Google Sites is one of the best online tools available to create your own free web page. Many people use it as a quick way to publish a personal portfolio page or a simple business website. None need any special web design skills or coding knowledge.
In this article, you’ll learn how to use Google Sites, and how to create your own website with it in just a few simple steps.
What Is Google Sites?
For many years, Google Sites remained fairly static as far as features go. Google Sites Classic (as it’s now called) has always been limited in terms of how much you could actually style your website.
The style of most Google Sites appeared very outdated compared to the rest of the web. Modern sites have elements like dynamic navigation menus and clean responsive layouts.
Most pages created by Google Sites had static navigation menus and a cluttered layout. They had a retro feel fit for the 1990s style of web design.
In 2016, Google updated Google Sites so that you could create a more fresh and modern website.
You will notice the upgrade instantly. The former Google Sites editing tool was very limited in where and how you could place objects. The new editor is a very freeform design tool. You can literally drag, place, and resize page elements and widgets wherever you like.
How to Create a Google Site
To create a Google Site from scratch, go to the new Google Sites page and sign-in with your Google account. Press the red “+” button in the lower right corner.
This will bring up a blank web page with the default “Simple” theme.
The editor layout is very easy to use and includes several sections:
- Right Control Panel: A three menu area that includes an Insert menu with objects and widgets. There’s a Pages menu where you can create new pages and subpages for the site. You’ll also see a Themes menu where you can select the theme for the page you’re editing.
- Top Menu: This is where you name the site, preview the page you’re editing, or publish the site to the web. It’s also where you can share the site with other people.
- Design Window: The central area where you’ll work on your page design and content.
To get started, you have three header styles to choose from. You can go with a very large banner, a medium banner, or no banner at all and just a web page title.
Create Header and Content
You can also add a site name and a logo to the top of the page. Position it on the left side of where your navigation menu will go.
The nice thing about Google Sites is that you can lay out objects wherever you like.
For example, if you’re creating a profile page and you want to add your profile photo on top of the banner image, you don’t have to know any CSS magic or PHP programming. Just add an image object with the Insert menu, and drag the picture on the page wherever you want it to go.
Under the header, you can add a new section just by clicking on the page. Give each section its own background color, insert any object you want into it, or just start typing.
With Google Sites, what you get in ease and flexibility, you lose in options.
There are only a few header styles available depending which size you choose. These are Title (H1), Heading (H2), or Subheading (H3).
However, if you do know how to tweak the background code, you can click the more icon (three dots) to edit it and tweak the style if you like.
After you’ve laid out the page header and banner, and created your section title, you just have to focus on creating your page content.
Site Design and Navigation
If you click on the Themes menu item in the right navigation bar, you’ll see a list of six themes you can choose from. These mostly change the color scheme for elements like horizontal lines, font size and style, and header styles.
It’s smart to create one page for your new site and then play around with these themes to see which one you like best. But when you choose one, make sure to use it consistently on all pages of the site.
If you click on the Pages menu item in the right navigation bar, this is where you can add new pages or subpages to your website.
Every time you add a new page, it will add a new item to the top navigation menu in the header of every page.
You don’t have to keep track of the links for the menu. Any time you change the name of one of these pages, the menu links are updated automatically.
Also, you’re not stuck with a static menu at the top of each page. If that feels too old school for you, just click the gear icon on the left side of the screen and select Side navigation.
This generates a dynamic sidebar menu that only pops up when your visitors click on the Menu icon at the upper left corner of your page.
It’s a very cool way to give your Google Site a very modern, professional look.
One thing that Google Sites brings to the table is how easy it is to embed functional elements to the page. This feature allows you to add some interactivity to the site and gives you a simpler alternative to setting up a WordPress site.
And it’s not just simple text boxes or videos. You can embed any of the following directly into your page.
- Google Docs document
- Google Slides slideshow
- Google Sheets spreadsheet
- Google Forms form
- Google Charts from inside any spreadsheet
- Google Map
- Google Calendar
You can move any of these elements anywhere on the page you want it to go with a drag and drop. Here are a few examples:
Embed a calendar. Click the Calendar widget and select the Google account you want to pull the calendar from.
Place these elements side by side, move them around the page, or resize them to make them look how you want them to look on the page.
It’s a level of web design so simple that anyone can design a beautiful web page. You don’t have to know a single bit of code.
Embed a Google Sheet. With a spreadsheet, you can convey information to your readers in a well organized way, with very little effort.
The nice thing about this is that you never have to edit that web page again. Just update the source Google Sheet, and the embedded sheet on the web page gets updated automatically.
Embed a chart. Select a Google Sheet that contains any number of charts. You’ can select the specific chart that you want to embed on your web page.
If your job is to create dashboards that frequently require updates from a spreadsheet, you could impress your boss by embedding the charts from all your spreadsheets into a web page.
Then, when it’s time to deliver your report to the boss, just provide them with a URL link they can access with their Google Account. Talk about being an innovative employee!
Finish and Publish Your Website
When all elements of your page come together, it’s a beautiful thing. You can now create an informative contact page that shows your potential clients what your schedule looks like.
You can include a contact form, and even a map of your business address if you have one. Try a contact form to collect data with the flexible Google Forms.
Once you’re done creating your new site and all the pages that go into it, you’re ready to publish.
All you have to do is press the Publish button at the top of the page, and you’ll have the opportunity to claim the name of the subpage under Google Sites for your site.
Don’t worry if you want your own domain, you can always register the domain and then redirect it to this URL. When you redirect a domain, to visitors it appears like the page they’re browsing is actually that domain and not a Google Sites website.
Is Google Sites for You?
The fact that you can create a free website using Google Sites opens up a whole world of possibilities.
- You could create private, internal pages just to create reports for your job.
- You could whip up a professional, portfolio page to share with new potential clients.
- You could use Google Sites to launch a simple, effective business page.
I think you’ll agree that the new version of Google Sites is a lot easier to work with. It helps you create sites that are much more modern. But, if Google Sites isn’t for you, there are always static site generators that’ll help you create a site in just minutes.