7 things to know about the Description field in SharePoint pages and news

My former colleague recently asked me how to add metadata or tags to SharePoint news or pages, in order to be able to make them link to a certain common topic, and be able to find them in Search.

My first thought was to add metadata to the pages in the Pages Library, but I quickly dismissed that thought as it would mean that every publisher would have to go into the library after publication to add their metadata. It would also mean that every Page Library would have to have those fields added and back-filled and oh well, I got tired just by thinking about the implications! 😄

But then we remembered that we had once added something on the page, “somewhere in a popup to the right”. I started investigating.

It turned out that the place to look for is the Description field. You can find it by clicking on the link “Page Details” during or after creating a new post or page.

There are a few things to know about this field.

1. The Description field is almost on top of the popup

It is directly under the thumbnail of the header image.

After clicking on Page Details (1) the popup will open and you will see the Description (2).

However, the popup often opens “in the middle” so you need to scroll up to see it.

If the popup opens like this, please scroll up!

2. The Description field is auto-populated after publishing

It will be populated with the first 255 characters of the body text.

SharePoint will tell you how many characters you have left.

3. You can change or remove the text after publishing

Now why would you want to change the description text manually? Items 4 and 5 will provide the answer!

4. The text in Description is shown in the News web part

Rather than having a text that suddenly ends in the middle of a sentence, you may want to edit the Description to provide a good summary to your readers.

The number of characters displayed is depending on the configuration of the web part, e.g.

  • If you have no image, you will see more characters than with an image.
  • If your News is in a page-wide column, you will see more characters than when it is one of three columns.
  • Hub, Carousel and Tiles layouts do not show descriptions.
In the red-lined example, we can remove all text behind the ! in the Description and have one proper sentence.

This preview is not relevant for pages, as these are not shown on web parts.

5. The text in Description is shown in Search results

When you have executed a search, in all of Microsoft365, SharePoint or your site, the Description text will show in the Search results, at least the text around the keyword.

Please compare this screenshot of a news web part, where the word “peregrine” is only

  1. In the title
  2. In the body text
  3. In the Description
  4. In a different text web part

To this screenshot of a search on the word “Peregrine” in the Microsoft365 homepage search box. The numbers correspond to the list above.

The search word ‘peregrine” is in various places in the news posts, but they will all turn up in search.

Please note that I have filtered the search for News, to avoid that the various images that have been auto-uploaded to the Site Assets library during news creation, clutter the list. How was it again with images in SharePoint news? This post will tell you all.

6. The text in Description is searchable

From the screenshots you can see that the keywords can be on various places on the page, but the posts all turn up in Search.
This means that you can add keywords or metadata in the Description, without having to use that text in the title or body of the post or page.

For News, you’d best add the keywords at the bottom of the field after the summary text, so you do not show the keywords alone in the news preview. My news post 3 only has “peregrine” in the Description, and it makes a meagre preview on News.

For pages, you want to make sure that you have a good text for Search, but you do not need to worry about any preview.

Please note that I chose the word “peregrine” in my example because I have not used it before in this tenant. In real-life you will get more search results so you may need to filter.

7. The text in Description is not dynamic

When you are editing your post after publication, the description will not be adjusted. This does not have to be an issue, but you need to be aware, especially when you have edited the first paragraph of your post. My post SharePoint Holmes and the not-so-dynamic Description tells you more.

You can leave the description as is, replace it with the new intro, or even better, replace it with a summary of your post so your readers get the gist immediately!

8. The Description shows up in Newsletter

It will be no surprise, but just to be complete. The Description is also displayed underneath the title in the SharePoint Newsletter.

Conclusion

The Description field in the Page Details can be very useful in the following scenarios:

  • Providing a one-sentence summary of your news post on the News page(s) and Newsletters instead of the first words that trail off somew…
  • Making sure the post or page can be found in Search results. You can add the relevant keywords without having to add them to the title or the text. For instance, if it is related to a certain project or topic, but you do not want to use that word all the time.

Do you have other scenarios?

Are you using the Description field consciously or do you have another scenario where it comes in useful? Please let me know!

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