From Google Pages to Google Sites
Two and a half years after its beta launch, Google Page Creator is being phased out and replaced by the more robust Google Sites product. All current Google Pages will be moved to a Google Site by the end of the year, and no new Page Creator accounts are being accepted. Google also notes that Google Page users can manually move their Web pages from Page Creator to Google Sites or another service at anytime.
Unlike Page Creator, which essentially allowed users to string multiple pages together to create a site, Google Sites is intended to be just that: a site. I took Google Sites for a spin, and here is the result: http://sites.google.com/site/dmnewssearchbuzz/
Since the end goal is to create a site, the most notable improvements include the addition of a global navigation tool and an auto-generated sitemap. Non-techies can easily map a custom domain and add Google Analytics to the site as a whole — previously, page creators had to add analytics page by page. These structural components to the product have suddenly put basic web usability and optimization into the hands of newbies, which makes for additional fodder for the Google data machine.
Regular Gmail and iGoogle users will enjoy the fact that many function sets have been borrowed from these products. In short, setting up a Google Site is really no more difficult than personalizing one's start page, and perhaps easier than setting up and customizing a blog. Once a basic theme is selected, the site layout, colors and fonts are easily adjusted.
My biggest gripe is that while a universal font can be selected, font sizes must be changed on each and every page. I also had some problems changing font on actual pages, even after selecting “clearing formatting.” My guess is that this function is still a little buggy, something I also found to be true in Google Pages.
The appearance tab offers a very carefully controlled set of options. One can add a background image, but position and size are limited. I added a background image, but then couldn't figure out how to remove it. During this process, I realized that I could actually add my own logo to replace the default Google logo, although logo placement is also limited. This is another function where I also expect to see greater customization.
The real fun, however, comes in the ability to integrate multiple Google products, from Picasa to Google Docs, as well as gadgets, to create a much more robust Web site. Google and YouTube videos look much cleaner on Google Sites than on Google pages. And, while I ran into a bug adding an RSS feed by URL, other gadgets were easily incorporated — including a creepy spider.
Last but not least, Google Sites can be collaborative. I've said it before, and I will say it again: As the Web becomes more social, so will Google.