Google Sites

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Reviewing Google Sites – 2019

 

Google Sites website builder is not the only builder that the company has had. Actually, it’s the third installment in the line. The first one was ‘Google Page Creator’, which existed on the Web until 2006 – the year when Google bought ‘JotSpot’ company that had developed its own website-building tool. They hoped to succeed with this purchase and to develop it to make it as popular as many of its huge products – like Maps or Docs. They renamed the Google Page Creator to ‘Classic Sites’. Now, to change the old ‘Classic’, the Google Sites site maker arrived in 2016 – and we are going to talk about here meaning only a Google Sites site maker (active in 2019) in this article – just to be clear about this issue.

We’ll say at the start – so the reader can choose if the reading is worth spending time on – that this site maker is one of the most inconvenient and restrictive site makers on the market. It is not easy to set up a beautiful site (and it’s impossible to do one like Squarespace or uKit in the simplicity, adjustability, and visual perfection). It has a close semblance to other Google’s tools – not flexible, restrictive, and not oriented at visual excellence, yet powerful, integrate-able, secure, and available to everyone. 

 

A general overview of Google Sites 

 

Is it easy to use?

The new Google Sites site builder is definitely a lot easier to use than it was with Classic but many features were lost along the way. Now, though it is simple, seems like Google has sacrificed completely with the desire of people to self-express and the need to make a design as they want. What actually this site builder allows today is mostly boiled down to picking among or between options – Yes/No or multiple options – when adjusting pages to the needs. That’s a scarce thing and it actually makes you feel like a small screw-nut facing the gigantic machine of Google’s business. There is no actual feeling that what you’re doing really belongs to you and you have power over it.

 

How much this tool costs?

In addition to 14-days free trial, users are offered to pay from 6 to 25 dollars a month within the net of Google Sites pricing, receiving differing strengths of customization and setup.

 

Pricing of Google Sites 

 

  1. A free run during 2 weeks – that is the answer to the question of how to make a website for free on Google.
  2. ‘Basic’ for 6 bucks a month per 1 user. 30 Gb cloud storage + business Gmail + video and voice conferencing + shared calendars + secured messaging within a team + online docs + 24/7 support (of great value) + security and admin controls. Kinda quality answer on how to make a Google site.
  3. ‘Business’ for $12 a month per 1 user. Everything mentioned in the ‘Basic’ + no storage limits, low-code app development environment, G Suite and Cloud Search, more security and admin features, and eDiscovery app.
  4. ‘Enterprise’ for $25 a month per 1 user. Everything mentioned in the ‘Business’ plan of Google site maker + premium cloud identity, even bigger security and more admin options, significantly better data loss prevention for Drive and Gmail, security center, and much more options of eDiscovery (designed for e-mails, files, and chats).

Also, each subscription plan of this site builder offers the following list of capabilities:

  • work without the Internet connection
  • phone, tablet, and computer friendliness (with a possibility to work on those devices too)
  • full compatibility with MS Office apps
  • admin console with multiple participants
  • no ads in all plans
  • guarantee of 99.9% uptime
  • alert center with alerts working automatically
  • and a list of extensible features. 

 

Advantages and disadvantages of Google Sites 

 

Pros of Google website maker:

  1. Much unlimited stuff, which is not commonplace for the market of site builders – storage, bandwidth, hosting of different types of objects and their extensions, and any number of sites and pages within one site to have. No up-sells, no deliberate pushes towards the more expensive plan, no risks, and no expiration dates.
  2. Price is relatively low for the just mentioned.
  3. Security is the highest amongst all site creators we’ve seen.
  4. Amazing integration abilities with all Google products – as this site creator has been specifically designed and coded by the best world programmers to make things integrated smoothly.
  5. You only have to have a Google account to start working and using the entire power of this Google product (as well as any other Google product), through a single center.
  6. Backups and restores at any time – unlimited.
  7. Simplicity – even too high.
  8. Simple and intuitive drag-and-drop, which you have already mastered if you have ever before worked closely with Word or Excel.
  9. Fantastic sharing capabilities.
  10. A possibility of a team of people to work together on the same site – as any site that one makes using this site creator is primarily a site for data exchange and commune work.

 

Cons:

  1. Weak e-commerce side, which especially needs hacking around when it comes to embedding payment channels (PayPal, especially).
  2. Too largely limited creativity, making people ponder how to use Google Websites for real. You feel like assembling a constructor with a few options – like you can choose do you want this wall to be painted in yellow or green color. But this site creator doesn’t care whether you want a door here, not a wall. 
  3. Despite the fact that something can be done offline, the primary working model heavily relies on being online on the Internet.
  4. Limited designs of pages in Google website builder due to poorly looking (and only a few) templates compared to market leaders in visual alluringness. What you can and what you can’t alter in those templates are rigidly predefined and there is no way to bypass – unless you don’t want to risk crashing everything when trying to bypass. Layout and core parameters are really unchangeable. You can’t rearrange the order of elements on the pages and just have to live with those design limitations. What about new Google Sites templates? Well, it’s currently unknown if Google website creator is going to implement new templates and would the company make them alluring to work with and more design-flexible.
  5. Google websites tool is fabulous for quickly made informational sites, which do not leverage of beauty but on functionality and comprehensiveness. Like an educational site or a working project to share information with the group inside of your company. But if you want some appealing web store, a design studio portfolio site, or a carpenter’s site to showcase works – Google Sites creator is not the best solution.
  6. CSS is closed for editing in Sites Google.
  7. The entire functionality reminds you that you are a guest in this Google product and it allows you to play around only to some extent – as if you’re a baby, which is playing under constant supervision of adults.
  8. Google Analytics isn’t working quite extensively – surprise, surprise! While Google Analytics is the most powerful tool on the market for this purpose, for Google Sites, it needs a way to be adjusted. So, just add Google Analytics separately to your site – to make your Google site be Google-analyzed.
  9. Forget about adding a Facebook pixel.
  10. Want a nice SEO? Nope, that’s not what this site creator can do (title and description are not editable, for instance).
  11. There is no possibility to add a custom domain name – and so you will lose when it comes to SEO (which is bad for googling your Google site). The name is by default like https://sites.google.com/siteofyourname. 

What features does Google Sites have?

 

  1. ‘Google My Business’ – add your business to the map, search engines and other business directories based on location, description, type of your business, pictures, and a few more things.
  2. Connection to other G products – a list of them is outspoken during the description of subscription plans above.
  3. Update the number of columns in a table/layout and colors update
  4. Footer on/off
  5. Automated table of contents to the text with properly marked headings
  6. Customization of text – headers, fonts, size, style, add or remove text boxes
  7. Upload images 
  8. Style a menu – up or a sidebar
  9. It is more like a DIY tool than some cool template-based one, which in other web creators could only take a few final touches to be personified and fabulously looking.
  10. Easy drag-and-drop (though limited, like everything else in the interface).

 

Speed and security in Google Sites 

 

Security:

  • uptime is high (99.9% and over), which affects the security of uninterrupted work of users within a website
  • cloud security at application and infrastructure levels
  • product data protection
  • basic or advanced (depending on your subscription plan) prevention of data loss from your G Drive and Gmail
  • the system configuration protection
  • access rights management
  • Cloud Identity with multifactor authentication 
  • security keys
  • full compliance with the requirements of ISO, EU Certify Point, AICPA SOC, HIPAA, and FR
  • NDA of Google 
  • transparent reporting
  • HTTPS.

As for the speed – it should really have been better, according to our Google Sites review:

  • the time to fully load an average page is 9.2 seconds (bad compared to market average)
  • total page size is 1.8 Mb (nice)
  • Page Speed score – only “C” with 70% mark (about 5% below the Internet’s average)
  • four indicators of speed fall into the ‘red’ zone (others are ‘green’): JavaScript parsing, images and CSS, and ‘Leverage browser caching’.

The speed is quite not the best what we have seen over the years of analyzing website builders; Google Sites stands here in the tail of the list.

 

Design opportunities and templates of Google Sites 

 

As we have been saying during this text numerous times, the design and templates are not the strong sides of this website creator. Some users ask ‘How can I create my own website on Google’ as they don’t know if Google Sites for business or for personal needs is of any good in customization and power (everything but security and integration powers).

Well, a user is basically limited to a few selections from the possible list and in some cases, limited to ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers (‘Do you want menu vertical or horizontal?’ rather than asking ‘What kind of menu do you want?’)

  1. In the pages menu of Google web builder, one can do actions with pages.
  2. Insert menu is to add/remove pictures, texts, videos, buttons, and other elements of pages.
  3. Logo on/off.
  4. Navigation menu.
  5. Customization of background, color, and font of textual blocks.
  6. Adding a favicon.

But it’s not like you’re having 100 fonts or colors of background to choose from – they are likely limited to ten or something. So, while pretty enough for fast websites, where the design is not the priority, this website editor is a good tool, which cuts off everything superfluous with Occam’s razor. If you want a superabundance of customization that may even be confusing and tiresome – go to Wix rather than using the Spartan simplicity of Google website builder.

 

Customer support in Google Sites 

 

Unlike a dedicated service of customer support of other website creators on the market, in this tool, it is slightly different:

  • Administrators of G Suite can receive a 24/7 support in three channels: phone, live chat, and e-mail. 
  • Other users, not admins but contributors (people with ‘edit’ rights of access), can only refer to Google Help (FAQ).

E-mail and phone are ready to help you in 14 languages. Chat supports less. Google Help supports largely more (every popular language of the world with English version considered primary).

 

Marketing and SEO possibilities of Google Sites 

 

SEO is a tough point of this website creator. There is no embedded possibility to enter or change the SEO parameters in the user account (‘My Google Sites’) or in any menu. Some people talk that as they create a Google site, they notice that Google ranks them in search results high – no matter what is in Google Sites’ content. This is something that is hard to be relied on – and you never know when the rules are going to change. Doesn’t it seem at least odd to you that the most powerful company on the market, which requires other websites to comply with many SEO requirements and constraints, so easily cuts off all users of their product from this market? 

What about marketing? We weren’t able to find information about any marketing tools of this website creator – it seems like if you want to make e-mail or other types of marketing, you have to choose another web maker (as even simple integration with MailChimp seems unreachable).

 

Integration features of Google Sites 

 

There are two types of integration within this website creator:

  1. With other Google products and
  2. With products of third parties.

In the first case, everything is seamless and perfectly reliable – as Google tailors its products for the best usage and smoothness of integration. There is pointless to name the list of the products – you can see them on your own, just google it.

As for the second – things will require to play around, highly likely leaving you eventually dissatisfied with the result.

 

Payment inside of Google Sites platform

 

Well, this website creator is not a shopping or e-commerce platform – which completely deprives its users of having any payment channels or gateways. It is hard to attach them if you can’t change the code – but even if you do, you are going to have a problem with SSL certificate (which seems to be not a part of its amazing security) and have to rely on SSL of the payment gateways. It’s a fat reason to choose some other website creator over Google Sites. We know people who were running an online store designed on this website creator but the only financial transaction tool was PayPal – which is relevant for some countries of the world (not all of them) and is only ONE channel of payments, whereas there exist hundreds of payment channels over there. You can easily access them in Shopify through a number of ready-to-integrate payment gateways simply and smoothly (if you need a store) rather than dance around with Google Sites.

 

Coupons and promo codes that one can find in Google Sites 

 

As it is not destined to build stores and accept payments, there is no such thing as coupons and promo codes. If you want to run a store – then why don’t you choose a dedicated creator of web stores in the first place rather than to deal with tons of bypasses to connect payment systems to this one?

 

Conclusion: is it worth using?

 

Use it if you have a strong need to create a functional and rigidly looking website in hours of time. The interface limits you to only the most functional things, not hoping that you will go beyond farther than that. 

It would be a perfect solution for people working in companies or teams who want to share the results of their work and submit the information on a website – in a presentable and clearly structured way. 

This website creator is also a nice tool for common work with many contributors, as it is the case with G Docs – online Word and Excel. High integration and security powers are the hallmarks of Google Sites but if you want your creativity to blossom or to build an e-store – this tool is not what you shall choose.

 

Google Sites review 

 

  1. Faith Thompson from Budapest, Hungary, makes one of Google Sites reviews: When I needed to create a co-working portal for a group of 10, I managed to do it for three hours only – basically, before going to sleep. The simplicity of its interface helped me. When it was ready – it only took me to send invitations to other group participants through Gmail with edit rights and that’s it.
  2. Sore Mugandish from Manipur, Bangladesh: It is for me an ideal maker of websites to work within a small circle of developers to run the status and updates. We’ve been using other tools to keep in touch with the working process and we do use them now (like Jira) but having a website to monitor the high-level status of work is convenient for the project sponsor.
  3. Margaret Chou from Chongqing, China: It is another way to track the things done and it’s simple to use.
  4. Bailey Kim from Busan, South Korea: I wasn't able to start a blog – and then I just understood that this website creator is not good for blogging.
  5. Lane Ishmail from Kathmandu, India, about Google Sites: Since I didn’t like the too primitive templates, which were too strict and not sleeky, I've decided to select Squarespace.

 

It seems like this site creator is a tool, which, unlike Google Company, doesn’t know anything about SEO, analytics, beauty, and functionality of adjustments. What people were working on its creation if the basics were not considered and implemented? Competitors?

FAQ about Google Sites website builder

 

How to edit in this web creator?

Depending on what you want to edit – page specifics or overall – there will be 2 ways. To edit a page, find one in your account and then click ‘Edit’. To edit a website, select the editable website and in the gear, find the ‘Manage site’ option.

 

How to change the font in Google Sites?

In the page-editing interface, in the horizontal menu, find the font actions you want to change: face, size, style, and others.

 

How to delete a page in Google Sites?

In the website menu, find the page that you wish to delete, click ‘More’ in the right top corner, and select ‘Delete’.

 

How to share Google Sites?

On the menu, find the website you want to share, in the right top corner, click ‘Share’, select the access options for people with whom you are sharing, and save – just like it’s done in Google Docs.

 

How to delete tabs on Google Sites?

For the full instruction consisting of 14 steps, refer to Google help page here: sites.google.com/site/siteshelphowtos/google-sites-instructions/Basics/removepagefromnavigation