Instructional Design / Professional Development / Web 2.0 Tools / Web Design Tools

Working with Google Sites

Over the past few years I have worked with a variety of web building programs and am now starting to get into content management systems (CMS’s) like WordPress.org and Drupal.  For a current project at work, my department is using Google Sites t create a website for students at UH,particularly online students.

As a WYSIWYG web tool, Google Sites is great.  When you want things to be a certain way, however, there are some serious limitations.  Google makes it easy to imbed pictures, videos, and enter text into your typical areas. Google also makes it easy for users to place sidebars, links, and most other objects into the page(s) that are created.  But upon close inspection of the HTML code for each object, I’ve found that Google hardly creates ‘clean’ code.

We’re talking about extra </div> tags and style bits that are empty and/or reference the same object twice.  Fortunately for me, I have a decent ability to identify these empty tags and such before publishing the page.  The end-users (students) wouldn’t ever see the messy code, but if anyone bothered to take a look at the source code for the Google Sites pages we are creating, they might just lose their cookies. Also, if anyone tries to edit an object after the code has been altered by hand, the new changes aren’t saved and lots of extra inactive code is left in there :/

Also, I’ve found that Google Sites is limiting in terms of the sizing of imbedded objects (small, medium, large, & original size) as well as the horizontal and vertical alignments.  Again, the WYSIWYG editor gives you the basic options, but requires you to go in and edit the HTML if you want things a certain way.  It’s not a big deal for most people, but is a bit bothersome for users who prefer things to be a step above the basic.

I’m no professional web developer, but I do know good sites when I see them.  With a little extra work, Google Sites can create a presentable site that satisfies the needs of most people, but it’s also a little tiring.

Happy coding 🙂

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