As mentioned in previous posts my school has recently begun using GoogleApps for Education in earnest. GoogleSites is one of the main features of this and we’ve been using this with Year 7 to make some fab e-portfolios. However, another major advantage is that it has let teachers create departmental websites that we have full control over, when compared to our previous clunky VLE, this has been a revelation. We’ve been able to share Home Learning, post links to every past paper under the sun, run news updates on the best TV documentaries on this week and ultimately share resources with both students and parents. It’s been over six months of playing with this feature and I am now in the process of totally remaking our departmental site as the old one was essentially a test-run and I now know how to make it look and function far better. Below is a few top tips for those people who may fancy having a go themselves.
1. Make a plan on paper before you create it.
Websites are tricky beasts and it is fiddly to move pages and in GoogleSites its tricksy to change the type of page once its created (NOTE: thanks for John Sowash for informing me that you can do this change, I originally posted that you could not!). Therefore get a big bit of paper and make a plan of structure and note what each page needs to do, which will help you choose the right format.
2. Consider if a Filing Cabinet is actually best.
GoogleSites give you an option to create a filing cabinet page where you only have to click and browse to add a file. This is ridiculously easy and great for some staff who aren’t that confident with computers. But, with lots and lots of files it does become difficult to use and looks very ugly! A good solution to this is to upload all your files to GoogleDocs, then create a table in GoogleSites and link to the docs. This looks better and means you can have different sections etc.
3. Make buttons on your site
Links from words function brilliantly, but most professional sites don’t just link from words they use buttons. You can create your own very easily. Edit images using http://www.picnik.com or a similar website (you can even add text on top) . Then insert the images and change the link to another page. Done. Very quickly you can make something even a pro would be proud of. Here’s my best work so far:
4.Gadgets are ace.
GoogleSites have literally hundreds of gadgets, go to Insert and click ‘More gadgets’. Plunder them. Some are rubbish, some are ace. Geography departments consider a weather gadget. Twitter users consider a twitter feed gadget. Go play!
5. Learn a bit of HTML.
HTML is relatively easy and with it you can create better, more beautiful, bad ass websites. For example positioning is difficult in GoogleSites. This can be solved easily using HTML, whack in a table and change the HTML to have no borders, then you can insert things into cells and center or align easily. Done. Want every colour under the sun, find the HTML code for a colour and change it. Granted you are limited in a GoogleSite to what you can change (e.g. you can’t change the Cascading Style Sheet as such), but its dead easy. Especially as a million and one people either blog about how to do it or add stuff to the forums. Don’t be scared, try it.