A Confusing Scenario With Site Definition & Site Pages

One of my co-workers raised a concern over editing Site Pages in Advanced Mode. This is my previous article:

The argument raised was “We should not edit Site Definition” in SharePoint due to the reasons mentioned in the article here. Please refer the section on it.


I would like to clarify this here as more people may be thinking the same.


Site Definition vs. Site Pages

The core point of clarification is Site Definition is different from Site Pages.

Site Definition consists of:

  • Web Parts
  • Workflows
  • XML Files
  • Lists & Libraries

So, Site Definition is a package of solutions.

Let us take the example of Publishing Site Definition.

Publishing Site Definition

As you know Publishing Site Definition provides the following advantages:

  • An author can create content using a page template.
  • Content will be reviewed & approved by approvers.
  • Content gets published

To incorporate all these functionalities, the Publishing Site Definition has:

  • Built-in Permission Groups
  • Built-in Workflows
  • Built-in Pages
  • Built-in Code

So, if we are going and modifying the above Site Definition using SharePoint Designer Advanced Mode editing, we are risking the following:

  • Future updates to above Site Definition will not be applied.
  • Future SharePoint upgrades can break functionalities.


Normal Mode Editing is done through the browser and only the content in Web Part Zone is edited. Advanced Mode Editing is done through SharePoint Designer Advanced Mode. Here the page area, which won't be accessible in Normal Mode Editing, also is editable. This causes detaching from Site Definition formats.

Our Case

Coming back to our case of Site Pages, we are clearly not breaking any functionality. The following are the reasons:

  • We are just using a Site Page & not Site Definition.
  • We do not use any Site Definition features like Workflows, Approval, etc.
  • We are inheriting a Standalone ASPX page with minimal SharePoint tags.

The following link too recommends Advanced Mode editing.



The conclusion is we can continue with Advanced Mode editing of our Standalone ASPX Pages.


You can also use notepad for creating the above Site Page. There are no special requirement for SharePoint Designer.



In this article we have clarified a confusing scenario with Site Definition & Site Pages.

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