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Tips and advice for building your Google Site

Early Steps

Address these items at the start of building the site.

Site Creation from a Template or Copy

Planning use a Site Template or start by Copying another site? 

This must be your first step!
  • This is the ONLY action that can't be adjusted later.
    • If you choose this option your site is created by duplicating the desired source.
    • If you're already building a site and decide that you want to work within a site template you just found, you have to create a new site using the template and then port your content over to the new site.

    Style Settings

    If you setup the style before your author the pages, there is less potential page formatting rework later on.
    • Theme - select a Theme and implement planned customizations up front.
    • Edit Site Layout - adjust the site elements as planned
    Ideally you’ll create you pages using formatting that adopts to changes to the Theme Style settings.  But there are always may be a few cases where you utilize some custom formatting (which might require manual changes so they look good in after Theme style changes). 

    Note: The Style settings - Theme and Site Layout can by fully adjusted at any time. It isn't mandatory to do at the beginning.  However if you have experience with using the Style settings and know what you want, put it I'm place at the start.


    During construction use an Automatic Menu.
    Regardless of what type of menu will appear in the final design, it i.e. helpful to have an automatic menu visible during construction.

    Yes, also prepare the menu you'll need in the live site.

    Manual Menus provide excellent control over how the menu functions in a live site.  However during development, as you add new pages, they won't necessarily appear in the manual menus as desired, and you can get confused finding the pages you just created. In contrast, the Automatic Menu is always current.

    Once the site is stable and ready to launch, then remove the temporary auto menu.

    Create all First-level Pages

    By creating all the first level pages early on, your site map (and menus) starts to take shape.  The pages can be basically blank, but the exist.  Also adjust page settings (to remove the comments field).

    Note:  if there is a section that will not be build until a phase 2 of the project, after phase 1 launches, then exclude this item.

    Then proceed with creating subpages.  Often these are build one section at a time.

    Keeping track of unfinished work

    Here are a couple tips that are helpful to keep track of unfinished work during construction:
    • TBD - To Be Done - whether an entire page is missing or there are a couple points that need to finished later, inserting a TBD into the text serves as a reminder.
      • Search - Google Sites have a search field in the header.  When it comes time to find and clean up all the lose ends on the site, simple enter 'TBD' into the search field to get a listing of all occurrences.
    • 'T' suffix on Page Titles - If a page requires significant work to be complete, add the suffix 'T' to the Title. For example, on this page 'Building' would be 'Building T'.  
      • Since the Menu entries use the page titles, it is easy to look at the menu to identify unfinished pages by the 'T'.


    In addition to standard website testing, for a Google Site also:

    Test Public access via a 2nd Browser

    As you build your site you need to make sure that what you create works as expected for the audience (public or otherwise).

    When signed in to a Google Account, a webmaster has greater permissions than the general public. It's possible that items that look fine to the site editor may not function as expected for public visitors.

    Problems can arise when:
    • Inserting items (Drive files, calendars, etc.) that use permissions. If a file embedded into a web page lacks public access permissions, the file appears as expected when you view it (signed in), however it would not be visible to the general public.\
    • Site page-level permissions are active
    The easiest way to check this is to launch a second browser application (i.e. use Chrome to sign in and edit the site, and then use Firefox without signing in to view the site the way John Q Public would visit).

    If everything you’re publishing is publicly visible (including any embedded items such as a Drive file) then the additional testing is unnecessary.

    Editing a Live Site

    With Google Sites, as you create and author pages and make site changes, they are immediately visible -- there isn't a Drafts Zone and a Published Zone.

    During development this doesn't matter, hover once a site is live this can be an issue.  So here are some strategies for performing site development on a live site.

    Use Page-level Permissions for a Private Draft area

    WIth page-level permissions, you can setup an area of the site as a private draft zone where you can work.  Then when a new page is ready to publish, you can us the Site map to rearrange the page into its intended 'live' location.

    If you are only editing a portion of a page, you can prepare the new content on a draft page, and when it's ready it can be quickly copy-paste edited into the live page.

    Page-level permissions are NOT recommended for novice users.

    Use a Separate Drafts Site

    Create a separate 'Drafts' Google Site.  Ideally this drafts site would have the same Style settings as your live site.  Then prepare new content on this separate site.  This can be particularly helpful when there may be several parties working on revising the draft material, however you want to restrict editing the live site to adjust a webmaster.
    • Caution - if the content has many links from the draft site to the live site, you may want to review these links after the content was 'published' into the live site since inter-website links can work slightly different that Google Site page links.
    • In general this works fine. 

    Make Site Private

    If you have a low traffic site, but don't want anyone visiting in the middle of your edits…

    Change the Sharing Permissions to make the site private.  Perform your changes, and when you're finished, make the site publicly visible again.

    Duplicate Site - Edit - Swap

    For major site changes, duplicate the site using 'Copy this site'. Perform all the changes to the duplicate.  When ready, transition the new version into the live version.

    The transition can be done a couple ways:
    • During off-hours, delete the original site (including removing it from the 30 day holding bin).  Then make a duplicate of the site just updated so that it has the name of the original live site.
    • If you are using your own domain name, you can adjust the domain name mapping so that visitors see the new site rather than the original site.