TL;DR Go here for the code + instructions: https://github.com/tom-daly/spfx-global-navigation
Modern version works with: Office 365 & SharePoint 2019 – IE 11, Chrome, Firefox.
Classic version works on any SharePoint [yes any] – IE 11, Chrome, Firefox

Introduction

Maintaining a consistent navigation across all site collections has always been a problem for SharePoint. Site collections do not share navigation. The story goes back to the beginning of SharePoint’s existence. In earlier versions 2007, 2010… it was recommended to break up sites into site collection to keep the content database sizes small. Microsoft had recommended maximums for best performance. Ultimately the content of SharePoint are table in a SQL databases and small databases meant faster, more manageable backups. Alternatively you could have all your sites in one site collection and then all the out of the box navigation options would be perfect.

Enter Modern… Each modern site is a site collection. This approach creates a flat hierarchy of sites. Each site collection having its own navigation, security, look and feel, content, components and more.

How can you create a consistent navigation across modern pages? Microsoft’s answer is to use Hub sites. “Hubbing” your sites will add a hub site navigation element to the top of the page.

Great! Hub sites to the rescue… What if you have some classic sites? Most organizations are currently in a hybrid mode of classic and modern pages. You can’t hub classic sites.

This blog will cover the solution that I built to add a list based navigation to modern pages using SPFx application customizer. But wait there’s more… It will also show you how you can use the same code base and repackage it to work on Classic SharePoint sites as well. Essentially creating the perfect cross site collection navigation solution that works on both classic and modern.

Solution Overview

The solution is broken down into a couple of parts. This blog is meant to explain the approach and the github repository contains an in depth guide to install and provision.

  1. Navigation List – PnP Powershell Template + Provisioning scripts
  2. SPFx application customizer – Global Navigation – React Component

Step 1 – Provision the Global Navigation List

I’m all about repeatable provisioning – as a developer I almost never create anything manually. In this solution I use Powershell PnP, mainly the provisioning template to provision the site columns, content types and list schema and connecting a lookup like with a cmdlet.

Using the list based approach, I can centrally host the list in the root site of the tenant where my users generally have read access. In the case that you have secured the root site from users, you could break permissions on the Global Nav List and grant read only access.

The list based approach has benefits that I like:

  1. It’s easy to talk to the list and using a simple rest query or PnP-JS as I do in this solution.
  2. Lists can be security trimmed so you can hide nodes from certain groups by breaking inheritance on those items. For those items they would have item level permissions.
  3. Lists are easy to work with for the end users, they don’t need lengthy instructions on how to manage the navigation

The entire list is easily deployable via the deploy.ps1 in the provisioning folder of the project. Check that out for an example of a template and the standard script I use to provision assets via Powershell PnP

Step 2 – SPFx Application Customizer

As of now the only way to install the solution is to build it. Clone or fork the repo and you’ll need to have a SPFx development environment in order to complete the build. Check out the github for the full instructions. Once you have the code, the build and deployment is the standard process for SPFx apps.

Future versions I might include a package that you download, let me know if that’s something you might want. Most people will want to at least customize the colors and best way is to get the code and do it yourself.

The SPFx Application Customizer lives inside the Header placeholder on any modern site that you add the app to. The code has been written such that it makes a call to the Global Nav List on the “/” root site of the tenant. You could change that location in the code and rebuild if you desired by modifying the GlobalNavProvider.ts

Global Navigation

Once you’ve installed the list, add some nodes, deploy the app customizer, activate the app on a site you should get something like this below. The navigation can support as many levels as you want.

Classic Build

Yes it works on Classic SharePoint as well. By far the coolest part of this whole project. How can that be? For the complete explanation check out this article: SPFx Application Customizer that works on Classic SharePoint Sites.

Classic site deployment process is different. It’s not an app / app package. The solution creates a separate JavaScript file that is uploaded to your site and linked via a site script link.

To generate the latest JavaScript run the build.cmd. That will generate both a new .sppkg for Modern sites and the .js file for Classic sites. After a successful build, the top-navigation.js file will be in the classic-dist folder.

If you want an automated deployment approach you would also want to run the deploy.ps1 file. The deploy script will upload the file and attach the JavaScript to your site collection. If deploying to multiple sites it’s a good ideal to centrally host this file in a CDN.

Once the file is attached via a script link, it’s live. Your site should look like this.

Conclusion

There you have it, a global navigation solution built for Modern sites using SPFx, Powershell PnP, PnP-JS, and Office UI Fabric that also works on Classic sites. One code base to maintain for both versions of SharePoint. This provides a flexible, consistent navigation for customers that have a mix of Classic & Modern sites.

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