Google Sites (opens in a new tab) is the website builder that Google includes in its free web office suite, Google Docs (opens in a new tab). It’s a website builder tool with real-time collaboration features and support for responsive designs, which means your site will look great on all mobile devices and desktops.
If you think Google Sites might be one of the best website builders (opens in a new tab) for your project, in this article we’ll give you an idea of what’s possible and how to get started with this free tool.
Best paid alternative to Google Sites
How to use Google Sites: Preparation
Before getting started with Google Sites, you need to recognize its pros and cons. First of all, it is free to use. Second, it’s easy to create a complete website in no time. Third, Google Sites integrates well with the rest of the Google app family. So if you use other Google tools, such as Google Drive and Google Maps, you can easily use your existing content on your Google Sites website.
However, the simplicity of Google Sites can also be a problem. You can only create basic websites, for example. There’s no e-commerce support either, and the amount of customization available lags far behind some of the best website builders (opens in a new tab) available today.
In November 2020, Google retired the Classic Sites version of the software. Now you can only create using the new Google Sites website builder. It’s certainly more streamlined and easier to use, but it lacks a few scripting features that were available in the older version.
Therefore, Google Sites remains a better tool for small hobby websites. If that’s all you need, using Google Sites can be a quick way to get your website online. Let’s see how to start.
Step 1: Create a Google Account
Google Sites requires a Google Account to use the service, so if you don’t have one yet or would rather create a new account for your website, you’ll be prompted to do so on the first page.
To create a new account, you must provide your name and email address or create a new Gmail address as part of the registration process. You can optionally provide a recovery phone number and email address, so you can recover your account if you get locked out of it.
Step 2: Choose a template
You start your Google Sites website by choosing a template. There are 13 templates to choose from in work, small business, education, and personal categories. You can use these templates as a starting point or choose the blank template instead to start from scratch.
Step 3: Select a theme
Now that your site is loaded in the editor, all the main tools are available in menus on the right side of the screen. The Insert menu is used to add items to the currently displayed page. The Pages menu is used to add, edit and delete new web pages on your website. The Themes menu is used to change the look of your entire website.
Click Themes and select from the short list of theme options. In addition to choosing an overall theme, you can set the dominant website color and choose from three pre-selected font styles.
Step 4: Edit text and images on the page
Each element of your web pages can be edited by clicking on it, and a context menu will appear. A different menu will appear if you click on text rather than an image, for example.
Start by editing all the text and image elements on your main page. You can choose basic formatting, such as bold, italics, and underline, and organize text into lists. You can also add hyperlinks and change the layout of your text sections. When you click on images, you can edit the image, caption, and link.
Step 5: Change layouts and backgrounds
You are not stuck with the initial template layout. By clicking on a menu to the left of each page section, you’ll find options to reorder, duplicate, and delete sections. You can choose from other background options to emphasize certain sections, and even set an image as the background.
Step 6: Add page widgets
In the Insert menu, you will find a list of 14 predefined widgets that you can use on your pages. These range from buttons and dividers to graphics and forms. To add a new widget to your web page, click on it and a new section will be added. For most widgets, you’ll be presented with a few configuration options that dictate how the widget looks and behaves.
Step 7: Add more pages
You can add new pages to your website by clicking the big plus button in the Pages menu. The pages you add will automatically be added to the website navigation menu. If you right-click on a page in the list, you can choose to set the page as your homepage, duplicate the page, add subpages, hide it from the navigation menu, or remove it altogether.
Step 8: Publish your website
Until now, your website was not accessible to the public. To publish your Google Sites site, click the blue Publish button at the top right of the interface. You will be asked for a unique folder name, where your website will be available – for example, if you set the web address to mymathproject, your website will be available at sites.google.com/view/mymathproject.
You can choose to purchase your own top-level website domain that points to your Google Sites website. After purchasing a domain through a domain name registrar, such as Google Domains or GoDaddy (opens in a new tab)you will need to point the domain name to ghs.googlehosted.com on the registrar’s website.
A cool feature of Google Sites is the ability to keep your Google Sites website private and only share it with specific people.
With Google Sites, it’s possible to create a professional-looking free website, but its limitations limit it to sites for hobbies or school projects.
Further Reading on Website Builders
To find a more powerful free website builder tool, check out our list of the best free web hosting (opens in a new tab) services, many of which come with a free website builder tool. If you’re willing to pay a subscription, the best website builders (opens in a new tab) have many more features than Google Sites, while the best web hosting (opens in a new tab) services provide safer and more reliable hosting.