At work we switched to Google mail some time back. We use Google docs to share docs. I started using Google sites just out of curiosity. Anyone that has a GMail account has automatic access to Google Docs and Google Sites. Google Sites is a simple web site builder. Google Site started as JotBot, a wiki tool that Google bought in 2006 and later developed into what it is today. See wiki article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Sites for more info.
Creating a Site
Building a site using Google Site is very easy. Simply click on “Create New Site” button and select any site template available in the template gallery. Then select the Theme and visibility settings, voila… you have the new site up and running. Though, it can be used to build any web site, because of it’s original wiki flavor, it’s a great tool to create wiki pages. Google site also offers several gadgets that can be embedded thus you can include other web pages, graphics etc. Google Docs can easily be embedded as well.
Creating Web Pages
Once a site is created, pages can be added to it at any time. Google Site by default offers the following page templates:
Any of these pages can have embedded content. “Web page” template A simple web page. Each new posting to the site will be an additional page. “Announcements” template offers a Blog/wiki style post where each page will have multiple posts. So a wiki site may contain one page of type “Announcements” and multiple posts in it. It’s like a blog, except the pages can be added/updated by anyone (See security settings) and thus it’s like a wiki page. File Cabinets shows list of files uploaded. One can create other complex templates based on these.
Each page can have comments and attachments. (These options can be turned off for specific pages as well).
Managing the Site
Site settings can be changed at any time, by clicking on More Actions->Mange Site (Only owners can manage sites). This screen can be reached by clicking on “Edit Sidebar” link. Here several options are shown. Here several options are available. In Site Layout option, you can change the size and layout of the site. This also has a Navigation section. By adding pages (links) here, they can be displayed on the side bar. The theme used for the site can be changed at any time as well.
Google Site access is controlled by “Site Permissions”. This can changed at any time. Typically permissions are,
1. Public – Any one can see it
2. Anyone with the link – If someone got hold of the link, they can see it
3. Private – Access only by invite; sign-in required to see the pages.
Google Site vs WordPress
In many ways, Google Sites can be compared to WordPress.com blog pages. In both, you can create (web) pages quickly and use gadgets ( extensions) to add functionality. Both provide templates and themes to create web pages quickly. In general, WordPress has a bigger developer community and is also a more matured product. It also has a lot more extensions available. Sites developed using Google Sites tend to be small personal sites. Since Google Sites had a wiki beginning it is stronger on collaboration of content. It allows each site to have multiple owners, contributors and viewers. This makes it more useful for development community to share information within a team.
My Google Sites
I created my first Google Site for our apartment community. It’s a small community and I just created a page or 2 as a bulletin board. After that, I created and maintain a web page for our team to use at work. We create some developer documents which we used to dump on Network drive. The problem there was the files are not easily searchable and thus, after 100’s files in the drive, we had to rely on individual’s memory and notes. I tried to convert these to posts in the Google Site.
The current site I maintain at work has several pages, some with embedded Google Docs (converted Word, Powerpoint, Excel files). I also used a embedded widget to included an IFrame, so I can display an external web site. Since it’s meant to be a collaborative site, I created several pages for various topics, each using “Announcement” template, so several posts can be made to the same page. For e.g., I have PB Wiki, for all posts related to our Powerbuilder development environment. Similarly a “Database Wiki” page for database related postings.
Now that we have site up and running, we need to back it up. I will discuss it in a separate post.