We have some 30+ departmental sites that need to be created for our intranet on SharePoint 2010 and are looking for ways to accelerate this process. One method suggested has been to use a standardized site definition that can be used as a template for all the sites. Are site definitions the same thing as site templates? A few other questions:

  • Should the site definition be based on the superset of all lists/libraries that the sites will use?
  • Should the definition include any pages? All sites will have at least a home page but beyond that we don't know the exact needs of each department. And the content of the home page will differ. The pages will all be publishing pages.
  • For our scenario, what's the best way to create the site definition? We'd like to use the same standard look-and-feel across all sites.
  • Are there automated tools to create the site definition? Is Visual Studio the tool to use here?

Your guidance is much appreciated. Thank you.

1 Answer 1


There are (at least) three ways of achieving this in SharePoint 2010.

1) Custom Site Definition. They are hard-core and somewhat old-school, and require access to the file system. Generally we try to avoid these nowadays, other than as a simple one to be used for feature stapling.

2) Site Template. Now a realistic option because of the new Web Template element. Completely different in SharePoint 2010 than they were in 2007. There is a good explanation here: http://www.sharepointchick.com/archive/2010/03/11/using-the-sharepoint-2010-webtemplate-feature-element-for-creating-site.aspx.

3) Feature stapling to existing or custom site definitions. There is a good discussion of this here: Feature stapling vs Site Definitions and also: http://www.andrewconnell.com/blog/archive/2008/02/15/You-dont-need-to-create-site-definitions.aspx.

Creating a site template with styling and some "starter" content provisioned seems like a reasonable approach if you are creating 30 team sites. The look-and-feel will probably come from your master page and page layouts, so you will be making this your default master and perhaps limiting authors to your customised page layouts.

You can create a sample site and in theory save it as a (SharePoint 2010) site template from Site Settings, which you can then import into Visual Studio. But this facility is not available for publishing sites. These templates aren't that useful as a starting point for development anyway, because they contain everything.

A better approach might be to create a web-scoped feature that provisions your site starting from a standard Publishing site template. This can be activated on each of your 30 sites or you could use feature stapling if all your sites are in one site collection.

  • Thanks, SPDoctor. A fantastic explanation! If I could hit the up button twice, I would have :) I might have a follow-up when I've read the links. Thanks again!
    – Alex C
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 13:55
  • A follow-up: What does it mean to "create a web-scoped feature that provisions your site starting from a standard Publishing site template"? Is this similar to this: sharepoint.stackexchange.com/questions/18652/…
    – Alex C
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 14:04
  • 1
    By this I mean that you will start with a normal publishing site template, and then in the feature you will programmatically make changes that are the deltas that get the site into the state you need. This might be, for example, changing default master page, provisioning a list, or perhaps creating sample content.
    – SPDoctor
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 16:47
  • Thanks, SPDoctor. As always, your help is very much appreciated :)
    – Alex C
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 6:16

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