Reviews and expert opinion Google Sites

Sophia Conti
Sophia Conti
Website Development Expert

I really wanted to like Google Sites, but ultimately I was disappointed in its lack of ability to create a fully functioning website. There are some really useful features for certain contexts, but if you’re trying to build a site for yourself or your business, you’ll be better off with a builder like Wix that offers more design and function options.


Overview

The Google Name Sets High Expectations. Does Google Sites Meet Them?

You would think a website builder with the Google name behind it would be powerful, intuitive, and user friendly, right? I hadn’t heard of Google Sites before Website Planet asked me to review it, but I was excited to give it a try since I love Google Docs and other Google products.

Did it meet my expectations? Sort of.

The user experience of Google Sites is on par with any other Google product. It’s a clean and simple interface that doesn’t get too complicated, and it seamlessly connects to every other Google product, like Google Analytics and AdSense  a must for nearly every website these days.

But Google Sites hits its limitations very quickly. It started out as a tool for creating project wikis (i.e., an online text document for teams), internal company sites, and other internal projects. And while the company’s improved it in recent updates, it still doesn’t go much further than the original.

Note: Google is currently phasing out the original Google Sites, now known as Classic Google Sites, and it is only available to G Suite subscribers. This review focuses on the new Google Sites app.

If you’re looking to build a fully functioning website to establish your business’s online presence, Google Sites is not the site builder for you. You’ll get far more templates, design options, and freedom with Wix or another more robust website builder. (You can read my in-depth website builder comparison for other options.) However, if you’re looking for a simple, free way to present information online and don’t need fancy features, it can be a useful tool.

In this review, I’ll highlight elements that demonstrate exactly how you can use Google Sites effectively – and where it falls short.

Templates

2.0

With So Few Templates, Can You Build a Unique Site?

Google Sites offers just nine base templates with names like “Portfolio,” “Team,” and “Project” – names that hint at the platform’s limited intent. These templates aren’t made for showcasing products or promoting your small business. They’re designed for online projects with a smaller scope.

Google Sites template options
Google Sites templates lend themselves well to collaborative projects

The number of templates might seem alarmingly small, but you do have the freedom to customize them a fair bit – changing colors, font styles, image and text layout, etc. Of course, we’re not talking about complete creative freedom. You can change text colors, for instance, but you can’t actually choose from a list of fonts – instead, your font styles are limited to just a few options, like “light,” “classic,” and “heavy.”

Google Sites template with instructional filler text
Google Sites template layouts match their stated purpose well, like this Project layout

One thing about the templates I appreciate is that the filler text provides instructions and recommendations for content, rather than the standard “lorem ipsum” filler. It provides a little guidance while still giving you a sense of what the page will look like when you publish it.Explore Google Sites Templates

Features

2.0

Is Integration with the Google Suite Enough to Add a Wow Factor?

I was hoping that Google Sites would have a few innovative features that would really impress me, but unfortunately, the main attraction is its seamless connection with all other Google products. Noticeably missing are many standard website builder features, like SEO tools or the ability to add third-party apps, which often had me thinking, “This would be a great tool if only it had…”

There are a few really wonderful features, but these alone don’t make Google Sites a powerful enough website builder to compete with the major players in this space, like Wix or Squarespace.

Incorporate Content from Nearly Any Google App

Since Google Sites is part of the massive suite of Google apps, it’s incredibly easy to connect files from various tools and group them together on your site. Your site is connected to all of your Google accounts via your email address, so you have instant access to anything saved on your Google Drive.

Google Drive sidebar - Google Sites
Your Google Drive files appear in a sidebar in the Google Sites editor

You can embed files on any page, and they will appear as a thumbnail preview. You can adjust the size of each thumbnail and link to charts, spreadsheets, documents, etc. You can also link to the actual files – just be sure to set the permissions so the right users can open them. This is incredibly useful for aggregating project files, resources, or other documents related to a project.

Here’s each app you can directly incorporate content from:

  • Docs
  • Sheets
  • Slides
  • Calendar
  • Forms
  • Charts
  • Maps

Search Google Images or YouTube Directly from the Interface

Adding documents and such from your personal Google Drive is useful, but not really unexpected: Google likes to connect all of its products. What really impressed me – as in, I said, “This is so cool!” out loud – is the ability to directly search Google Images and YouTube from the Google Sites interface (and then add those images or videos to your website).

In other words, if you want to embed a YouTube video, you don’t have to use a separate tab in your web browser. You’ll search from a pop-up box and place the video wherever you like on your page.

Google Sites built-in YouTube search feature
I love that you can embed virtually any video directly from the Google Sites editor

You can do a Google Image Search in the same way. This search box filters images to bring up those labeled for commercial reuse, which means you can legally use them without paying fees. Just be sure to verify that commercial reuse is actually allowed (since Google warns that the filter isn’t perfect), and give credit to the original source if the owner requires it.

The cherry on top of the built-in Google Image Search is the ability to filter results by their dominant color. I’ve tested a lot of website builders and I haven’t seen this feature on any other platform. It’s extremely helpful when searching for images to match your design’s color scheme.

Google Sites built-in image search with color filter
I wish all website builders had a color filter option to narrow down photo choices

Collaborate on Your Site in Real-Time

If you’re used to collaborating with others and sharing files on Google Docs, you’ll find that Google Sites works similarly. You can provide editing access to the collaborating team members, and those with draft access can edit in real-time, just as you would in a Google Doc. This is a huge asset to collaboration, regardless of what you’re working on.

You’ll also have extensive control over who can view your website. Google Sites can be published only to certain people or groups, such as an internal team or your entire company. And of course, you can also make it public so it appears in internet searches like a typical website.

Sharing permissions for Google Sites
Set separate permissions for your site draft and the published version

Announcement Banners

This last feature is really useful and I was impressed by its simplicity. You can easily add a customized announcement banner to your site with the option to place it sitewide or on a single page.

Google Sites homepage with announcement banner
Adding an announcement banner (in purple above) can provide an eye-catching CTA for visitors

Customization for the banner is limited to color and text, but it’s a simple way to provide visitors with important information or direct them to a useful resource for getting started on your site.See full list of features

Ease of use

5.0

Is Google Sites as User-Friendly as Other Google Apps?

Google is good at understanding users’ needs and meeting them effectively. This carries over to Google Sites, which offers an intuitive, streamlined interface without a lot of clutter. Here are some ways Google makes this tool easy to use.

Clean, Simple Interface

The Google Sites editor interface is really pleasing to look at and almost soothing to use. It is free of clutter and expanding menus, focusing only on the essentials. There’s really only one place to look to find what you need, so it’s very straightforward and you can start building your site quickly.

The Google Sites editor interface
I like how the Google Sites editor is organized, but wish it had more content block and font customization options

The bad news? This simplicity is only possible because Google Sites doesn’t have a lot of features. There’s no need for expansive menus because there just isn’t that much you can do. But since the purpose of this tool isn’t really to build a complex website, I think the simplicity is more of a benefit than a disadvantage.

Premade Content Layouts

Google Sites uses a drag-and-drop editor on a grid layout. Essentially, you can move elements where you want them, but they’ll always snap into the existing design grid to keep everything aligned. You can use individual content blocks to design your own layout, or you can choose from a small selection of existing layouts to save time and effort.

Content layout options - Google Sites
Google Sites’ layout templates streamline your design experience

If you want to design your own layout, spend some time exploring the different content blocks you can add – there are a few unique ones that I haven’t seen in other website builders. These include collapsible text (so the paragraph text is only visible when the subheading has been clicked), a table of contents, and a placeholder block that you can later fill with embedded content from your Google Drive, Google Calendar, or other sources.

Autosave

Like other Google products, your Google Site will automatically save any changes you make in real-time. It also keeps a version history so you can review edits made by different collaborators and revert to earlier versions at any point. You do need to manually click Publish to ensure your changes go live, but you’ll never lose your work if your system crashes.See if Google Sites is Right for You

Support

3.0

There’s No Live Support Option. Do You Even Need It?

Google Sites has very little in the way of support. There are no live support options – not even an automated chat – so you’ll have to rely on the series of support documents and the community help forum if you have issues.

The support documents are fairly comprehensive, but I still found questions that they couldn’t answer. The community help forum is pretty hit-or-miss – it’s always worth checking to see if someone asked your exact question and received an answer, but there are a lot of repetitive questions along with ones you could solve by reading the support documents.

This support setup might seem odd for a huge company like Google, but think of Google Sites like Google Docs or Sheets. You wouldn’t expect live support for a word processing or spreadsheet application, and this is basically an extension of that tool set. There are 24/7 support options available for those who subscribe to G Suite, a set of business tools that provides a few extras on top of the standard free Google Apps.

Google Sites troubleshooting support documentation
Google Support attempts to help you solve issues on your own, but doesn’t always succeed

All of that said, one thing I really appreciate about Google’s support documents is that they list specific error messages you may receive and give instructions for dealing with each message. In other words, they don’t just provide generic troubleshooting to work through the most common problems – they give you steps to directly solve the problem you’re experiencing, like in the example below.

Comparison

How does Google Sites match up to the competition?

Wix Compare 4.9 Compare
Squarespace Compare 4.8 Compare
Nicepage Compare 3.0 Compare
Google Sites Compare 3.0 Compare

Pricing

5.0

Google Sites Is Free. What’s the Catch?

Google Sites is completely free and comes with your Google account. Every feature and function is available for free on personal accounts (except for 24/7 customer support). Your Google Site will also include unlimited storage and the ability to add up to five custom URLs to your site. You also won’t see any Google ads or branding on the published site.

If there’s a catch, it’s that you get what you pay for. Google Sites is more of a collaboration and presentation tool than a fully functioning website builder. In fact, in some ways, it’s even more limited than the free versions of more well-known website builders. For example, there are no blogging tools or e-commerce features. And while you could set up a site that looks somewhat like a blog or online store, you’ll still lack the management features that you get with the free version of Wix.

User reviews

Based on 29 reviews in 12 languages
3.0
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1.0
Julie
Canada
August 07, 2020
New google sites r bad news

Had a very simple site on old Google sites. Then I got a "letter of happiness" from Google, that I need convert, move or delete my site in September 2021. So I tried. I could even fathom how bad it would be. It looks like the whole idea of the move to get rid of most of the sites and then declare it a failure and remove it altogether down the road. Simplest thing could not be accomplished at all, like changing page background color. Yes, you cannot change the page background color. One have to do it manually for all elements of the page! The technology giant promotes dull tasks being repeated over and over again. Changed your mind? Well, you should plan ahead well.:) And the whole thing is unbelievably slow!

anonymus
August 07, 2020

I have the same shocking experience with the conversion from the classic website to the new one. It seems that Google wants to get rid of the free option, and therefore sabotages the new setup.

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4.0
#Awesome
Canada
July 03, 2020
👍 Great

Google sites is really useful when trying to make a small website. If you are trying to make a bigger website, you may want to use another website builder. If you want to use google sites, use the old version for a lot of detail and use the new version for a simple and stylish website.

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5.0
Bohdan Lis
Ukraine
sites.google.com/view/parkovoj/%d0%bd%d0%b0%d1%88%d0%b5-%d0%be%d1%81%d0%bc%d0%b4
June 17, 2020
google site the best site builder. I recommend to everyone

Google site the best site builder. I recommend to everyone. Google's cloud technology with free hosting and even a domain name will give you great and powerful opportunities. I have been using their platform for more than a year. I was able to realize all my tasks.

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1.0
Jake
USA
May 16, 2020
Website-Building Made Difficult

Zero Stars. Google tries to mask its incompetence to make a user-friendly website builder with appealing designs. What if I told you you can’t change the font or font color anymore? Ludicrous, right? I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. Building a Google site was difficult before, and they somehow made it worse. If it ain’t broke, DON’T FIX IT.

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1.0
Fiona
USA
April 16, 2020
It didn't save and I spent forever

I spent a long time on my project, and it didn't save. I wrote three pages on google sites, and I had to start the whole thing ever, it supposed to save automatically. It's not easy doing projects, it says at the top, "all changes saved to drive" but clearly that's not true, it didn't save any of my hard work smh

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1.0
Molly
USA
April 14, 2020
I would not recommend for almost any purpose.

When I started using this for a school project, I had no idea how horrible it would be to use it. Almost nothing is customizable including the font color and size to a point. If there even is away, I was unable to find how to rotate pictures. When you try to edit one thing, there's is no telling how badly it will affect the whole rest of the page. The final results may look nice, but it is not worth the struggle it takes to make it look that way. I'm very disappointed that this is a Google product considering how easy to use some of their other programs, such as Google Slides and Google Docs.

Read more reviews

Bottom line on Google Sites

Ultimately, I’m pretty disappointed in Google Sites as a website builder. There’s so much potential to be a really simple but powerful tool, but it settles for providing a few nifty tricks rather than becoming a website building powerhouse.

Google still offers a great user experience, and it lives up to its reputation of connecting all your work across Google apps and tools. However, Google Sites isn’t meant to be anything other than a collaboration and presentation tool, and sadly, trying to make it into a full-fledged website builder just won’t work. 

That doesn’t mean Google Sites is completely useless though – if you need a free builder to create a quick, simple site for an event, a professional portfolio, or a different kind of small-scale project, it can be a solid option. But if you’re looking for something more, I’d recommend Wix. I’ve also tested and reviewed a lot of other website builders, and you can read my recommendations in our list of the best website builders for 2020.

Sophia Conti
Sophia Conti
Sophia is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist. She specializes in digital marketing and B2B content for small businesses and entrepreneurs. When not writing or editing, she can be found searching used bookstores and watching the penguins at the San Diego Zoo.

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