Now anyone can rapidly build secure, low-code Microsoft websites and apps
Microsoft 365 is the platform of choice for many organisations choosing to evolve their digital workplace and even go through digital transformation, bringing process improvement, innovation, new ways of working and even cultural change, all of which are facilitated by tools across the 365 suite. We know it well, the Dataverse quite often powers our client’s products and services, and is something we have to be familiar with when we advise on strategic design improvements and technical implementation.
One of the most impactful tools within 365 suite is the Microsoft Power Platform, a suite of four apps that deliver workflow, dashboarding, bot design and app-building capabilities in a low-code / no-code format. In our experience, the Power Platform is often the true engine of digital transformation through its ability to deploy automation, custom workflows, bots, user-focused apps and data visualisation at scale, and with a wider ability to provide a Rapid Application Development environment and even kickstart a citizen development programme. There’s a lot you can automate and it can even be hard to know where to start.
Microsoft recently announced a new core app within the Power Platform that builds websites and portals that can integrate data from the Dataverse and combine it with the other apps across the Power Platform. Branded as “Power Pages” the new app provides easier opportunities to build external-facing sites or portals that are effectively an extension of an organisation’s 365 digital ecosystem. In this post, we’re going to do a deep dive into the new app and its’ benefits.
Four become five: meet Power Pages
Power Pages joins Power Apps, Power BI, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents as the new fifth app within the Power Platform. Except strictly speaking, it’s not actually new and is a rebranding and upgrade of Power Apps Portals (PAP) which was originally part of Power Apps.
Microsoft do love to rebrand an app; however here, the repositioning does make sound sense. We think it should generate more awareness of the ability to build portals for third parties, a highly useful element of the Power Platform suite that has not received the attention it deserves.
Microsoft also do actively invest in the Microsoft 365 platform and its constituent tools — in fact, it’s often hard to keep up with the changes that are being made. Power Pages represents an upgrade on PAP with some new features, including a new Design Studio at the centre.
What is Power Pages used for?
Power Pages is a low-code solution that builds websites, portals and community environments for customers, suppliers and other third parties that can deliver information and transactional capabilities. Visitors can authenticate into a site or browse anonymously in order to view or update information that is stored in the Microsoft Dataverse, the secure data facility hosted on Azure that holds the data used by applications built on the Power Platform. This means that data that is already used by an organisation in other internal-facing apps and reports, could also then be consistently displayed to or updated to its customers or suppliers.
This means that Power Pages can be used to create a simple portal for customers or suppliers where they could view specific product information, track orders and update their own contact information, for example. Use cases mentioned by Microsoft include:
- Creating community environments and related services
- Creating FAQs for products and services
- Enabling customer self-service to book appointments or sign up for events, register a warranty, report issues, or view service updates
- Creating supplier portals for example for onboarding, tracking processes and more.
What are the main features of Power Pages?
Power Pages has a number of specific features.
One of the new features of Power Pages that is an upgrade from PAP is a new low-code editing experience branded as “Design Studio” that allows for site set-up and page design. Within this, there are four “experiences” which Microsoft refers to as “workspaces”.
The “Pages Workspace” enables business users to create site pages through an intuitive interface where they can drag-and-drop site elements such as text blocks, images, videos, forms and more. A complimentary “Styling Workspace” allows business users to deploy different stylings through the site, with 13 custom pre-set themes that can then be configured with the right colour palette, typography and more. It also includes a code editor that supports HTML editing.
The ”Data Workspace” enables data that is stored in the Dataverse to be viewed and updated through tables and lists, as well as allowing marketing teams to design forms to gather information. We see this as a critical element of Power Pages that provides much of the value beyond other customer experience platforms, allowing for much tighter integration with a Microsoft 365-driven digital workplace. Finally, a “Set-up Workspace” offers site admin and settings, including the security and control over permissions you would expect in a solution like this.
The Templates Hub allows business users to leverage existing site templates that relate to particular scenarios and can provide an accelerated path to creating your site. Templates include a site to register for events and another for scheduling meetings, but Microsoft is likely to expand the number of templates considerably. We can imagine some of these would also be community-driven, reflecting how Microsoft has encouraged other template-sharing, for example in SharePoint list formats which have been created across the development community.
The Learning Hub is a resources site that has guidance, tutorials and videos for both business users and IT developers of Power Pages.
Visual Code Studio
What are the benefits of Power Pages?
Power Pages has a number of key benefits including:
- Creating customer and supplier portals that improve processes through a self-service approach, helping to save time for both the host organisation and the customers
- Providing a single source of information that can be updated and then surfaced across different apps because it is stored in the Dataverse
- Helping to drive customer and supplier engagement by creating portals and websites where they can access content, view information and even carry out transactions
- Combining sites created with Power Pages with other Power Platform apps such as Power Automate (workflow) and Power BI (dashboards and data visualization) to create more complex sites, involving other internal- and external-facing applications
- Having a low-code environment and intuitive editing experience to empower business users to take greater ownership of their site
- Accelerating the speed to market and lowering the cost for creating a site.
Power Pages is a welcome addition to the Power Platform bringing new no-code interfaces to portal design and leveraging the Microsoft Dataverse in order to streamline processes involving customers, suppliers and partners. It can help both in supporting operational efficiency but also in building stronger relationships with customers and partners, and further extends the reach of digital transformation beyond just the internal digital workplace.