Google Sites Review
- Good intranet site creator
- Easy to add content from other Google services
- Not a true website builder
- No blogging, eCommerce, or form builder
- No templates
- No dedicated customer support channels
- Connecting to a domain is difficult
Google Sites Overview
From email to scheduling to word processing to spreadsheets, Google’s numerous digital product offerings have gotten many of us accustomed to using Google for a plethora of business and personal uses. What you may not have known is that Google also offers a free basic website builder called Google Sites.
The advantages of Google Sites are twofold:
- It is entirely free.
- It allows you to add files from your Google Drive to your page, giving you an easy way to store and display your documents, forms, charts, etc.
With so many paid website building options out there, one might be naturally attracted to the idea of a free website building solution within the Google product ecosystem. However, Google Sites isn’t a good tool for creating professional-looking business websites. Companies or groups looking to develop intranets or project wikis for internal use — or perhaps a simple temporary page to promote an event — may want to give Google Sites a try. But without blogging or eCommerce capabilities — not to mention any individualized customer support — Google Sites just doesn’t cut the mustard. With the likes of Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly providing well-featured and attractive website building to the masses, I can’t justify recommending Google Sites as anything but a way to aggregate documents in your Google cloud.
If you’re looking for a full-fledge website builder, check our top website builder recommendations instead.
Table of Contents
Google Sites Pricing
As I said in the introduction, Google Sites is completely free to use forever. It’s hard to complain about that. If you want to create a simple website for free, Google Sites can certainly accommodate you.
However, I should mention that if you want to create a website for free, Google Sites is not your only option. Many website builders, including Wix and Weebly, offer free website creation in addition to their paid offerings. And while these free plans are limited, so is Google Sites. In fact, Weebly even includes limited eCommerce with its free plan — something you won’t get with Google Sites. Plus, if you start with a free site with any of these other builders, you can always upgrade to a paid plan to avail yourself of the increased functionality. With Google Sites, you won’t have this option.
Additionally, while you can freely use Google Sites itself, the process of buying and/or connecting a domain is somewhat convoluted. If you don’t have a domain to which you can connect, your site will publish on the Google Sites subdomain as sites.google.com/view/[your site name].
Web-Hosted Or Licensed
Google Sites is completely web-hosted.
Hardware & Software Requirements
Google Sites works with all modern web browsers. Just make sure you have the latest version of whichever browser you’re using.
Business Types Supported
When viewed as a whole, Google Sites is clearly a product for intra-company communication and personal sites of the most basic sort and not geared toward any industry in particular.
Before the last update of Google Sites, a large number of templates were on offer, subdivided into various business and organizational categories. These templates were all a bit outdated. However, Google Sites went through a big overhaul a few years ago, and the new editor doesn’t really make use of templates at all. You can select from between six “styles,” which determine header appearance, font, and font colors. There are no industry-specific choices here.
Ease Of Use
The “new” Google Sites looks much more like a standard drag-and-drop website builder than the old Google Sites. On the right side of the editor, you’ll find all the elements (of which there aren’t many!) that can be added to your site. Along the top are the expected website builder editing elements: undo/redo buttons, a preview button (you can preview your site in desktop, tablet, and mobile format), a Publish button, and a button that brings up a set of options (including help documentation and a box where you can enter your Google Analytics tracking ID). There’s even a button that lets you easily add editors/contributors.
Google’s updated Sites app may not be a comprehensive website building solution, but unlike the old Google Sites, it has both feet planted in the 21st century.
I should mention that the old version of Google Sites is still available to use. Be warned, however, that it’s less user-friendly than the current version, and it produces non-mobile responsive sites that look like this:
No word on whether these sites are Y2K-compliant.
Google Sites Features
As one might expect from Google Sites, the features on offer are helpful intranet administrators, while many features common to everyday website builders are absent. I’ll note that you will find some common website builder features, such as:
- Map: There is a map (but a lack of integration with Google Maps would be pretty unforgivable here!).
- Calendars: A calendar is available via Google Calendar.
- Image Carousel: There is an image carousel available.
- Video Links: You can link to YouTube videos on the website.
- Google Drive: You’ll also have the ability to upload and post the various documents you have attached to your Google account.
However, here’s why Google Sites doesn’t cut it as an actual website builder. To be considered a legitimate website builder (by me, anyway), an editing platform must make available at least two of the following three features (and preferably all three!): blogging, eCommerce, and a form builder. Google Sites has none of these features, nor any other features ubiquitous in website builders, such as social media links.
Google Sites simply isn’t positioned to compete with the likes of Wix and Squarespace, which is kind of strange, considering Google isn’t a company known for being under-resourced. I suspect the folks there could create an exciting website builder — one that would benefit from easy integration with Google’s full line of products — if they devoted some energy to the matter.
Web Design & Editing
Here is a breakdown of Google Site’s web design and editing capabilities:
- Templates: Post-revamp, Google Sites does not employ the template-based model of website building. You essentially must start from a blank canvas with a header attached. If you instead use “classic” Google Sites to make a website, you’ll be able to choose from a wide range of purpose-specific templates. Unfortunately, these templates are all quite dated.
- Mobile Editor: Google Sites does not have mobile editing capability. However, sites created with Google Sites are, in fact, mobile-responsive, so you won’t have to worry about how they display on mobile devices. Sites built with “classic” Google Sites are not mobile-friendly.
Google Sites Integrations & Add-Ons
As Google Sites is part of the Google Apps package, you’ll be able to integrate the content you have on your Google account. You can easily plop the docs, slides, spreadsheets, forms, and charts associated with your Google account onto your website. This is the one factor that makes Google Sites useful as a free tool for internal company purposes.
You’ll also be able to drop YouTube videos onto your site seamlessly. This shouldn’t be surprising, as YouTube is a subsidiary of Google.
Beyond this, you’ll find no integrations whatsoever. Again, this would be unforgivable for a standard website builder. But if you view Google Sites as primarily an internal project management/coordination tool, this becomes less of an issue.
Google Sites Customer Service & Technical Support
Customer support is limited to a collection of help articles and a user forum.
Google doesn’t provide the user any way to contact the company with questions specific to Google Sites. That should tell you everything you need to know about the level of importance the company gives to Google Sites!
Google Sites Reviews
As Google Sites maintains a very low profile within the Google product ecosystem, user feedback is nearly nonexistent. Most of the feedback available comes in the form of professional reviews.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Reviewers seem to be pretty much unanimous in the opinion that Google Sites is an inadequate platform on which to build a site for your business. It’s just not intended to be used the way other website builders are.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
One reviewer noted that “Google Sites is a great option for creating intranets as it makes adding content from other Google properties like Maps, Drive or Youtube easy.”
Each review I’ve seen acknowledges the convenience of having this means of aggregating and displaying items from your Google Drive. It’s just a pity that this is pretty much the extent of Google Sites’ usefulness.
While Google Sites is not without its utility, it’s painfully apparent that the whole endeavor is a half-assed effort. If Google truly wanted to compete in the website builder arena, I get the feeling it could easily create something fresh and well-featured. The company hasn’t chosen to go this route, however.
If you’re looking to set up a free intranet or a project wiki, check out Google Sites. It just might be the solution you’ve been looking for. However, I suspect the target audience for this product is a tiny, microscopic subset of the website builder market. Nearly everybody looking to build a website — entrepreneurs, hobbyists, nonprofits — intends for it to be experienced by the general public. Those are the users I am primarily concerned with. And if you’re one of them, Google Sites isn’t for you. Sorry!
If you’re looking for a traditional website builder along the lines of Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly, check out our full selection of website builder reviews.
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We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.