Pitfalls when provisioning with Site Designs

This blog post goes beyond the intro level of SharePoint Site Designs and Site Scripts. In detail, I’ll demonstrate here common issues that you might encounter while working with Site Designs in real scenarios. Specially the case “applying Site Designs to an existing SharePoint site with custom content” poses risks that shouldn’t be underestimated! After reading this blog post, you should be able to avoid these issues which results in less frustration for you while working with the powerful Site Designs.

If you’re looking for the basics about SharePoint Site Designs and Site Scripts, consider visiting this blog post.


Case 1: Updating an existing navigation link
Case 2: Applying Theme
Case 3: Updating an existing list column
Case 4: Removing an existing list column

Case 1: Updating an existing navigation link

Scenario: A site collection already contains a link called “Learning Portal” in the left navigation. The link must be updated since the learning portal URL has changed.

Site Script: The script defines a new URL for the navigation node “Learning Portal”. Here is what it looks like:

Problem: The unique identifier for the verb addNavLink is composed of url and displayName. You can’t use addNavLink to update an existing navigation link. If you run the code above, you’ll end up with two similar navigation links:

Learning Portal

How to avoid that: The addNavLink alone won’t update your link. The trick here is to first remove the existing navigation node using removeNavLink, then add it again with addNavLink. The removeNavLink removes the last node of the navigation node collection. Hence, if you for some reason have more than one node with the same name, only the last one will be removed. Here is what the script looks like:

Case 2: Applying Theme

Scenario: Site Design is applied during Hub Site association.

Site Script: The script states that a custom theme is applied to the site collection.

Problem: By design, Hub Sites passes on its theme to the associated sites. If the Site Design also applies a theme to the site collection, you will override the inherited Hub Sites’s theme. When the Hub Site theme is updated, all associated sites will inherit this theme.

How to avoid that: The Hub Site defines the theme for the associated sites. At the moment you can’t turn it off. If you apply a theme with a Site Design, remember that it can be changed at any time. The better way is to avoid applyTheme when working with Hub Sites.

Case 3: Updating existing list column

Scenario: In a first step, Site Design was used to create a Customer Tracking list with the Customer Name column. Now, the Customer Name column should be updated using Site Designs.

Site Script: The script states that the Customer Name column will be set as required. Here is how it looks:

Problem: The unique identifier for the list column is the internal name. If you don’t specify it, the internal name will be based on the display name since it is an optional property 😐 If you run the script above, you’ll end up with two Customer Name columns with the following internal names: Customer_x0020_Name and Customer_x0020_Name0

Customer Name

How to avoid that: Always specify an internal name when working with addSPField since it avoids  a new similar list column being created. By the way, the only properties you can update using addSPField are displayName and addToDefaultView.

Case 4: Removing an existing list column  

Scenario: A list column was incorrectly created and must be removed.

Site Script: The script states that the list column Customer Name will be removed from the Customer Tracking list.

Problem: The deleteSPField property’s displayName must actually be set up with the internalName of a list column. You must be careful working with this action since it also removes already filled in columns! Entering the wrong internalName can result in data loss.

How to avoid that: Always specify the correct internal name when working with deleteSPField, otherwise you might delete the wrong column and lose data.


Site Designs is a robust functionality which helps administrators improve provisioning in Office 365. Keeping a couple of scenarios in mind helps to work better with Site Designs. I hope you could learn something new here and can now concentrate on the essentials instead of fixing Site Designs issues. 

About the Author:

I’ve been working at Solutions2Share since 2016 as a Senior Office 365 Developer. I’ve worked with Microsoft technologies for around 8 years, focusing my knowledge on the development of SharePoint and Teams solutions. Feel free to contact me directly, I’m happy to share my experience with you.


Horst, J. (2019). Pitfalls when Creating SharePoint Site Designs. Available at:
https://devjhorst.blogspot.com/2019/04/pitfalls-when-provisioning-with-sharepoint-site-designs.html [Accessed: 18th May 2019].

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