SharePoint hub site branding is “sticky”


Hubs bring families of SharePoint sites together with shared branding, a unified navigation experience, and news and event content roll-ups. Hubs are dynamic and can grow and change with your organization. As departments re-organize, you can change your hub site associations and sites will automatically update to reflect the branding of their newly-assigned hubs.

But what happens when you remove a hub site association?
Let’s say you’ve designed a beautifully themed SharePoint Online site. You’ve spent hours perfecting the site, and it looks phenomenal! You decide to associate your site to the Human Resources hub so it can be tied into your company’s information architecture. You open your site, go to Settings > Site Information and select the Human Resources (HR) Hub from the Hub site association dropdown field. Within seconds, your site is joined to the HR hub and has assumed its branded look and feel.

Now let’s say you’ve had a change of heart and want to remove your site from the HR hub. You go back to Settings > Site Information and set the Hub site association dropdown to “None.” Your site will be removed from the hub, but the hub’s branded look and feel will “stick.” You will be able to update your site’s branding now that it is no longer associated with a hub, but you cannot revert back to the branding your site had before it was associated to a hub.

Implications for your SharePoint site owners
The implications of this “sticky” hub site branding are significant. Let’s say, for example, that your site owners don’t understand what the Hub site association dropdown in the Site Information panel means. They choose to associate their site to a hub without understanding the implications, and suddenly their site has updated branding. While site owners can go in and remove the hub site association, there is no “undo” function that will allow them to revert back to their site’s previous branding. That branding is forever lost once they associate to a hub.

So what can you do to prepare?
Here are a few options for navigating sticky hub branding:

  1. Educate your site owners about what hubs are and what the Hub site association dropdown field does. Make sure they’re aware that hub site branding is sticky.
  2. Consider adding hub site approval flows. These automated Power Automate flows force all hub site join requests to go through a required approval process. This is a great opportunity for hub site owners to identify sites that should not be associated with their hubs.
  3. Restrict who can see and join hubs. You can define specific users or mail-enabled security groups that can “see” your hub in the Hub site association dropdown field. By limiting which hubs are visible, you can control which hubs your site owners can associate to.
  4. Incorporate site designs and site scripts to automate the re-branding of your SharePoint sites.
  5. Build a “staging” hub that resets sites to your corporate brand standard. Build your staging hub with a standard company brand look and feel. When you have a SharePoint site that needs a reset of its branding and theme, simply associate the site to your staging hub. You can remove the hub site association once the site re-brand is complete.

Sticky hub branding examples
Image 1: A SharePoint site with branded look and feel. This site has not yet been associated with a hub.
Hub site branding - 01

Image 2: The site has been associated to the Human Resources hub and has inherited the hub’s look and feel.
Hub site branding - 03

Image 3: The site has been removed from the Human Resources hub, but has retained the hub’s sticky branding:
Hub site branding - 05

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