We in the ETL have always been about technology, so what I am writing is likely not going to surprise anyone. We’ve changed our web site (again) back to one that is based on Google Sites. A lot has changed since the last time we tried using Google Sites. Google’s developers seeming have been working overtime to make the product not only a compelling option for private sites and wikis (where it all came from back in the days of JotSpot) but also for public-facing sites, much like we need for our laboratory.
What precipitated this resurgence of interest in Google Sites on my (our) part? I was recently reading this article on Mashable about the top 5 design mistakes small businesses make. I won’t rehash the article here but will just say that we were guilty of violating at least a few of them. I’m not going to go into the details but am going to claim with minimal proof that Google Sites helps our research lab to solve all of the problems, thereby allowing us to focus on the most important thing when it comes to web sites: content. Content is king…or queen! While we still have a ways to go in terms of content, Google Sites was particularly helpful at solving problems of navigation (#1 on Mashable’s list), color and contrast (#3), and clutter (#5). We already had a clear call to action (#2), so our focus can now be entirely on content (#4). In addition, our Google site is usable on mobile platforms, including Android and iOS.
While we’re still convinced that many large organizations and corporations will continue to find it necessary to deploy large-scale content management systems (commercial and/or FOSS solutions), we’re more convinced than ever that “cloud” hosted solutions like Google Sites are only going to get better as we’ve observed firsthand. Not only are these solutions backed by a rock-solid distributed foundation to yield near-zero downtime, they are easy to manage from anywhere and customize to match institutional/organizational house styles. It’s really hard for any self-hosted solution to compete with what Google offers to anyone and everyone!
We’d still like to see Google offer a bit more customization of the site theme and allow for more flexible layouts of page elements, but these features are not strictly needed for a growing number of uses. And as we mentioned, the ability to do so has improved almost exponentially since the last time we tried using Sites. I know that I would rather spend more time working on the various projects we’re hosting in the ETL and less time thinking about whether my web site will be up and running when I am asleep at night. Thank you, Google.
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