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What would be the easiest way to apply some changes to the blank site template:

  • Apply composed look (master page / more zones to the front page, custom color palette)
  • Disable a couple of features (MDS, wiki front page)

so that these would be applied by default when users create new site collections or sub sites (using self-service site creation)?

Would it make sense to consider publishing infrastructure if no features specifically from it would be needed? Would it make this deployment easier? How to easiest do these without publishing features activated?

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I would go for a WebTemplate based on Blank Site (or, I usually base my templates on STS#0 or STS#1). That way you get full control over which features that will be enabled.

You could activate your composed look with the help of a feature too (with modules containing the elements needed, and a feature receiver with code that makes sure to configure what you need to configure).

About publishing: Once you have enabled publishing there is no way to turn it of completely. I would not activate it per default since it, among tons of things, creates a lot of lists and libraries that may confuse users. So if you are not using any features from the publishing framework, keep it off.

OR, if it is truly minor changes, like the things you mention above, I would probably do the following:

  1. Create a blank site from GUI
  2. Do the modifications needed, like apply branding and disable / enable features
  3. Save the site as a Site Template
  4. Activate the site template solution

Now the users will be able to choose your Site Template in Self service site creation (This can be done directly in production environment and you could also possibly teach some super users to create new templates in their own).

The downside with this approach is that Site Templates, in my experience, are difficult to move between different environments. Also Site Templates can not be based on sites having Publishing features enabled, so if you need that Site Templates is not an option

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  • Would some be easier/more difficult to migrate to a different on-premises SharePoint or to O365? – thomius Jan 4 '14 at 15:06
  • WebTemplates do not apply for O365, so there you would need a different solution (Site Template or some other custom solution). Site Templates are great when created and used in the same environment, no mather if on-premise or cloud. WebTemplates gives you greater control as a developer on what customizations that has been made, but are only available on-premise – Robert Lindgren Jan 4 '14 at 15:13
  • Would you consider remote provisioning? Please check this: blogs.msdn.com/b/vesku/archive/2014/01/02/…, what do you think? – thomius Jan 4 '14 at 15:16
  • Well I know Microsoft has shifted focus a lot to apps, especially in O365. On-premise it is a tougher decision IMO. If you have the extra time and budget to learn about and implement remote provisioning "app-style", then go for it! But if budget is tight, and it is an on-premise installation with no clear plans to "go cloud" soon, going for a WebTemplate is more straight forward. But this is only my own opinions, mostly based on my preferences, knowledge and experience with apps so far :) – Robert Lindgren Jan 4 '14 at 15:21
  • Would it be possible to migrate to the next version on-premises using out-of-the-box Microsoft tools (database upgrade) with any of the alternatives? (as opposed to custom site definitions) – thomius Jan 4 '14 at 15:27

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