How to Create a Google Site for Your Business

An Excellent Choice for a Company Intranet - No Code Required

Screenshot of an Intranet website template.
Screenshot of an Intranet website template. Image (c) Susan Ward/ Dave McLeod

Please note that this article assumes you have already completed the basic setup for Google Business Apps and are ready to start setting up the various applications such as Google Sites.

If not, see my articles:

Google Sites

Google sites lets you create internal websites for your organization or external websites for the whole wide Web without having to know HTML (intranets and extranets, in other words).

When you are first creating your Google site, you'll be asked what kind of website you want to create; company intranet, classroom, club, retail shop, doctor's or dentist's office and restaurant are some of the templates you can choose once you've made the basic decision of choosing a website or a business website.

This is the best thing about Google Sites; how easy it is to set permissions and create websites for different audiences. Basically, just by selecting a radio button you can let only certain individuals have access to the sites you create, make them accessible to all the people in your company, some people that you select, or make them public and accessible to everyone.

You need to remember though that Google Sites is a tool for creating simple websites. If you're looking to create a full featured e-commerce site or a website integrated with a database, this website creation app is not for you.

How to Make a Google Site

1) Once you're logged in to Google, click on the Google Apps icon on the top right of your page to bring up all the different apps available to you and then click on the blue Sites icon.

You will see a page titled Sites settings come up with two buttons, a red 'Create' button and a 'Cancel' button.

Underneath the two buttons, you will see a pair of large box icons; you can choose to use a 'Blank template' or 'Browse the gallery for more'. Clicking on 'Browse the Gallery for more' will take you to a Select a Site Template page where you can choose from a list of categories or search by topic to see different templates you might use.

Google site templates can be viewed by category, such as Business collaboration, activities and events, personal and family, government and non-profits. The Business collaboration category offers templates such as professional site, training site, intranet site, project tracking etc.

You can preview templates before you select one; click on 'Use template' when you've made your choice. A selection of site themes is also available.

Choose one and then fill in the name for your new website in the 'Name your site' box.

Under that box, you will see a 'Site location' box where you will see the URL (web address) of your new site and under that, the other menu options, 'Select a theme' and 'More options'.

You will only want to use the 'Select a theme' option if you originally chose to go with a Blank template.

If you chose a specific template, click on 'More options' to open the menu and fill in the 'Site categories' and 'Site description' for your new website.

2) Click on 'Create' to make a Google site.

Go back to the top of the page and hit the big red 'Create' button and voila! There's your new site, ready for you to customize.

I chose the Intranet Google site template.

3) Edit your site as desired.

At the top right of whatever template you've chosen to load, you'll see four boxed icons, a pencil, a page, a cog and a share icon.

Click on the first one, the pencil to make your page editable. Then clicking on whatever element on the page you want to work on will allow you to make changes.

Click on the page icon to add pages to your website.

(Basic tip: The lighter the background the better if you want to use black text – and you probably do because black text is just easier to read, especially for anyone with 'aging' eyes.)

4) Assign permissions.

Once you have your site looking the way you want it to look, click on the share button at the top right of your screen.

On the page that comes up, you will see a 'Link to share' with your site's URL in the box, and then the heading 'Who has access' with a listing below it. The first listing will have the word 'Change' in blue next to it.

Click the word 'Change' to change the level of permissions. You can share the page with:

Public on the web: Anyone who has the URL or website address can find and view your site. No sign-in required.

Anyone with the link: Anyone who has the link can access. No sign-in required.

Shared privately:  Only people explicitly granted permission can access. Sign-in required.

You can also choose to share your site with specific people you name.

Click 'Save' when you're done.

Comments or Tips on Using Google Site Templates / Sites

It took me the longest time to figure out how to edit various pages/sections of the Intranet Google site Template. The home template page has hyperlinks to each of the different pages of the website, such as calendar, announcements, etc.

When I followed these links, I kept wanting to just click and replace the placeholder text – and nothing happened. And there were no instructions anywhere on the template pages as to how to use them. (Dear Google – the big placeholder boxes near the top of the pages that you have filled with garbage text would be an excellent place to throw in a few instructions.)

Generally, using the Google Sites templates is not very intuitive. One of the pages of the Intranet Google site template is the Calendar. I wanted to embed a Calendar that all my small business’s staff could access and update.

But even after I had figured out that I had to click on the 'Edit page' icon at the top right of the page and move the page into editing mode before I could do anything, it took a fair bit of bumbling trial and error to figure out how to get the calendar I wanted where I wanted it.

Left-clicking on the Google calendar placeholder did nothing. Right-clicking did nothing.

Instead, I discovered that I had to use the 'Insert' menu at the top left of the webpage (a menu that only shows up when the page is in editing mode) and then select 'Calendar' from the resulting drop-down menu, which allowed me to pick the calendar I wanted to insert.

The Calendar insertion worked like a charm and is viewable by week, month or agenda and printable – but seems to have no interactive features available directly on the showing web page. I was hoping that I and other staff would be able to click on a Calendar event entry to modify it, see details, or even indicate attendance, but once again, clicking on a Calendar entry seems to do nothing. Maybe there is some particular Google App or feature that I don't have that does this that I don't know about.

One Google Sites template feature that I really find handy is the ability to easily find and revert to previous versions. At one point when I was attempting to customize the Directory, I managed to somehow delete the placeholder as well as the text within it. Under the 'More' button at the top right of the screen, I just selected 'Revision history', bringing up a list of revisions and making it easy to choose one before I had messed it up.

Like every other aspect of Google Apps I've experienced so far, Google Sites is plagued by constant small failures. For instance, when trying to customize the Contact page of the Intranet template, which consists of a title, text placeholder and spreadsheet form, I was not able to get the Spreadsheet form to work properly. In Edit view, the error message "copy from site template failed: try copy again".

I don't mind an occasional glitch, but this kind of repeated failure is really annoying. Google really needs to spend some time cleaning these apps up; after all, these apps are part of a suite of apps designed for business use that people are paying for.

My grade for Google Sites – B. Using Google Sites to customize sites is certainly not intuitive and you need to remember that this is a tool for creating basic websites, but creating sites is easy and the simplicity of setting permissions is impressive.

Read More Articles in this series on Google Business Apps