modular innovation review user experience

Google Sites. All open. Now what?

googlesites-logo (part 5 of 7) Wikia, Wetpaint, PBwiki, Google Sites, and Versionate. There are literally hundreds of different wikis available, each offering unique online experiences and presenting different interpretations of what it means to be a wiki. Within this series we have been exploring and discussing the top 3 most popular, free, online wikis as we seek out the best online wiki experience.

Today, we will look into one of the up-and-comers within the wiki space, Google Sites.



Previously known as the highly successful JotSpot, now Google Sites is back and available to everyone as a very different product. Google Sites appears to have undergone a bit of re-writing and re-imagining.

Earlier this year, Google Sites was exclusively released to Google Apps users. On May 21, 2008, Google Sites‘ expanded the release to include everyone. Clearly, through the expanded release, Google Sites seeks to accelerate the growth of this “new” wiki product. However, it remains too early to accurately gauge the eventual rate and level of adoption of Google Sites.


  • Google Sites delivers a quick and streamlined User eXperience (UX). Navigation and interaction both benefit from quick page loading and good use of Ajax for such activities as page editing.


  • Wikis can greatly improve an organization’s knowledge management capabilities. Very common to knowledge management is the management of lists for anything from action items to features and employees. Google Sites has a unique implementation of lists, by way of special list pages, allowing for the customization of all list fields as well as a simple interface for adding, removing and editing list elements.


  • Google Sites has various levels of enforced hierarchy, from the display of a page’s subpages to direct navigation to a page’s parent via breadcrumbs.


Disappointing or Unsatisfying

  • A good feature of Google Sites is that it allows for both public and private wikis. However, even if the wiki is private, Google reserves the right of ownership of ALL the wiki’s content as well as the right to publicly PUBLISH your content.


  • Tight integration with the other Google properties would be both a large positive feature of Google Sites and a major plus to wiki user productivity. However, Google Sites falls far short on delivering on what the UI implies. Content from other wiki properties must be made public and the full URL must be copy-and-pasted into place. The very loose integration does not even provide a list of available content stored within other Google services, and the requirement to make Google service content public is independent of the public/private nature of the current wiki.


  • A user can either be an owner, collaborator, or viewer for the entire site. Each user type is very broadly defined, putting the administrator in the position of often having to make a decision whether or not to allow a user too much or too little access and sharing permissions. Too much permission can result in undesired deletions; too little can result in loss of productivity.


Google Sites is still young, when measured from the point of its re-introduction to the world. It provides for a very simple (and spartan) introduction to the world of wikis, especially to potential, non-technical audiences. There remains a good deal of work ahead for the Google Sites development team, but with the strength of Google behind them they remain an obvious wiki to keep an eye on.

In the next post of the series I will share with you another, fairly unique, up-and-coming wiki, Versionate.

Think & Share…

What are some reasons that stop you from using a (or any) wiki? Security? Controlling access? Ownership (and/or portability) of wiki content? Other?

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring best online wiki User eXperiences as well as other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

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Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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  1. Yup. Google Sites is really cool. You can even develop a Issue Tracking Database in it. See:
    I plan to use this extensively next semester

    Couple of serious limitations in Google Sites:
    1) Attachments are limited to 10 MB. That is way too low by current standards. Some of the PPTs I create are larger then that. I guess I could use Google Docs for them PPTs.
    2) No support for Flash/Shockwave. That is just silly. 😦


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