Try the new version of Google Sites

Posted on 30 March 2017

The new version of Google Sites is now available. There are some significant differences in this version, and it's important to be aware that New Sites is still under development so familiar features may be missing, while others will change or be added as time goes by.

The most used features from Classic (old!) Sites will be incorporated gradually, but not ALL the features will be re-introduced. Google is monitoring the feedback it receives on this new version, and will prioritise heavily used and requested features. This means it's important to send feedback - whether it's feature requests or bug reports - direct to Google. You can do this within Sites - select Settings | Sites help | Send feedback.

If you haven't used Google Sites before, it offers an easy way to create intranets or informal web pages, for example for projects or societies; it should never be used to replace departmental web pages on the University website, which should be published using the web CMS.

What's changed?

We expect to see more changes as this new version of Google Sites is developed, but the following key changes are already in place.

Device responsive pages

New Sites have been designed to be device responsive, which is a significant enhancement over Classic Sites. This means you can now create a site that will work well on a range of devices, from desktop PCs through tablets to smartphones; you may be aware the University is rolling out a similar change to its websites. This does require a different approach to design, and you should test your site's appearance using the various previews available.

Editing and publishing

New Sites are stored on Drive, and editing access is controlled by the usual Drive sharing dialogue (at present, page-level permissions are not available). As with other Google applications, there is also a new Sites App that you can use for editing.

The long and non-memorable URL that you see when you're editing in Drive won't be the site URL, and you don't use the Drive sharing dialogue to configure site access for users - this is just to control editing. Never share the Drive URL with those simply needing to view a site. Instead, a site becomes live when you choose to publish it (using the dark blue Publish button) and at this point you can configure a sensible URL, which will always begin https://sites.google.com/york.ac.uk/...

Moving editing to Drive has allowed Google to bring Sites into line with the usual approach to web publishing: although (like many other Google applications) your edits now save automatically, those changes do not become live until you choose to publish them. This allows you to make changes over an extended period and make them live only when they are complete and have been checked (which you can do using the Preview feature).

At present, the visibility of a published site can be configured to 'everyone' or 'York users only', but cannot be limited to specific users or groups.

Design

Design is based around a choice of themes, which are currently somewhat limited in number and design ideas. Items are added to pages and positioned accordingly; these include text boxes, images, embedded content, as well as elements taken from G Suite - for example, folders or documents from Drive, YouTube clips, Forms, Maps, Calendars…

You must bear in mind, however, that this is a responsive design; precise, fixed positioning is not possible. Instead, position the items you need to include on a page in a sensible way and check the various device layouts in preview.

Each element on a page will include various controls to configure it, but most of these will only appear when you pass the mouse over it. At present you have very limited ability to change fonts, colours etc except via the theme. This, again, reflects best practice in web design, and in order to format text you should choose an appropriate text level - Normal, Title, Heading or Sub-heading.

In with the New…

Although you can create New sites now, Classic Sites will remain for some time time to come. At some point this year (2017) we expect Google will publish information explaining how to go about converting old sites into new. They will also announce a date when the infrastructure supporting Classic sites will be withdrawn, but have already assured users that this will be at least 12 months after the announcement - we will have a year to convert old sites.

You can find out more about using Sites on our web page; note that this page currently relates to Classic Sites - it will be updated as the transition to New progresses: