What you need to know about Google Sites as a web-designer
When I first got the idea of offering webdesign services, I felt Google Sites would be a good match for me.
In hindsight, it has been a mixed blessing. Sure, it got me started and I’m grateful for that, but after doing just a few client websites on Google Sites, I decided to move on to other platforms.
In this article I’ll talk about my experience with Google Sites from a web-designer point of view. Hopefully, reading this can save you some time if you’re thinking about going down the same path. 🙂
- Google provides the hosting (for free!).
When I started doing webdesign I still had a fulltime job. Not having to provide a hosting solution for my clients sounded great. It was something I didn’t need to worry about at all. Also, you’d be hard pressed to find the same hosting quality elsewhere, especially on a shared hosting solution.
Because the hosting is free, it also helps when you’re selling your services. Clients love the idea of a fixed price, not having to deal with any recurring costs besides the domain name.
- It’s Google!
Everyone knows Google and most people trust the brandname by now. Getting the site indexed on the search engine and adding some Google Analytics tracking are both very easy to do. The same goes for adding YouTube videos, a Google+ button, and so on.
- CMS included.
Each site you create on Google Sites has a Content Management System. This means your client can login on their site and easily make some changes themselves. It’s something many clients have come to expect and it also reduces you workload later on.
- Mobile device rendering.
Select the checkbox next to the “Automatically adjust site to mobile phone” option. Done!
- There’s no competition!
Very few web-designers offer Google Sites design services. Therefore, specialising in this field instantly gives you two advantages.
First, people that already have a Google Sites-website and are looking for a professional designer don’t have many options and are likely to end up being your client. Secondly, your competitors won’t be able to offer free hosting. This unique selling proposition alone should be enough to land some clients.
- No CSS.
This one is huge. It means you will have a real hard time coming up with nice designs.
You just can’t apply your normal designer workflow to Google Sites. Instead, you’ll have to set the site up and then try to get it looking half-decent by creating custom background images (header, page background and content background).
I can assure you that gets old really fast and it takes quite a bit of time.
- No premium templates.
Because there’s no CSS access and no obvious way of selling themes, there is no market for paid Google Sites templates. This means you won’t be able to sell your templates without manually creating the client site and, more importantly, it also means you can’t buy decent templates to jumpstart your clients’ sites.
- Lacking features.
Even for the most basic sites, clients will expect some basic features that you will find difficult to provide.
– Most clients will want a picture gallery. You won’t be able to do much better than to provide a Flickr- or Picasa-slideshow.
– Just about every site needs a contact form. You’ll either need to include a Google Spreadsheet form or use an external service like Jotform.
Stuff like this is readily available on platforms such as Weebly or WordPress.
- Slow development and bug fixing.
I really feel Google isn’t very focused on developing the Google Sites-service. As time goes by, Google Sites lags further and further behind it’s competitors.
For example: at the time of writing, there’s a bug that doesn’t allow users to link their custom domains to Google Sites. Especially when you’re providing a paid webdesign service, this is a big issue. So far, this bug has remained unfixed for several weeks!
If you feel being able to offer sites with free hosting will be enough to get some clients, Google Sites can be an easy start for your web-designer career. Since I started the same way, it would feel a little hypocritical recommended you not to do it.
However, I would also suggest you keep learning as you progress and I think you’ll be looking to move away from Google Sites pretty soon.