Google Apps

10 myths about Google Sites debunked and dispelled

Susan Cline debunks ten common myths about the collaborative website development tool Google Sites.

Google Sites is the collaborative website development tool that is part of the Google Apps Suite. The Google Sites tool allows users to quickly create internal and external websites. In this post, I debunk ten common myths about Google Sites.

Myth 1 - You need to know HTML to create Google Sites

Google Sites are meant to be accessible to those users who do not have a programming background. The interface for creating the sites is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. Creating a Site is similar to creating a Google Document or even formatting the text of an evite. The familiar toolbar allows users to customize the layout and formatting of objects, text and images on the site.

To format an object, just highlight the object and then select the formatting option from the toolbar. You can easily embed images, video and other Google Docs by choosing the item from the Insert menu. Google Sites creates the HTML code your web browser needs to display the site in the browser.

Myth 2 - You can only use the WYSIWYG editor to change the code

If you are an old school HTML guru and you want to get right to the code, you are not limited to the WYSIWYG editor. Clicking the HTML button in the formatting toolbar will open a new window with the raw HTML code. You can edit the HTML code directly in this window and even preview your changes before saving them.

Note: Google Sites does not support users created JavaScript so any script you add manually to the HTML code will be stripped out.

Myth 3 - Google Sites is only for Google Apps for Business for users.

Google Sites is accessible to all types of Google Apps Accounts. If you use Google Apps for Business, Google Apps for Education, Gmail or just have a Google Account, you can access Google Sites by going to sites.google.com and signing in with your account information. If you a Google Apps users and cannot sign into Google Sites it may be that your Administrator has disabled Sites for your domain.

Myth 4 - Comments on Google Sites Announcement pages function like comments on a Blog

Google Sites include four or five page template types. One of these page template types is called an "Announcement Page" and behaves similarly to blog pages. The collaborators of the site can create new posts, and the new posts appear on the Announcement page in the order they were posted. It looks very much like a blog page and can be used for announcements and news for a project, team, or organization. However, the comments feature on the Announcement page is different than the comment feature on a regular blog. Only users who have "editor" access can make comments on the posts.

Users who have "viewer" access can see the comments, but they cannot post comments. An alternative solution is to provide a Google Form at the bottom of each post, and make the results of the Google Form viewable.

Myth 5 - You must have design skills to make a site look visually appealing

The author of this post has absolutely no design skills but has managed to make decent to good looking sites by using the themes and template within Google Sites. When creating a new site, you can use a blank template and choose from one of the dozens of design themes. These themes include pre-defined images, background, text colors and text styles that all match the theme's look and feel.

You can also create a site using the Template Gallery. The Google Sites Templates not only contain the coordinated visual design elements, they also include the site layout and structure. They are templates for project sites, employee profiles sites, classroom sites, and much more.

Myth 6 - There are no page level permissions

Until recently there were no page level permissions. Site owners could grant "editor" or "viewer" permissions to Google sites, but the permission was applied to the entire site. If a user had "edit" rights to one part of the site, they would have edit rights to the entire site. Just this week Google enabled page level permissions. These page level permissions are turned off by default. The site owner can enable this feature by navigating to the Sharing and Permissions section of their Site Settings.

For each page in the site, the owner has three different options for the way permissions are set up the site. The phrasing is a bit technical (an engineer wrote it) but you can learn more about the different permissions by reading this article.

Myth 7 - Google Sites does not support JavaScript

It is true that JavaScript will be automatically stripped out of Google Sites if a user adds it when updating the HTML. However, Google Sites does support JavaScript through the use of Gadgets and Google Apps Scripts. Gadgets are lightweight applications written in XML, HTML and JavaScript. They are developed by Googlers and other developers using the Google Gadgets API.

Google Sites users can take advantage of prebuilt gadgets by browsing the Gadget gallery and selecting a gadget to be inserted into the Site. There are gadgets for all kind of functions like displaying RSS feeds, showing the local weather, and embedding calculators into your Site. Most gadgets can be customized through a WYSIWYG editor so the user never has to interact with the code.

Google Sites also support the Google Apps Scripting language. Google Apps Script is a JavaScript cloud scripting language that provides easy ways to automate tasks across Google products. Scripts are not for the novice, but for more experienced Google Sites creators, they can be used to automate workflow like sending an email, creating a Calendar invitation or generating dynamic content.

Myth 8 - Google Sites cannot be rendered for mobile phones

This is a myth when it comes to Android and iOs devices which make up the majority of the smartphone market. A Site owner can turn on the option to Automatically adjust site for mobile phones in the General Site settings area.

Myth 9 - Pages cannot be customized by individual users

One of the Google Sites Page types is a Start page. A start page is a page that can be customized by each of its viewers to show a personalized set of gadgets. The site owners and editors can still add content that all viewers see, but that section remains separate from the section that can be personalized.

This is a great way to create an iGoogle experience within a Google Site.

Myth 10 - You cannot copy a Google Site

If you've spent hours and hours working on your Google Site you may be dismayed to hear the myth that you cannot copy a Google Site. This is not true!

In the General Site settings there is a link called Copy This Site that will allow you to make a copy of the site in another location on your domain (if you are using Google Apps) or to another URL if you are using Google Sites with your Gmail account.

You also have the option of copying the site collaborators and the revision history.

About

Susan Cline is the Director of Training and Change Management at Google Apps Parter Ltech. She is also the author of several Google Apps courses on Lynda.com. Visit Susan at her website http://susancline.com/ or follow her on Twitter @GoogleAppsSusa...

19 comments
cageordie
cageordie

You not only can edit in html, you absolutely have to. I am writing a test specification that includes console snippets for something that hasn't been written. So I have to type them in. But any time I edit them the Google editor decides that each line is a separate paragraph. The editor does not give you control over line spacing, I can't tell it that these are lines of the same thing and should be separated by <br> instead of <p></p>. There are ways of fooling it, enter a couple of characters on the new line then ctrl-Z to undo them until the paragraph separator disappears then start typing again, but that's almost worse than just editing the raw html. The Google editor is worse than Microsoft Word was in 1989.

justinlawrence
justinlawrence

We joined Google Sites years ago, expecting that it would be developed and improved as regularly as all the other things that Google do (in fact, this influenced our decision to go pro with our Google Apps for Business), but am wondering whether there might be something better out there.

SitesTemplate.net
SitesTemplate.net

I'm trying something new and making premium Google Sites templates for the public. I love Google Sites and you can't beat the free hosting. If you need a pro template check us out.

patrea
patrea

Where can I get a good range of templates to use with Google Sites?

dghalsema
dghalsema

Thank you for the excellent post. One of the great gifts of google sites is it allows different departments the ability to edit their pages. However, that can be an issue because they sometimes do not have the gift of a good aesthetic. In other words, they may change the formatting, the fonts, the colors, the layout etc for their area in a way I might deem not conducive to the overall aesthetic of the site. Is there a way to "lock" styles, etc down so that pages can be edited but not allow the other changes.

salmanisher
salmanisher

please... please,,, Google we wish to you to give more attention for users in the Middle east. thanl you.

sburton
sburton

I really must try to get out more.

mandy.phillips
mandy.phillips

Hi Susan, thanks for the article, it was most useful. I came across Google Sites through the GetBritishBusinessOnline(GBBO) initiative. I am a tech professional of many years standing and have left web-site design and build to the experts. Under the GBBO initiative I gave the process a go and haven't been disappointed. However I would love to know the easiest way to link a google site to a specific domain name, so that when you go to www.mydomain.com you actually see that and not http://sites.google.com/site/...... I have tried many 'solutions' unsuccessfully.

KirksvilleWebDesign
KirksvilleWebDesign

Thanks for this article Susan. I am glad you included the newest feature of page-level permissions. Another myth that could be dispelled: Myth: Google Sites can't look Professional Fact: We try to dispel this all the time, trying to make the best Google Sites around for clients. Google Sites is getting better all the time and it is ready to compete with the likes of Wordpress, et al. Keep up the good work on all things Google Apps!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Are you using Google Sites? Have you come across other myths that you'd like to dispel?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"We joined Google Sites years ago, expecting that it would be developed and improved as regularly as all the other things that Google do ..." Funny, I expect services from Google to remain flagged as 'Beta' for years, with a strong chance they'll eventually be dropped.

susancline
susancline

Give it a try, I'd love to see what you create.

mandy.phillips
mandy.phillips

A huge thanks to everyone who replied; I have managed to get it to work using Ishiros instructions. Sorry I didn't reply with thanks earlier.

ishiro
ishiro

- access to your google sites account and go to "more actions" - once there clic on "manage site" - now go to "general" under "site settings" - now scroll down a little bit and you'll see "web address mapping" clic on "map this site" - in the first textbox write the name of your landing page - in the second textbox just write: www - now clic on the button "add mapping" it'll take a few minutes to take effect ...one more thing, it's better if you already have the google IPs in your dns manager to locate your domain (216.239.32.21, 216.239.34.21, 216.239.36.21, 216.239.38.21) p.s.: i recommend to you to link your domain name not only to google sites, you can get a lot more if you open a google apps account for your domain name (50 free accounts, calendar, docs, etc... and... you can redirect your naked domain name http://mydomain.com) http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/group/index.html if you need a good place to register and google apps friendly interface www.godaddy.com is your best choice

rlcohen
rlcohen

I'd also like to know the answer to this one!

kylehutson
kylehutson

It *used* to be 50 free accounts, and that is still the limitation if you were using Google Apps for Domains before they made this change. However, if you're a new user, you're now limited to 10 free accounts.

Jim Mcnelis
Jim Mcnelis

You can register a domain via Google (actually uses GoDaddy & Enom) when you sign up with the link you provided. That's the easiest way to register a domain & setup Google Apps at the same time.