As part of some pro-bono work we manage a website for a community organization.  To get it up ultra quickly (and without any hosting costs) we used Google Sites.  Sometimes we’re sorry we have, sometimes we’re happy. It’s a sort of love hate relationship. Today we logged in to make some changes and quickly found an announcement about the new Google Sites being launched.  Eager to do away with some of the bad parts of Google Sites we dove in and tried it out.

Starting with the Good

  • The interface is much easier to use.
  • Switching between preview and edit is fast.
  • The design of the limited number of themes (7) available at the time of this writing is modern and a nice departure from the previous version.
  • The available tools are integrated tightly with Google Drive so you get a good number of embedded tools to use (eg. Forms, Sheets, Docs, YouTube, and more)

On to the Bad

Unfortunately there was a deal killer that just makes the new system unusable for the time being. You can no longer edit the HTML of the text boxes.

This means that you cannot insert Paypal buttons.  You can’t even copy and paste them from the old version to the new version which is typically possible with many WYSIWYG editors.  It’s understandable why this might be removed, because that freedom requires a lot of responsibility, and can be abused.

Most websites however, exist for the purpose of getting the visitor to take an action.  If you remove the ability to get the one action you want a visitor to take then you’ve made it impossible to use that tool

 

The Quick Verdict

Use it for what it is, don’t if you need anything useful.  As long as you understand you can’t do much of anything with it at the moment that involves transactions you’ll be happy with the overall simplicity and especially happy with the cost.  Maybe we’ll find a work around for transactions in the future, and update this post (or write a new one) if we do.

The Philosophical Verdict

Our initial feeling is that all websites look a whole lot alike lately. Differentiating yourself, your business, your uniqueness will be harder with this tool. We’d love to hear from some web designers what they think about that.

EDIT : We were wrong, but…

There is a way to create a PayPal button. You just have to use the “Email” tab (within PayPal), and use your own image or text button link, instead of the form code. See screen shot.  However, there is probably some use case where the missing HTML button will make something that was previously possible not possible.  Just don’t know what that use case is (if you do, comment).