Most people are intimidated by the thought of building a website, but it can be done easily and, better yet, FOR FREE using Google Sites.
You do not need a background in graphic design or IT to build a website using Google Sites. This user-friendly tool comes with everything you need to build your site and even includes ready-made templates to assist those who may be hitting a creative roadblock.
Google Sites is a fantastic tool for educators who may want to build a site for a class or team project, and it can also be used by businesses or anyone wanting to create a public website.
This beginner’s tutorial will cover the basic setup information you will need to create your own site. Google Sites is both intuitive and user-friendly: once you practice the basic steps in this tutorial, you will be well on your way to mastering Google Sites.
Step 1: How to Get to Google Sites and Start a New Site
There are a few ways to open Google Sites: you can open it from your Google account (it’s in the Google apps menu), OR you can go to sites.google.com
If you are trying to open it within the apps in your Google account, you might have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the list and click on “More from Google.”
Once you open Google Sites, click on the “+” to start a new site (we will get to the templates later.
Once your blank site opens, you will see you have an empty canvas and plenty of tools at your disposal to fill it.
But first: it’s time to name your site! If you are using Google Sites for a simple class project (versus a website you might make public), you can enter a simple name here.
Note that the site title does not automatically update the page title, which may be different.
Step 2: Sharing Your Google Site
If you are using Google Sites to work on a collaborative project, it is easy to share it with others. Simply look for the icon at the top right side of your screen, click on it and add the contacts you wish to collaborate with on the project.
By default, they will be added as “editor,” so they can make changes to the site, but if for any reason you only want them to view it, you can change their dropdown menu to “published viewer.” Google will automatically send them a notification that you have asked them to join your site.
In the pop-out screen where you can add people, there is also an option to create sharing restrictions.
Step 3: Using Themes in Google Sites
One of the best things about using Google Sites is that they have narrowed down the design choices for you with several sleek and polished themes. Over on the right-hand side of your screen, you can click on themes to skim through the ready-made “palettes” Google has taken care of for you. There are a few (manageable!) choices within each theme, including font styles and colors.
In addition to the colors suggested with each theme, the small icon at the end of the row of colors enables the users to create a custom color.
Chances are you will be content with one of the colors in the Google palette, but it is nice to have this option if you really want to customize your site.
Additionally, there are choices to customize the font. For example, in the “Diplomat” theme, the font can appear in classic, light, or heavy format, based on your preferences.
Step 4: Changing the Header Image and Adding a Footer
If you want to add a custom image to the site, you will simply click anywhere on the main image box, and a pop-up menu will appear with the choice to select an image.
Once you choose “select image,” you will be able to either pull an image from your own files or search Google for an image to use.
IMPORTANT TIP: If you are planning to publish your site, you will need to be sure you have the license to use the image in that way.
Once you have selected a header image, if you hover your cursor at the bottom of the image frame, you will see an option pop out to “add footer.”
This footer will appear across every page of your site.
Once you click on “add footer,” a menu of options will appear, and you can type in exactly what you want and adjust the text to Bold or Italic, and also change the alignment.
Step 5: Adding Content to your Site, Including Videos and Folders from Google Drive
Once you have picked out the theme for your site, named it, and added a header image and a footer, you can get down to the business of adding content.
On the right side of your screen, when you click on “insert,” you will have a variety of options. Here you can insert text boxes and images, embed other sites, or pull items from your Google Drive.
We will start with the text box. Once you insert and type into a box, you will also see options just to the left of the box, which allows you to make additional formatting changes. You can change the text’s background with the painter’s palette tool, and you can also duplicate the section (or delete it).
Speaking of deleting…now is a good time to remind you – as we all make mistakes! – that the undo and redo buttons at the top of your page (the reverse arrow buttons) will quickly become your best friends while editing your site.
Images can be selected and inserted in the same way you inserted your header. Once the image appears on your page, it has a menu options menu above it, allowing you to crop the image or add a caption (select the three dots to add a caption).
Back over to the “insert” option on the right side menu, if you choose “embed,” you can paste a link to another site, and if you click on the Google Drive option, you can pull up items from your own drive to insert.
Step 6: Using Layout and Extra Inserts
The insert menu’s layout options will help you create a clean and streamlined site, rather than simply placing random images and text boxes that could end up looking unbalanced. The layouts are created with design and symmetry in mind, and these will help you create something that looks polished rather than “homemade.”
These layouts have easy-to-use formatting, where you click the “+” to add images or type directly in the text boxes. You can save a great deal of time and frustration by using them instead of creating a layout on your own.
Below the various layout options, there is a list of other inserts, from collapsible text to buttons and charts or a rotating carousel of images. Essentially, Google has a way to add the elements you are used to seeing on “professional” sites that you would assume only a professional designer could create.
You can even add a map with any address in the world just by clicking insert map.
Step 7: Adding Pages
Adding pages to your site is also easy to do; in the right-hand side menu, you will see options to duplicate a page or add a subpage if you click on pages.
Once you add your page, you have all the same options for inserting text and images, layouts, etc. You can continue to add multiple pages as needed.
Step 8: Other Templates in Google Sites
Once you have tinkered with creating a site, you may decide you want to do the whole thing in a Google Sites template. Back in the main opening screen, there is an option for templates, where you will see a dropdown menu for a template gallery.
Here you will find a variety of Google Sites templates for personal, professional, and educational use. These will really cut down on your design time if you have a very specific need (such as a classroom or group project site). Personalizing a Google site from scratch may be more appropriate where you have a unique product or business to promote.
Step 9: Publishing Your Site
The blue “Publish” button is easily visible at the top of the screen, and once you click on this, you will have several options to consider before you move forward. Google generates your site name with the name you choose, and you may also opt to share your site only with specific groups (for example, a class) by choosing “manage.”
Anyone can use Google Sites. The program’s design is perfect for beginners, and you can create sites for something as small as a class project to as big as launching your own business. Do not be afraid to jump in and give it a try!