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Host your website free with Google!

posted Aug 24, 2016, 8:27 AM by Andrei Zo   [ updated Aug 30, 2016, 4:07 PM ]
Google is currently one of the best known brands in cyberspace, so much so that for many people, it IS the Web or Internet. Consistent with its mission to empower users to publish content that can be adorned with its ads, Google offers quite a few options for hosting your website with them. (Just to be clear, Google will not force you to post its ads on your site, but they make it easy for you to do so and they also pay you for it.)

If you want to keep a journal for the world (or just yourself) to see and be in full control of your content, and even possibly post ads, Blogger is your best choice. Compared to other blogging platforms, such as Wordpress.com, you can host your domain name for free, you can post ads (such as Google Adsense) and you have far more freedom in modifying the "look" of your site. This freedom is also the reason why some people may choose to host corporate or static websites with Blogger, much like those who like to pay more host with Wordpress (aka Wordpress.org).

If, however, you are an absolute beginner, I recommend you look no further than Google Sites. It is as simple and straightforward as it gets and it even includes some limitations meant to ensure you don't do anything too crazy or dangerous. Such a site will be accessible via sites.google.com/site/yoursitename as well as multiple (sub)domains, making it perfect for a backup site once you outgrow its constraints.

The easiest way to familiarize yourself with the product is to create a site as a playground and explore the different options available to you and how things change as you modify content and structure. You may create and delete sites as you wish, so don't be shy, go ahead and explore!

Here are a few helpful tutorials:
  • Mary Fran's tutorial site (Certified Google Teacher)
  • Mike Ravenek video tutorials: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (about 25 min each)
  • Teacher Tech start (30 min) and 2016 (16 min)
  • BradRCD full (51 min)
  • Google Help and Forum
The following tips might help you avoid common pitfalls and might speed up your learning:
  • If you copy and paste web content from elsewhere (such as when transferring your website to Google Sites), the images might not be uploaded. For the images to be saved, you will have to save the webpage to your hard drive with type "Webpage - complete", then "Insert" or upload each image via the Google Sites editor interface.
  • If you are starting from scratch, spend a few minutes with a pen and paper (or your finger and touch screen) sketching out how you want your website to look. You can place a navigation bar on top, or on either side, you can have a dark or light theme and you can have as many pages as you want.
  • Create a site purely as a playground and test your assumptions and actions before messing with the "live" or "main" site.
  • If you anticipate taking longer for your website to launch, set a deadline and direct your domain to a static page informing visitors of the launch with a countdown and capturing their email address to keep them up to date. This page may also contain your contact info. We can even help you set up a mailbox on your domain, so that somebody can email you at whateveryouwant@yourdomain.name; you could then access your email via this mailbox which is like Yahoo! or Google mail or forward it to your existing email address.
    website launch countdown under construction
  • Though the visual editor provided by Google Sites obfuscates it, web pages are written in a language called "HTML" or HyperText Markup Language. To see a sample of this language you can right click on any page and choose "View Source" - this option might be found in a different menu, depending on the browser. You can see what HTML looks like in Google Sites by clicking <HTML>, the top rightmost button when editing. You could then try editing HTML directly to learn it and see how things change. It's really simple: to bold text enclose it in <b> and </b> tags. For italics, use <i> and </i> and so on. You can already notice a pattern, namely that the closing tag is the opening tag + slash ("/"). There are numerous tutorials and resources for learning HTML - just search using Google. Understanding HTML and its big sister, CSS, will allow you to better control the look of your page and do more than the visual editor allows you to do.
The above resources should be sufficient to get you started with Google Sites. We strongly encourage you to try to figure it out on your own, as this is a mature and simple product that just works. 

Here at Wintegrated we do not normally take webdesign projects, for reasons outlined by the creator of Oatmeal. If your requirements are beyond the scope of what can be achieved with Google Sites or Blogger, please make use of our Consulting services.
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