Google Sites is a must-know for all website owners and editors

Google gives website creators more control than ever before over design, layout, social links, and search.

Features of Google Sites
Image: Andy Wolber

Google Sites lets you choose the overall colors and fonts for your website, as well as manage many page design and layout settings. With these options, you can create a custom themed website that matches your organization’s design standards and style.

Website editors and owners can also have more control over Google Sites functionality in terms of page layout and functionality. For example, on Google Sites:

  • Separators and spacers they serve as visual separators between different types of content, such as text, images, videos, and embedded files.
  • Collapsible text boxes displays headlines that reveal more text when clicked, effectively turning a long page of text into easier-to-browse headlines.
  • Customizable social links allows you to provide one-click connection to various social networking sites, while customizable search options allow you to manage the operation of the search box on the site.

To explore the Google Sites features below, sign in with your Google Account Google website which you have created or to which you have editorial access.

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Create a custom theme for maximum control over your website design

Google Sites lets you create and edit a custom theme with significant control over colors, fonts, images, navigation, and more space (Figure A).

Figure A

Google Sites custom site theme
Create a custom theme in Google Sites for better control of colors, fonts, and more. Select the three vertical dots menu in the upper right corner of the theme to the edit menu to adjust the elements after the initial setup. Image: Andy Wolber

With a custom theme, your website design closely matches your organization’s brand standards. For example, a marketing manager can create a new Google site and then select Themes | +Create a theme, then add your organization’s logos, custom colors and fonts, and save your site.

When others in your organization need a website, they can create a copy of your customized home page using the More menu | Make a copy. They can then add their colleague as a site editor via Share with others | Add your email address | Select Editor role. They can optionally transfer site ownership to their colleagues by selecting Share with others Choose a role next to the person | Transfer ownership.

Use dividers and spacers for layout

Separators and spaces allow you to insert lines and blank areas between content on a page (Figure B).

Figure B

Add separators and spacers in Google Sites.
Insert a horizontal dividing line to visually separate the content of the page. Insert a spacer, then adjust the size wherever you want to leave some white space around the page content. Image: Andy Wolber

Horizontal dividers can delimit otherwise imprecisely paired content, and spacers can add empty—or design-negative—space between content elements. Spacers can be resized to different rectangles and moved around the page as desired. Spacers are best placed around content that you want to display in a crowded part of the page.

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Add collapsible text boxes to pages with dense text

Collapsible text boxes are used when the first line of text provides the context people need to decide whether to expand the text or not (Figure C).

Figure C

Add collapsible text boxes to Google Sites.
Collapsible groups make it easy to scan the headers, then select a section to view details. Collapsible text boxes are often useful on FAQ pages, for example. Image: Any Wolber

Collapsible text boxes are great for FAQs, support pages, and detailed multi-step processes, for example. To add a collapsible text box to a page, choose Insert | option Collapsible group. Then fill in the title text that will appear automatically, as well as the more detailed text that will appear below after the visitor selects the title.

Support social connections or search

Social links and Cloud Search are best used on public websites and internal websites (Figure D).

Figure D

Add Site-Initiated Search and Social Buttons to Google Sites.
Add social links to make it easier for people to follow your social media accounts, and add search between site content (selectable in site settings) or organization content with Cloud Search. Image: Andy Wolber

You can use any of them on any site, but social links are not necessarily useful on an intranet, as people in the organization are most likely to be familiar with the organization’s social media accounts. Likewise, Cloud Search, which can be configured to search Google Drive, will probably only be useful to those already signed in with an organizational Workspace account, not the general public.

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Add community relations, select Insert | social links option, and then add the web address of your accounts. The system automatically adds icons to popular sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube. If you need to link to a newer social network like Mastodon, you can upload a suitable JPG or PNG file or provide a link.

Site search can be configured in two ways: as a menu option, in Settings | Navigation | Search settings, or as an inserted element on the page, viaInsert | Cloud Search.

You can set the menu search option to search between “This Site” or “Organizational Content” or hide it completely. However, the inserted Cloud Search field only supports searching organizational content of people signed in to organizational workspace accounts. To learn more about Google Cloud Search, read How to get Google search capabilities for your business data with Google Cloud Search.