Google Sites real world use a disappointment

I reviewed Google Sites on the night it launched a couple of weeks ago for Web Worker Daily. In case you’re not familiar, Google Sites is the former JotSpot wiki application relaunched and rebranded. It’s now Google’s quick-n-easy wiki product, linked only to Google Apps (hosted) accounts.

For that review, I created some test sites, played around, and I thought it had some potential. I didn’t think it was great right off the bat. I thought it was easy, non-intimidating and something everyday folks might actually use.

I think my opinion is changing.

Laini’s Bat Mitzvah is coming up next year. Eric and I have been busy coordinating the details. Given Laini’s disability and our current limited finances, we’re keeping this very low key, very simple. Still, there’s a lot to keep organized and research…caterers, florists, guest lists, agendas, etc. I thought creating a Google Site shared between Eric and me would be a perfect use of Google’s new toy.

As usual, it’s one thing to use a tool to write a speedy review, it’s another to have a real-life project. Even if you use real data for the review, the focus is on the tool. For the real-life project, I want the tool to get out of my way.

Simply put, Google Sites has some quirks that may prevent others who are project-focused from adopting it.

Eric has his own Google Apps account for his domain (lifeoverip.com). I have my Google Apps account for momathome.com. I created the Site on my account and shared it with him, making it private to the rest of the world. As expected, he received the invite link and could view/edit the Site. No problem.

The other day, Eric tried to go back to the Site and there was no way for him to do so from within his account. If you share a Google Doc with a person outside your domain, that document is available for view in Google Docs in their account when they view all files at docs.google.com/a/yourdomain.com. The only Google Sites you can see if you go to sites.google.com/a/yourdomain.com are ones that have been created in your domain. You can view “your” Sites, or browse sites on domain.com. It appears that the only way that you can view a Site created in another domain is to follow the link you were sent in the invitation email and load the Site directly. Clunky.

Okay, we worked around that by Eric bookmarking that link.

Next, you have to be sure that you know what you want when you create a page.

sites-create.png

If you start with “Web Page,” you type in some copy and then decide it would work better as an announcement page instead, there doesn’t appear to be a way to change the format of the page without deleting it and completely starting over.

And there are things that just don’t make a lick of sense.

I created a calendar just for the Bat Mitzvah in my Google Apps calendar (I normally use the calendar associated with my @gmail.com address). I shared it with Eric and then embedded it on the page defaulting to Agenda view so we can both see what’s coming up (deadlines for getting contracts/deposits in and the like) without having to go directly to the calendar.

This morning, I load the Site and I see this:

laini-calendar.png

Events from one or more calendars could not be shown here because you do not have permission to view them.

Excuse me? I created the calendar in the same Google Apps account that the Site sits and now I don’t have permission to view it? It was working just fine a few days ago. I can see and manipulate the calendar clear as day when I load it in the Calendar app. There is no explanation as to why Google Sites doesn’t have a clue.

Maybe I’ll try the same wiki project with the new pbwiki 2 beta as a comparison. For now, I’m thinking Google should have let JotSpot bake a little longer. Hopefully there will be speedy updates, as Gmail, gCal and gDocs weren’t all that when first launched either.

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4 thoughts on “Google Sites real world use a disappointment

  1. I’ve been frustrated because I wanted to try out the new wiki-like thing. So I signed up for an account with Google Apps and didn’t realize that boom now my old google cals don’t work because they are now google apps calendars. It’s been a real headache and I thought I had gotten rid of that dammned “you don’t have permission” message only it keeps coming back. So bloody irritating.

    The only good news is that I know lots of people use the calendar because they are all writing me to complain that it’s not working. Swell.

  2. I’m having the same frustrating problem. If there is a solution to the Calendar problem it’s not at all obvious.

    HEY GOOGLE! HELP US USE YOUR AWESOME SITES TOOL BY MAKING IT EASY TO USE!!! (I know this is going to get indexed eventually.)

    -Frustrated user.

  3. yea i have the same problem with the calendar not granting permission. it works if you log into gmail and navigate back to your site.

    this really sucks.

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