Determine sites and subsites needed (Windows SharePoint Services)

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

Updated: December 1, 2006

Applies To: Windows SharePoint Services 3.0


Topic Last Modified: 2016-05-06

In this article:

The information in this article is for site or application administrators who are creating sites by using Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. If you are hosting sites, but not designing or creating the sites, you can skip this article and continue on with the planning process.

SharePoint sites work best when they are focused on a single effort or are used by a single team. They become difficult to maintain, out of date, and less useful when too many people are coming to the site for different things. For example, if the same site is used for tracking customers, storing company policies, and sharing documents about products under development, the site is much more difficult to organize and can quickly become cluttered. On the other hand, if you have too many sites, it can be difficult to locate the information that you need.

A number of factors go into the decision of how many sites and site collections you need, including:

  • How many users will use the sites.

  • How the users are related to each other or interact with each other.

  • How the users will use the site.

  • What type of content you expect to store in the sites.

  • The complexity of information that you are trying to organize.

Review your list of site purposes and users, and decide how many individual sites you need.


Worksheet action

Use the Site objectives and environments worksheet ( to review your list of sites.

You must decide whether to create your sites as top-level Web sites in separate site collections, or as subsites within the same site collection. This decision is based on how much the sites have in common with each other, whether you want to be able to manage them individually, and whether you want them to share elements, such as navigation or search.

Within a site collection, all sites can use the same:

  • Navigation bars (top link bar and breadcrumb navigation)

  • Content types

  • Workflows

  • Security groups

  • Lookup fields across lists

  • Search scope

  • Feature set

Choose top-level Web sites in separate site collections when you:

  • Need separate security for different sites.

    Although you can have unique permissions for a subsite, at times you might want to be sure that there are no users and permissions in common between two sites. In those cases, you should use separate site collections.
  • Might need to move the site collection to a different database in the future.

  • Want to be able to back up or restore that site only.

  • Want to be able to scope a workflow to that site only.

  • Want to have a separate search scope for that site only.

  • Want to use quotas to separately manage the amount of space that each site takes up.

  • Want to decentralize your administration and have site collection administrators perform tasks, such as approving requests for access or confirming site use.

Choose subsites within the same site collection when you:

  • Want to share navigation between sites.

  • Want to have subsites inherit permissions from parent sites.

  • Want to share lists between sites.

  • Want to share design elements (such as themes or styles) between sites.


Worksheet action

Use the Site hierarchy choices worksheet ( to record your decisions about whether to create separate site collections or subsites within a site collection.

Develop your site hierarchy by using whatever method works best for you. Be sure to identify which sites are top-level sites in a site collection and which are subsites of other sites.


Worksheet action

Use the Site hierarchy planning tool ( (a downloadable Microsoft Office Visio file) or other method to create a site hierarchy diagram, including all site collections, top-level Web sites, and subsites that you need.

Use the following worksheets to plan sites and subsites: