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 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.


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 Visit Susan at her website or follow her on Twitter @GoogleAppsSusa...

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