Google Sites Keeps Things Simple - But It Comes at a Cost
Google Sites provides a no-hassle, completely free, and accessible website creation and hosting platform. If you have a Gmail or Google account, you already have a Google sites account too. The real strength of Google Sites lies with its seamless integration with other Google products.
That being said, Google Sites has quite limited capabilities and features, and whether you’re building a personal blog or a company website – you will grow out of it sooner than later. Other vendors like Wix that also offer a free plan allow you to start small and grow at your own pace. Read our full Wix review to learn more on how to build a truly stunning website for free.
In this review, we look at Classic Google Sites. This platform has been around for quite some time and is available to all users. Although there is now New Google Sites – as part of the Google G Suite of productivity tools – Classic Google Sites continues to function on its own.
Choose from a Variety of Themes and Templates to Create a Unique Look and Feel
In keeping with the rest of the platform, the themes and templates available with Google Sites are decidedly simple, and a little old school. A few more modern and stylish ones have popped up recently. However, it is still clear that the base themes and templates are meant to help users quickly and easily put together a site and not create groundbreaking designs.
Most of the designs are aimed at creating a site for school-related activities, common-interest clubs or even small business announcement boards. Basically, anyone who might need a site as an organizational tool but doesn’t have a big budget or design expertise.
Before you will get started, you’ll need to know how Google defines the difference between themes and templates, as it can get pretty confusing.
Templates determine the niche or purpose of the site as well as the organizational structure. For example, the soccer team template includes elements that you would need for a soccer 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 soccer team theme, you can choose a notebook template to give it a notebook background and suitable fonts or a Schoolhouse theme that will make it look as if it’s presented on a blackboard.
This approach allows you to come up with some unique combinations, and overcome the limitations of having only 53 themes and almost as many templates. Once you have created your site, changing the page template involves changing between a web page, announcement, list, or file cabinet layout.
When it comes to customization, you certainly don’t need any programming experience or a design degree. The interface is very similar to that of other Google products like Docs and Sheets and will be familiar to users. Because the templates and themes themselves are relatively simple, it’s super easy to swap images, edit and format text, change colors, change the layouts by selecting a different column structure, and add and delete simple elements.
Overall responsiveness on mobile displays is not great, however, it depends on individual themes.
Google Sites Comes With an Impressive List of Features for a Free Platform
Google Gadgets: Google Gadgets is their answer to plugins or extensions on other website builders. These are fairly simple (yet essential) widgets like calendars, newsfeeds, and calculators. Gadgets can be created by anyone and made available to other Google Sites users.
Google Analytics: With your free Google account, you can also set up Google Analytics and easily add it to your Google Sites hosted website.
Add Custom Script/HTML: You can either add custom HTML blocks to your pages or write scripts to automate certain processes (like email lists, etc.) to extend the features on your website.
Google Webmasters Tools: Google automatically verifies sites with sites.google.com in the URL. Even if you have a custom domain, Google Sites makes it easy to set up search engine crawling on your website.
Templates and Themes: Use a combination of templates and themes to quickly and easily set up a website that caters to your niche or purpose and has the desired look and feel. Although the settings are simple, you can extensively customize your template/theme.
Integrate with Your Google Suite: Google Sites is actually a little-known part of the Google’s G Suite. As such, you can directly link to or include content that you created or saved in other programs like Docs, Drive, Google+, Maps, etc.
Despite the platform’s simplicity, integration with other Google products is probably the best feature Google Sites has to offer. It adds some functionality that would require extensions, plugins or pay for features on other platforms. Although you shouldn’t expect premium features like e-commerce capability.
Ease of use
Create a Personalized Web Site in No Time
To create your site, you enter a name, choose a template and a theme, confirm you’re not a robot, and BOOM, you have a website. There really isn’t much more to it than that. It will also take you next to no time to get comfortable with the familiar interface. Further customizing your site to get it ready for launch is as easy as working with a word processor and swapping in new images. To launch your site to go live, you simply hit the “Share” button.
Work With a Simple and Familiar Interface
Google have been deliberate in their attempt to keep the interface similar to that of their other products. Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time working with the Google Suite of products knows how easy and seamless it is to switch between editing a document to set up a spreadsheet to create a slideshow. Now, you can add creating a basic website to the mix too.
Take Advantage of Google Product Integrations
An attractive to Gmail and Drive users is that you will be able to import content from these products directly onto your website. The same goes for other Google web tools like Analytics and Webmasters Tools. Adding the relevant API keys to your website is easily done through the Manage site settings. You can just as easily share content and create permissions for your Gmail contacts, which is particularly handy if it’s a collaborative project.
You Can Rely on the Same Extensive and Structured Documentation We have Come to Expect from Google
Unfortunately, there isn’t really any type of support service or staff to turn to if you run into a problem with Google sites. However, Google being Google, you have a huge amount of extensive documentation that covers every inch of the Sites product as well as a help forum with millions of other users to turn to.
This might not seem like much, until the first time you turn to the help documentation. The entire Sites platform has been divided into bite-size chunks of information that consist of a short informational section and a step-by-step guide to using the relevant feature.
For example, I wanted to add some Gadgets to my site, specifically for social media icons. So I searched for Gadgets on the documentation and came across this page. As you can see, it has short, step by step instructions for adding gadgets, scripts, etc. as well as linking to further documentation where necessary.
For example, I knew there was some way to view websites on mobile screens, but I couldn’t find the appropriate setting. So, I searched the problem and was immediately greeted with an appropriate thread from the help forum. Turns out, it’s a fairly common stumbling block for new users. More than one response managed to explain exactly where to find the option in the Manage Site settings and use it.
That being said, it’s still unfortunate that the only way you can interact with staff is to report an issue and hope that they fix it in due time.
Never Pay a Cent to Host Your Website with Classic Google Sites
The best thing about the Classic Google Sites platform is that it is absolutely and unconditionally free. There is no single feature or added functionality that you need (or can even choose) to purchase. If this seems too good to be true, just take a moment to think about all the other free Google products; Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Google+, Maps, Drive, etc.
Google’s model is not (and never has been) based on charging subscription fees. Rather, they make their money by being one of the world’s leading information mavens with arguably the biggest user base.
Google has recently rolled out New Google Sites. This platform forms part of their G Suite of products that cost a monthly subscription fee based on your number of users and your edition. To help users move over, you can convert your site to a New Google Sites site. However, there is a free version if you stay within certain storage limits.
Cancellation and Refund
As there are no fees or subscriptions for Classic Google Sites, you won’t need to apply for a refund. You will also technically have a Google Sites account as long as you have a Google account. You can delete a site yourself from the Manage Your Site dashboard. You can then permanently delete your site from the Deleted Sites “recycle bin” to free up the URL. However, that also means you will lose access to your sites if you delete your Google account.
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Google Sites: Better than GoDaddy or Weebly
Google Sites: Free, Simple, Lots of Features, and more! Google Sites is Google's Website Making platform. It is used by thousands of people. It is free. It is constantly updating. It is also amazing. GoDaddy, it costs money to take off the watermark and the same with Weebly. Google Sites is much better. -Rick Peterson