Creating webpages used to be such a tedious process. Aside from the hassle with deciding where to publicly host the page, you needed to learn HTML and then figure out how to program the page so that it didn’t look like some amateur threw it together.
These days, there are countless websites that will let you create a webpage in mere minutes, without any knowledge of HTML whatsoever. We’d covered all sorts of websites and tools that you can use for this, like the four web design tools I wrote about, or other tools like OnePager or Zooloo. One of the fastest and quickest tools that I previously covered was Google Sites.
Fabricating Your Own Useful Dashboard
After using Google Sites for a while, I discovered some additional cool ways that it is integrated with other Google tools. That integration makes it a very powerful and easy way to put together your own personal information dashboard in no time.
To build your own person data/information dashboard, start by going to Google Sites and creating a site of your own. Give it a unique name, but at the bottom of the page, make sure to check off “Only people I specify” to make the site a private one.
This is important, because some of the information that you’re going to bring into the page may include personal details or statistics that are only for your information. This might include information you don’t want the public to see, like the Analytics data from your website, or the RSS streams you’re following to come up with new ideas to write about.
On the main page of your new Google site, click the “Edit” button at the top of the window.
This puts the page in edit mode. What many people may not realize is that there are a bunch of premade gadgets and widgets that can help you make a very dynamic website with very little effort. You can see those by clicking on the “Insert” menu item.
Then, click on “More gadgets…” to view the Google Gadgets database.
There are tons of really useful, high-quality gadgets listed in here. But, don’t get me wrong, there’s also a lot of junk. Try to stick to the “Featured” category for the highest quality gadgets.
Embed RSS Streams To Your Page
One of the ones that I find to be the most useful is the “Google RSS” feed gadget. Choose that gadget, and then you’ll get to the Properties page.
This is where you can integrate an RSS stream widget onto the site that is tailor-made to provide you with a collection of information tailored specifically to what you want to see. How do you do this when there’s only one RSS feed URL field?
Easy, check out RSSMix, and use it to combine as many different RSS streams from around the net as you like into one core stream that you can embed on your own personal information page. Depending on the type of dashboard information page you’re trying to build, this stream can be a collection of whatever specific information that applies to the purpose of the dashboard. Is it your own finance dashboard? Collect relevant RSS streams from around the web and display that on this page.
Display Spreadsheet Data In Graph Form
The other really cool Gadget that you’ll see in the Insert menu is if you click on “Chart” rather than “More Gadgets“. The Chart gadget is integrated right into Google Docs. You can import any spreadsheet of data in your Google Docs account to create graphs of that data right on your new dashboard.
All I did to create this particular chart is export my Google Analytics website data to a CSV file (you can do this from inside Analytics), and then stored that CSV file in my Google Docs account. This allows Google Sites to see that data and import it into graph format.
Once you’re done laying out the data in the way that you want it to display in the graph, just click okay and now the graph is updated on your page. Pretty cool huh?
Display Dynamic Calendars On Your Dashboard
Another useful gadget in the “Insert” menu is the Calendar tool. This lets you insert any of your personal Google Calendars into your Google Site page. If you think about it, having a calendar embedded on a web page often takes a bit of work, because you need to use embed code to pull data from some calendar stored on another site, or a calendar app installed on your own server, in order to have a dynamic calendar.
But with Google Sites, it’s completely seamless.
Choose your calendar, click “Select” and you’re done. If you choose a two column layout for your page, you can easily lay out these gadgets side by side on the page.
Once you’re done integrating your Google services and embedding various gadgets onto your Google Sites page, save it and then check out how cool your new, dynamic webpage looks.
This is a lot like other dashboard pages like Netvibes, but it is more tightly integrated with your Google services. I’ve noticed that the gadgets here seem to work better and update faster than when you try to embed your Google information into a page like Netvibes. It’s also nice to quickly import docs, spreadsheets and charts right from Google Docs with just the click of a button.
If you’ve put off trying Google Sites, I highly recommend revisiting it, and trying out all of the cool integration tools that you’ll find in the “Insert” menu. You may be surprised just how dynamic and useful a dashboard page you can create for yourself.