Wednesday 27 August 2008

Google sites

Whilst Google Pages was a great idea, it never quite took off, being a bit awkward to use with not the most intuitive of user interfaces. Google Sites looks a whole load better and my first stumbling steps seem to have produced a reasonable page or two.

Google Sites is, as with much of the best things Google do, well hidden and you'll need a Google account of course but then everyone should have one of those now anyway. Actually, I have just tried to find it again while writing this so I could give you instructions but completely failed to do so!! Oh boy. You'd think Google of all people would help you find things! Eventually I found the link by looking at my own account where all the Google products I use get listed. The link is here, at last.

Give it a try. You choose a site name - be careful as that will form part of your web site address - and then get on with the job of selecting a theme, a page layout and then you can edit the page, create new pages etc.

The ready-made templates are a bit bland but under Site settings you can change quite a lot of the elements, much like you can in Blogger, including background colours, fonts and things. You can also replace the Google logo with your own. I've only had a few minutes with this application but, once I knew what I was doing, found that it works well with some nice features that help resize images or drop a slide show of Picasa images straight in a page.

Google gadgets are simply added and now that these include some genuinely useful things rather than odd little boxes that tell what the weather is in San Francisico someone with little clue about web design can create some nice pages quickly.

There would seem to be good integration with Google documents and similar facilities for sharing content and collaboration too. Now that could be particularly interesting in education and I am wondering whether teachers will find Google Sites an easier way to share stuff than apps like pbwiki and even, dare I say it, moodle?

Microsoft have Office Business Live or some variation of those words which looks good and is also free, aimed fairly and squarely at people who want a web presence without the complications of code, servers and hosting. The two are pretty similar but I'm drawn to Google by virtue of its clever integration with my other Google activities. It'll be interesting to see how they both develop, especially with pbwiki increasingly looking to charge for their better products.