Let's also be quite clear, Google took over an immature product set when it acquired the JotSpot platform (the old name still shows up in places). Google re-launched it with a fanfare, pretending this is the 'missing' piece of Google Apps. Jotspot pitched itself as a public/private intranet-come-collaboration tool which Google would love to become a hosted 'SharePoint-killer'.
However, some key features are missing. Of course, you trust Google's 'cloud' computing model, right? If so, keep taking the medication, there'll be another pink elephant along in a minute. If not, you'll be looking for the 'Site Backup' or 'Export Site' option. Since May 2008, the only comments from the development team are "we're working on it," and "...you never know when we'll announce...'hey, we finally did it!'" It hints at 'immature product, immature attitude.'
Test-driving Google Sites
You can build a reasonable-looking public or private site for free with minimal Google branding. Google Sites is a good service, no matter what your level of expertise, but competitor tools such as Wetpaint (http://www.wetpaint.com/) and Freeweb (http://members.freewebs.com/index.jsp) have clearer interfaces and more flexibility.
Pro's and cons of Google Sites builder
- a decent, no-cost way to build a web-site: adequate 100Mb storage allowance.
- the builder and editor works within its capabilities and hasn't crashed on me (yet).
- basic templates for different page types: Web page, Dashboard, Announcements, File Cabinet, and List.
- options for inclusion of a range of content types - images, video, audio, calendars.
- a good set of page-building facilities if you spend time playing with all the options. For example, the image handler allows in-page resizing on drag handles, float and wrap options.
- produces standard HTML pages, no Flash or weird Wiki-text markup code.
- site sharing and managing capabilities in sensible, jargon-free terms.
- discrete 'powered by Google' footer is the only trace of branding if you turn the rest off (I can live with that).
- there are worse site-building tools out there.
- the editor validates and strips your HTML to its own rules (my layout got slightly trashed) usually with no warnings.
- if you want styles, or vital things like alt and title tags, you will have to go in to edit the HTML itself – all without any kind of safety net. Find out by trial and error which styles it will or won't accept.
- no support for PayPal buttons (but there are workarounds) and Google Checkout isn't working either; so serious e-commerce is a no-no.
- limited gadgets, all with advertising and all slow performers (that's AJAX code for you). Not all available under the Free option, either.
- manuals and instructions seem limited to a few presentation slides and a short, glossy, but content-free YouTube-style video. It assumes we're all in the dot-com generation and can work out all the tools for ourselves.
- No site backup – I'm using Webtrack as a work-around.
- there are better site-building tools out there.