.

Is there a method to do this for SharePoint Online or must I use the "Design Manager" to manage customized branding solutions for the master pages and page layouts?

  • With the new SharePoint Framework the branding future is not clear. At the moment all branding for Modern Experiences is disabled. Microsoft is working on new (branding) technology and uses terms like "Code Parts" and "Scenarios", but no one has a clue what they are or what they do. So I would say: sit tight, and don't put all your eggs in one basket Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 8:43
  • @Danny'365CSI'Engelman - thank you for this insightful information. I know that Microsoft is constantly evolving and it's hard to stick with one methodology when programming for SharePoint. Prior to SharePoint Online, the programming stack was pretty fixed and predictable. I understand that Microsoft is leveraging the use of open-source frameworks, too, so we will all have to wait and see. Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 14:42
  • Common mistake; Facebooks React is not an Open Source Framework, it has a BSD license. If you are developing for a large project be sure to have the Legal department check if the company can agree with that license... github.com/facebook/react/blob/master/LICENSE Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 8:23

1 Answer 1


Microsoft strongly discourage custom master pages for SPO. The main reason is as you know SPO is evolving and is the out of the box master pages. Once a major change is made its very hard to propagate those to custom master pages.

Recommended approach is to make use of the SharePoint themes.

To answer your question - the steps you outlined looks good. Make use to design manager.

For packaging master page please refer to Patter and Practices sample - https://github.com/SharePoint/PnP/tree/master/Samples/Provisioning.PublishingFeatures


  • Thank you for the answer. I have reviewed both of the links and this gives me a start as to how we should go about designing and developing for SPO. I found that the second link is most useful right now since we're not ready to deploy into the SPO environment. It looks like a handy, tool, though. Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 14:44

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