Sharepoint SIG

Thoughts and ideas from your SharePoint support team

Guidelines for SharePoint Site Collection Owners/Designers at the University of Saskatchewan


Over the last two years, the SharePoint team has discovered some tips and good practices to ensure that you get the best use out of your site collection.  Please review these tips.  If you have suggestions for additions to this blog post, please get in touch with – we are always pleased to get input from our community.

Consider the URL length

SharePoint has a limit of 255 characters that it recognizes in its URLs. The URL includes the host name (e.g. plus the subsite(s), list or library name and the names of any folders that you may create within a library. If you choose very long library names or nest subsites or folders deeply, you could run into this restriction.  SharePoint will allow you to create the library or folder that will put the URL over the limit without an error, but you will see errors when trying to retrieve documents from that location.

We recommend that when you create the object, you use a shortened name to ensure that the URL length will be within the limits. Once the object has been created, you can go into the Settings and change its name.  This will change the display name for easier reading but leave the URL with the shortened name.

Avoid Spaces When Creating New Objects

This point is related to the “Consider the URL Length” item. When you create a new list, library, folder or subsite, the initial name that you give it will determine the URL. If the initial name contains spaces, each space will be converted to %20 in the URL, thus increasing the URL length by 2 extra characters for each space.  For example, the name “My Wonderful New Library” (24 characters) will convert to “My%20Wonderful%20New%20Library” (30 characters) in the URL.  Besides looking ugly, if you are close to the URL length limit, this could push it over the edge.

The URL for a subsite can be easily changed after the fact (Site Actions -> Site Settings -> Title, Description and Icon), but not for the site collection and not for lists or libraries. If you do change a subsite’s URL, remember that people may have bookmarked the subsite and will need to change their bookmarks.

Use SharePoint and Active Directory Groups for Security

When assigning permissions to objects such as subsite, lists and libraries, it is better to create a SharePoint group and assign permissions to the group rather than adding individuals directly to the object. Once the SharePoint group is created, you can assign individuals or Active Directory groups to the SharePoint group and they will all have the same permissions.

  • It is easier to change the permissions for the group rather than for each individual user
  • If you are using an Active Directory group, you can rely on the existing people who are authorized to update the Active Directory group. Changes are automatically applied to SharePoint. Staff do not need additional privileges in SharePoint and do not have to update two different permission lists.
  • To request a new Active Directory group managed through, please contact

Use Metadata rather than Folders in Lists and Libraries

We recommend that you restrict the use of folders in lists and libraries. Instead, determine which types of documents you want to store in your site and what pieces of information you want to store about each type.  For example, an Invoice could have an Invoice Date, a Purchaser, and a Total Amount. This metadata can be used later on to sort, search and report on the documents in your library.

For a presentation and discussion of why metadata is preferred or for help with determining what metadata you should use, please send e-mail to

Restrict the Number of People with Designer or Owner Privileges

Owners and Designers have privileges to create and delete lists and libraries.  Owners are able to create subsites as well. If too many people have this ability, there is an increased probability that unnecessary objects will be created and cause confusion and clutter in the site collection. Cut down on the number of people with these privileges and allow others to make suggestions to improve the functioning of the site.

Think about Search

When planning a site collection or library, think about the types of documents that will be stored and how people are likely to want to locate them. SharePoint does a full text index on each document so you can search by any word or phrase, but this type of search is imprecise and leads to a large number of results that are not relevant. The situation will worsen as more and more documents are added.

This is where metadata can come to the rescue. If documents are assigned to appropriate content types and have appropriate columns assigned to them, you will be able to search using the metadata and quickly narrow the search to the documents of interest.

Think about versioning

SharePoint can store multiple versions of a document or library item.  Versions allow you to see the changes made over time, and to revert to a previous version if needed.

On document libraries, you can have both major and minor version numbering (for example, 0.1, 0.2, 1.0, etc.) to help indicate when something is published (major version).  If you also set up the library so that only contributors can read minor versions, SharePoint will not index minor versions so they will not show up in search results.

Consider Carefully which Site Template to Use

When creating a new subsite in your site collection, you have a choice of which template to use. Depending on which template you choose, certain features will be turned on or off by default.  For the most part, you can change the configuration of whatever site you start with to match your needs.  But some features cannot be altered without the aid of the SharePoint Farm Administrators.

For most subsites, we recommend starting with the Team Template unless you have a need to use one of the specialized templates.

In particular, be cautious of using the Blank Site template. It is missing some features that will not be obvious initally but may come to light later on.  This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but highlights some of the problems that you may encounter.

  • Will not subscribe to content types published from a Content Type Hub (if it is the top Site Collection, not a subsite).
  • The Home Page for the site is not a Wiki page, so you cannot easily edit it to display the text you want.  You have to use Web Parts to contain your text or configure your site manually.
  • SharePoint Server Standard Site Features is turned off by default.
  • Managed Metadata Service will not work properly.

Sheila ffolliott

Analyst, SharePoint Team

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