In this post, I am going to write a review of the Google Sites Website Builder platform.
It works almost like any of the other popular website builders but is more suited to developing small websites, wikis and company intranets.
Google Sites has evolved since been acquired by Google and they recently released a new version called the New Google Sites which competes fairly with the other website builders we have discussed on this blog.
Google Sites Editor
1: Visual Editing and Ease of Use
The Google Sites editor is very easy to use for anyone even a beginner. This article gives a step by step guide on how to create a website using the Google Sites website builder.
To get started, all you need to do is create a Google Account or sign in if you have one then visit sites.google.com. This will take you to the editor screen which is clean and straight forward.
Seventy percent of the editor screen is covered by the editor while the remaining thirty percent is covered by tools that you will need to use to design your website.
If you visit a different website builder platform, you get a different and better experience.
For example, Wix gives you an option to answer a few questions and then gives you an already designed website from your answers or you can choose a template that you customize to match your requirements.
This is different from what Google Sites gives you, something that makes it a little bit shallow compared to the other platforms.
2: Inserting Components
Adding components to your website on Google Sites is very easy.
When logged in to the editor screen, you get a toolbar on the right-hand side that has all the components that Google Sites offers for your website design. The toolbar has three options, namely Insert, Pages, and Themes.
The Insert option has the core components that you need to edit your website. Here, you will be able to add text, images, embed a URL or code and insert items from your Google Drive account.
Google sites allows one to add content from other Google Apps.
Through the Insert option, you can connect with Calendar, YouTube, Drive, Map, Slides, Docs, Sheets, Charts, and Forms and add content from them to your website.
When adding a new section on the page, you get a number of layout options to choose from. This simplifies the work for you since after choosing a layout, all you need to do is to add content to match your requirements.
Just like most editors from other website builder platforms, the Google Sites editor allows you to add content to your website by simply dragging and dropping the content on the right places on the editor screen.
If you are not happy with the website content, you have several options to play with it like moving them around and changing their sizes to make sure that your website looks exactly the way you would want it to.
The editor is easy to use and straight forward.
However, if you compare the options available on Google Sites to other website builder platforms, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
For example, the screenshot on the left below shows the right-click options available with Wix while that on the right shows the one you get with Google Sites.
In my opinion, it would have been useful if Google Sites had populated it with menu options that would be useful when editing your website, just like Wix and other website builders.
3: Text Formatting
On the Insert option, Google Sites provides a Text Box insert button that can be used for multiple purposes.
This is quite interesting since you have one button that will be able to do a couple of things, hence making it easy even for a beginner compared to having several buttons scattered around and maybe difficult to find.
With this text box button, you can be able to insert titles, headings, subheadings, links and regular text. You also get all the basic text formatting options that you might need as shown below.
Still, in this section, there is a themes option that comes with a number of headers for your website. When selecting a theme, Google Sites enables simple customizations such as changing color and the themes font to go with the theme you have selected. This is quite basic and not as detailed as what other common website builders provide. The themes do not do a great deal except place a header image and title onto your site.
Google Sites does not offer any templates. Everything needs to be built from scratch with the exception of the home page header image and the layout options we mentioned earlier. A template determines the niche or purpose of the site as well as the organizational structure. For example, a rugby team template includes elements that you would need for a rugby team site like schedules, results, announcements, and match statistics. Each template also comes with a default style or theme. You can then choose a theme for your template. This theme determines the colors, images, and other graphics used on the page. For example, if you choose the rugby team theme, you can choose a notebook template to give it a notebook background and suitable fonts.
5: Adding Pages
Finally, this section has a Pages option that allows you to add or navigate between pages when editing them. The page name is usually displayed on the top right-hand side of the editor screen or your website screen.
Adding a new page will add a new menu item next to the last added page. In case you want to have child pages, Google Sites allows you to add them as subpages, giving your menu item a drop-down option to access the subpage.
You can even choose to have a page but then hide it from your website visitors. I find this quite good since you can show your website to the public while still working on the hidden pages which you can unhide after working on them.
This is very easy to use and does not have anything complicated that a beginner would find difficult to understand.
The editor allows you to preview your website before you can publish it. The website will be available on a desktop mode when working on it, but when you click on the preview button, you can preview the website in a mobile, tablet or desktop mode as shown below.
Google Sites comes with an editor that has limited features, meaning that it is not as powerful as the editors provided by other website builders but it is one of the easiest to use.
It is straightforward and everything it provides is quite easy to make use of. A beginner will rarely find any difficulties using this editor.
6: Media Management
A skilled website developer will most likely be unhappy with Google sites’ media management capabilities for the first time.
However, they will find features a little bit interesting after working with them. This is because it gives you ways of adding and managing media that makes it interesting to use.
For example, let us say that you want to add an image to a section of your website. All you need to do is to click on the “+” sign as shown above which opens a number of options for you. These options include choosing from your Google Drive account, searching from Google Albums, searching Google images or even choosing from your computer’s hard drive.
With all these options, you will find that Google Sites offers one of the best media management features compared to other website builder platforms. In addition to this, the “+” button above allows you to embed a YouTube video, a calendar or a Mapmaking it easier compared to other platforms that might need the use of plugins or applications for the same job.
Adding these apps looks very good on the back end – that is, on the developers’ side.
However, I wish Google could have added more capabilities on the front end for the website visitor.
For example, if you have embedded a calendar with events for your website visitors, all they get is simply a window to see the calendar and possible scroll.
Maybe it would have been better if the site visitor could be able to set up appointments or even share the calendar on other platforms.
Google Sites does not have any SEO features by the time of writing this post. If you need to do any optimization, you might be forced to do that manually which might prove difficult without access to coding.
However, there has been some talk that Google ranks websites built with its site builder much better regardless of the content. At the moment, we can not prove if this is true or maybe if it is coming.
Google Sites does not support blogging. However, Google offers a blogging service called Blogger. You can sign up or log in to Blogger using your Google account here.
The Blogger platform allows you to create a blog that works perfectly well and has all blogging features. As of now you can not insert a blogger feed in New Google Sites, all you can do is add a link to it.
This is very unfortunate. In my opinion, Google should have considered adding it as a service, the same way you can add a Google Docs or any of the other services provided by Google.
Google Sites is free to use.
It gives you unlimited use to its features, traffic, and websites. This, together with its integration with other Google Services and Apps is the most compelling part of Google Sites that makes it stand out from the rest.
If you have a Google account, you can simply visit sites.google.com and get started right away. You will not get any website limits or expiration dates.
If you have a G Suite subscription, Google Sites will be bundled with your subscription together with all the administrative controls, backups and all the benefits that come with a G Suite account.
By default, all Google Sites websites are assigned a URL that follows https://sites.google.com/view/your-name format.
If you do not have a custom URL, this will be the URL that your site visitors will use to visit your website.
However, Google allows one to use a custom URL. All you need to do is to assign the custom URL when publishing your website.
There is a management button on the publishing window that allows you to do that. You can also add a custom URL by clicking on the three dots at the top right-hand side of the editor screen.
With Google Sites, you will have to follow a community support model.
In other words, it means that if you are facing any issue, then you will have to seek help through the support forums. This is different from other premium website builders where there is a dedicated email support channel.
Having said that the community forums are quite helpful and there is a good chance that you will get an answer to your query.
You can actually use this forum to learn from other people and see mistakes they might have made before you start building your website to make sure that you avoid making the same mistake.
You can also refer to support pages to help you. The support articles come in categories to make sure that you can easily find what you are looking for.
The Google Sites Builder tool is not ideal for business websites.
It lacks essential features like SEO Management, Blogging, Ecommerce and a library of business themes.
I would not even recommend it for a start-up company website. This is because no matter how creative you might try to be, Google Sites offers limited features that will not be a true reflection of what your company is all about. The designs and features are too basic to actually build a fully functioning website.
Google Site Builder is best suited if you want to quickly create a company intranet website/knowledge base or a wiki.
If you want to use Google Site builder for creating a business website, then remember that sooner or later you will outgrow it and then you will have to make the switch to a more feature-rich website builder.