Easy peasy websites

Building websites used to be the province of people without much of a social life and an abiding passion for writing convoluted code using Windows Notepad.

Things changed for the better with the introduction of word processor-type programs that allowed you to put together web pages as easily as you a could a letter. It was, unfortunately, still quite a business transferring completed pages to the Internet where they could viewed by the world.

The next refinement for non-professional users were online services which offered built-in tools that could be used by site visitors to build and administer their own websites. There are quite a number of these to choose from but I recently found a very good new one.

On a recent visit to Google (www.google.com), I struck gold when I saw that they were now offering a free website creation and hosting tool called Google Sites. You’ll find the home page at sites.google.com and, if you already have a Google account in the form of Gmail, or whatever, you won’t even have to register for the new service.

Instead, you’re presented with a big Create Site button which launches a page which asks you for a few bits of key information like what you want to call the site and what colour scheme you want to use.

A possible snag is with the site location which is usually just the site name repeated. All will be well unless you have chosen a site name, and therefore location, that is already taken by another user.

You do not have to think of a new name for the site but you do have to type in a new location and keep on doing that until the system accepts the one you have chosen. The name of the site might be Cats but the location could end up as cats23, for example.

The location is important because it forms part of the site’s address that you give to people so that they can view it. Using the example above, the address of the site would be sites.google.com/site/cats23.

You are initially taken to the blank front page of the new site, once you’ve created it, and you can begin adding your content. On the left there is navigation area which will contain links to all the pages in the site and there are buttons labelled Create New Page and Edit Page.

Clicking the Edit Page button fires up a word processor-like tool which lets you work with the page you’re currently viewing. There are a lot of options including layout, formatting and features that will let you insert tables, pictures and videos into your page.

There are also a wide variety of pre-built elements, or gadgets, that you can add to your pages including clocks, calendars, games and, my current favourite, one that loads a picture of a different swimsuit model every time you open the page.

Once your page is complete, you just click Save, and your page is now visible to the world. Creating a new page is likewise very easy and all you have to remember is to access the Page Settings feature to confirm that your new page should appear in the contents list on the left.

Google Sites is very much easier to use than it sounds and I believe that it could be very useful for people wanting to create a web-based portfolio or brochure. It could also be a very useful collaborative tool for businesses and other groups because it allows many people to work on one site.

That would be useful for people working on a project who would all be able to upload any file, create or edit pages, and generally keep all information relating to the project in one place. In this case, of course, you would most likely only allow invited team members to view the site.

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