Monday, June 13, 2016

The Totally New Google Sites

Out of all the major Google tools, most people would agree that Google Sites has been the most overdue for an update. Yes, it is one of my favorite programs, and I have used it extensively to design websites, and I have created loads of training videos and guides for it (see here for details). Still though, when compared to most modern web design tools, Google Sites has fallen far behind its competition.

Google Sites actually started out its life as a product called JotSpot which Google purchased in 2006 and then finally released in 2008 as Google Sites. Over time Google has added new features to the underlying JotSpot code (such as the horizontal navigation bar) but the foundation was still a ten year old product with new options built on top. This prevented Sites from being able to act like newer web design tools with drag and drop editing, layouts that respond to mobile devices, and such.

Rather than another update, Sites needed to be rebuilt from the ground up.

And now it appears that is exactly what Google is doing! In a recent post on the Google Apps Updates blog, they have announced a “totally rebuilt” Google Sites is coming. This is fantastic news for schools, organizations, and individuals who need to create websites but were struggling with Sites lack of updates and modern features.

So what can we expect with the new Google Sites? And when can you get access to it? See below for all the details I have been able to collect on this new announcement.

What’s New?

Although not a lot of details have been released yet, below are the key new features Google has revealed for Sites:
  • Drag and Drop - In the current version of Sites all editing is done through drop down menus, or changing settings in pop-up windows, or even directly editing the HTML code. The new version of Sites promises simple drag and drop editing. This should apply to adding new content to your Site, as well as rearranging items, and hopefully adjusting the properties of images and other media. If done right this should act and feel much like placing and editing content on a Google Slide.
  • Real-time Collaboration - Currently you can have multiple editors for a Google Site, but only one person can edit a specific page at a time. Once I start editing a page, Sites locks that page so no one else can make changes until I save my work and exit the edit mode. The new version of Sites claims to have real-time collaboration by multiple editors. This should function just like having several people in a Google Doc where everyone can work together live, making changes at the same time.
  • Responsive Design - One of the most common complaints about the current version of Sites is its inability to display well on screens other than a standard computer monitor. What looks good on your desktop or laptop, should also adjust to smaller screen such as phones and tablets, without the need for unnecessary scrolling or resizing. This is what we can responsive web design. The new version of Sites includes includes new “themes and layouts designed to scale and flex to any screen size”. As more and more students (and adults) consume their content through a mobile phone, it is critical that schools can create Sites that will function well on all devices.
  • More - According to Google’s blog post, they have “a lot more in store for ... Google Sites”. We will have to wait to see what these other features will be, but hopefully they will include an option for full-features blogging, with user comments and proper social media integration, rather than the quite limited “Announcement Page” in the current Sites.

Demonstration Video





When and how to get it?

Google says the new version of Sites is already being tested with a small group of customers, and they are now extending access to new people through an Early Adopter Program. I applied for access through my Google Apps domain and am waiting to hear back. Below are the details for how you can apply for early access as well:
  • You have to have Google Apps for Education (or Business).
  • You must be a Super Administrator for your Google Apps domain.
  • Next sign in with your account at the Google for Work Connect website at https://connect.googleforwork.com/docs/DOC-17373
  • If this is your first time there, you will fill out a brief profile screen.
  • Finally you will be presented with a Google Form to fill out to request access to the Early Adopter Program.

If your Google Apps domain is added to the program you will have access to the new version to create new Google Sites. However this will not impact any previously existing Sites you have created. Those will still be accessible as normal and you will be able to edit and share them as before with the old Sites program.

For those not in the Early Adopter Program, it sounds like everyone else will get the new version of Sites over the next year, if not sooner. In their blog post, Google mentioned that the current version of Sites will still function for at least one year, and eventually there will be a process for migrating old Sites to the new platform.

Conclusion

Although it means having to redo a whole lot of help guides and training videos, I am very excited to hear about the new version of Google Sites. Sites can be a great tool for students to demonstrate their learning, build a portfolio, collaborate with peers, share their writings, and create a positive digital footprint. I am looking forward to seeing the educational impact a new version of Sites can have on teaching and learning in our schools.

What are you hoping to see in the new version of Sites? Share any ideas or info you have in the comments below.

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1

76 comments:

  1. Been waiting for this update for a WHILE! Sites has always seemed to lag behind the other products and been put on the back burner. Hopefully this new version makes a more viable option for people to learn quickly and integrates seamlessly with all our other Google products.

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  2. Thank you for the update. I am happy to hear there will be a process for migrating old sites and that there is time built in before switching them over. As always, I appreciate all the work you put in to inform and educate others!

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  3. I also hope there is a process to migrate my current teacher Google site. I'm looking forward to having my students create their own Google site!

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    1. has anything been determined about the migration from old to new site? can it be done? Anxious to know!

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    2. Did you ever figure out the migration process from old to new?

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    3. Google says: https://support.google.com/sites/answer/7035197?hl=en&ref_topic=6372873

      "Migration tools to transition your classic sites will be released in 2017"

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  4. Yep, long overdue. It was too clunky.

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  5. I wonder... Since this will have a full featured blog built-in, I wonder if Blogger will be discontinued.

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    1. Hmmm, I doubt it. They would need to provide a migration process for Blogger to New Sites, like they are doing for Old Sites to New Sites. I doubt the New Sites would 100% match Blogger for a migration to be possible. Will be interesting to see!

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    2. Honestly, though, a blog export/import tool might be enough. Like how one can go from WordPress to Blogger and back again. It just brings the data through XML, as I recall. Thoughts to ponder.

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    3. As the tech director at a small college, I have more than 2000 students building GoogleSites as their e.Portfolio from custom templates. I am a bit anxious to see the new GoogleSites migration system. How long will 'old' sites be workable? This is a great step forward... and I welcome it but I am also wondering what my next steps will be to rebuild, transfer, and migrate so many users' work.

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    4. Spoke to a Google rep and they said the old sites will be around until the end of this school year for sure. I would imagine that's a fluid deadline, as they need to have the migration tool ready to go first.

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  7. Thanks as always for your great info, Eric. What concerns might I have over signing up for the Early Adoption?

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  8. I might have squealed out loud with this announcement. Yippeee!

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  9. I feel Sites has incredible potential - especially from an education standpoint! The ability to add Drive files with just a few clicks makes work presentation and digital portfolios possible!

    One feature that is desperately needed is the ability to password-protect a page. Right now, you cannot easily post student images without them being available to anyone. Sharing to specific people just doesn't work when it's a whole grade of students. Weebly allows this, but, of course, you have to pay. Adding this would be huge to Google in their GAFE market..

    I hope someone in Google developer-ville is reading..!

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  10. Nice...
    I am waiting for GIF files working on Google Sites.

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  11. I agree with Alice - thank you for your work and sharing and I'm too VERY excited and positive about this change! I hope it will integrate with Google Classroom. Right now my class sites are links in the About section of my Google Classroom

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  12. YEA...I too hope that it will integrate with Google Classroom. Please keep us updated.

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  13. Thanks for the Sites shoutout. Made a site a couple of years ago but switched to Weebly. Hopefully the drag and drop function will make it easier. Looking forward to trying it out.

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  14. Eric! Do you think this update will be reflected in Google Educator Certification? I'm taking my test soon but studied the FORMER Google Cites.

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    1. The certification exams will still use the current (old) Google Sites for now. The new Sites is still in beta, so it will be a while before it is available to everyone, and even then Google says the old Sites will function for another year.

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    2. I have a cadre taking on the Google Essentials exams this week (last batch before the new certification track!) I can tell you that the current Sites exam is not only what Google is already calling "Classic" Sites, but also includes some questions on the old Classic sites. :)

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    3. I was looking into the new Google Sites. Do you know if there is a way to sign up to Beta test for Google Sites for Education? It seems it is being advertised for Google Sites for Work. I am very interested in trying it out as I am starting a new position in a school district as Tech Integrator. The staff is very interested in Google Sites, but I want to present the newest version! Thanks!

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  15. Very very excited to real this news. Great article by the way. So, some things I'd love to see on the new Sites:
    - ability to create site templates
    - ability to generate sites in bulk from templates and assign to students and track through something like site maestro
    - an iOS app to build the sites directly on a tablet or at least be nicely operable in chrome's tablet browser
    - throw a QR code generator on along with the custom site url
    That said, I'm just totally happy with the Sites update written about here.

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  16. Do we know when this will be rolled out? I still can only access the older version.

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    1. It is still in beta now, so they are just starting to provide early access for some domains to test it out. Even when the new Sites does roll out for the public, Google states that the old version will continue to work for at least another year.

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  17. Eric--As always, you are quite thorough and your perspective is valuable. I too have applied. For several years we've been wondering what would happen with sites (we even had a bet whether or not Google would buy Weebly), and our teams are thrilled that Google has not abandoned this "lost child" of the Google Apps! See you at ISTE?

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    1. I wish I could be at ISTE this year, but will be having the equal pleasure of providing a Google Boot Camp for several dozen awesome educators here. Next year!

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  18. Eric-- thanks for the update. We use Sites for teacher websites along with Google Classroom and as our district website. I'm excited for this he mobile aspect and I hope migrating old sites works well.

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  19. Eric, I applied for the early adopter access for my schools GAFE account but I'm wondering how I will know if I have been granted access. Does Google send an email informing you?

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    1. Sorry my question came from "Unknown." I just realized I need to use the dropdown to id myself.

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  20. Eric, you are the best. I just did a PD on Google Sites and the teachers were complaining about the outdated graphics. I'm very excited.

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  21. Great news indeed. Just applied for the Early Adopter Program... waiting...

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  22. Me gustaría poder usar JSONLD en Google Sites.
    Poder integrar código JavaScript con garantías

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  23. Just got early access and began to build my new site. It is very limited and I got frustrated and stopped. I hope there is more coming. I tried to replicate my current site, but the editing options are few and over simplified. It will be great for my grandma, but not so much for my classroom. I will run my current site as a primary and keep my fingers crossed for lots of improvements.

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    1. How did you know that you had access?

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  25. Has anyone seen anywhere about using tables in the new sites

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  26. So I got access through my GAFE domain to use the NEW Google Sites, but when I go in to create another site, it doesn't give me this option... Any words of advice to get it? I don't want to use the old version if I need to create a site; I'd rather use the new Sites option.

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  27. So I got access through my GAFE domain to use the NEW Google Sites, but when I go in to create another site, it doesn't give me this option... Any words of advice to get it? I don't want to use the old version if I need to create a site; I'd rather use the new Sites option.

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  28. Sharin, use sites.google.com/new to access the new Google Sites. One on that page you can click the + in the lower right to create a NEW Google site.

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    1. Does that work with standard accounts

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  29. Must have a migration process for moving Old Sites to New Sites. If not, We will be VERY disappointed!

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  30. How long does it take to be white-listed after the initial sign up?

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  32. Will I be able to put folders inside folders?

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  33. Sure would have been nice for this to be ready for the 2016-17 school year....

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  34. How to add iframe, gadgets, appscripts on these new google sites?

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  35. Cannot wait to have a look at new templates.

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  36. When the new version comes out will you have to have a Google apps for business account?

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  37. Google the most well known web search tool was into utilization for more than century. It is the top most internet searcher utilized by ever client of the planet. The work on Google started in 1995 by Larry page and Sergey, its name was settled on the scientific term for speaking to by the numerical 1 took after 100 zeros.
    https://800support.net/google-latest-news/googles-new-launch/

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  38. Very good. Googlesite is underused.. not well designed either.
    Blog is not a substitute for well designed 'home pages' ... proven by 10000s of old home pages from GeoCities Archive.

    Google should lead the New 'home pages'..

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  39. I suggest GOOGLE uses for friendly Shorter home page addresses . For today a site appears like http://sites.google.com/site/idmssql/ . Clumsy With te Word 'site' appearing two times in the address! Why not make it as simple as http://idmssql.google.com/ or https://www.google.com/idmssql/ or at least http://sites.google.com/idmssql/

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  40. What if you are using Sites as a collaborative site i.e. wiki where multiple contributors have editing rights? Will this functionality be incorporated into the new version?

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    1. Kirby, yes that has already been added to the new version of Sites. You are able to share edit rights with other users. At the moment though they have not added page-level permissions, so the edit rights are for the entire Site, not just for specific pages (like you can do in "Classic" Sites).

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    2. Thanks for your quick response, Eric. A few other questions remain: (1) Will you be able to subscribe to page changes? (2) Will the annoucement-style page format allowing blog-like posting remain? (3) Will the "Classic" engine remain available for existing sites?

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  41. Eric, any idea how to remove left-side navigation menu on the new Google Sites?

    Thanks in advance,
    @mguhlin

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    1. You can select either top or side I belive, like you did with "old "sites

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  42. New sites is looking good so far but is lacking the following key features (unless I have missed them)

    - Page level permissions. A MUST for school based sites that contain learning material
    - Templates. Key to quickly creating larger sites.
    - Twitter feed embed. I don't belive you can even embed like you can on the "old" Google Sites.
    - Search bar- ?!

    The "New" Google Sites feels more like a blogging tool to me at the moment.

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    1. Agreed. I just opened the new sites today for the first time. Compared to Wix, GoDaddy etc. there are a lot of features missing.

      Apart from the tools you mentioned, the new google sites is also missing basics like:

      Page Anchors

      Buttons

      Image effects

      Page transitions

      Fonts

      Shapes

      Transparency Effects
      .
      .
      .
      The list goes on & on.


      Unless I am missing something my feeling is that these features will come. Do you have any idea if and when new features will be added?

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    2. By the end of November I belive the "new sites" will be rolled out, with the "old sites" being active still.
      Sometime in 2018 I belive old sites are to be turned off. Google will document the migration once the "new sites" has the same functionality as the old sites.

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    3. Do those other ones have security built into every page? And free hosting?
      I think Google expects that if you want those things you mention then edit code or hire a developer. Maybe they'll roll out cool things like that too that would be awesome..but i think sites has always really been designed as "website as collaboration space" rather than mainly to produce a consumable feed. Bringing those together is very much needed so i am stoked

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  43. I would like to know how to set own domain for New Google Site, Thanks so much

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  44. I'm just glad they updated because it means they aren't going to discontinue it

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  45. Disappointed with new sites. I was trying to have subpages... doesn't appear to be an option yet. Very limited templates and page options. Surely google don't want all their pages looking exactly the same. Maybe this is why classic sites can't be migrated yet?

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  46. how is this ''new sites'' considered an upgrade over current platform ?

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    2. It's still in it's early phase! Patience! ;)

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  47. I cannot add my html code for adsense in new google site. Further i cant hide a sub-page in title bar in case if i wish to reach that page only by a link within the body. It is mandatory to see the sub-page at the top bar. Its annoying.

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  48. From what I have done so far, I absolutely love the new sites. It is missing a number of items but I can see them being added over time, it is not holding me back. I was surprised that I could not embed a blog, but some embeds do work (sound cloud, flickr and the Google Docs set. One issue I do have is figuring how to set the URL to www.mydomain.com (I had this with the old sites)

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  49. how do you set it so your site can only be viewed by persons you invite ? I like having my site to be private amongst my members.This is currently available in classic sites

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  50. I'm unsure whether at this point, you can "share" a site so it is not private but those people with whom you have shared can not necessarily have edit access rights.

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