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Google Workspace: a Practical Guide


Google Sites is a web-based platform that allows you to create and publish websites with ease. But before we get into the nitty-gritty of creating your site, let's have a quick overview of what Google Sites is all about.

You can think of Google Sites as your virtual canvas for presenting information, sharing projects, or even building an e-portfolio. The best part? You don't need to be a coding wizard to make it happen! Google Sites is (relatively) user-friendly and allows you to easily integrate content from other Workspace apps such as Docs and Slides into your site. It's a powerful tool for digital collaboration, and allows you to add a touch of flair when showcasing your academic and personal projects.

Please note: Google Sites are not intended to replace department web pages on the University website ( These are created using a Content Management System (CMS) which is managed by the Communications team. The Web CMS is for public-facing web content related to core University activities such as information for prospective students, research, partnerships and corporate information.

Getting started with Google Sites

Let's take a look at the basics of Google sites to get your first site up and running...

Creating a new Site

Once you have signed into Google with your University of York Google account, head over to to access the main Google Sites dashboard. Hit the + button or choose the Blank template to create a new draft Google site. If you wish to start with a pre-built template, there are several you can use from the Template Gallery, but more often than not this just means more work deleting all the things you don’t like! You can also create a Google Site directly when in Google Drive by clicking New +, More, and then selecting Sites.


Now you will be in your draft, unpublished Google Site. But before you get to editing, don't forget to give your site an appropriate name. The naming box at the top of the site determines how your Google Site will be named where it is stored in Google Drive, whereas the naming box below it determines the name of your site as it will appear when published.

Edit Mode vs. Published Version

Understanding the distinction between edit mode and the published version is key when creating your Google Site.

Edit Mode: This is your draft website. It is your creative workspace, hidden from public view. Here you can experiment, refine, and perfect your site without the fear of your changes being seen by others. It will be quite clear when you are in editing mode, but if you are ever unsure, the big purple Publish button in the top right hand corner should allay your fears! You can also always tell if you are in edit mode as you will see the three main content editing tabs on the right of your window. 



You can always get back to edit mode in your website editor by accessing the site file in your Google Drive, through the Google Sites Application, or by pressing the pencil icon in the bottom right on any site you have edit rights to.


Published Version: Once your site is all nicely polished and ready for the world to see, simply hit the Publish button. 

This will make your site go live online, and anyone with the link can access it (depending on your audience settings.) Bear in mind that after publishing, any edits you make will be immediately visible to your audience. But don't worry, you can always make updates. See below for more details on publishing your site and choosing who can view it.

Adding content to your Site

Content Access Permissions

Before you dive into adding content to your Google Site, it's essential to remember that when you're including content uploaded from Drive or other Google Workspace apps, the content must be appropriately shared to be visible to others. Sharing settings ensure that your content is accessible to your site's visitors. For example, if you embed a Google Doc and its sharing permissions are restricted, this means it will not be visible to any site visitors. Before adding content, make sure to set the sharing permissions accordingly for your audience. For more on sharing, see our Google Drive guide on managing documents in My Drive and managing documents in Shared Drive.

How to add content: toolbar vs insert

Toolbar vs Insert Tab

When adding content, there are two methods you can use:

The toolbar: This is opened by double clicking anywhere you wish to add content. It has a limited number of core content types you can add: Text, images, uploaded local content, embedded content, and items from drive. 

The Google Sites content toolbar


The insert tab: Located on the top right of your editor, this tab gives you the full range of content types that can be added to your site. When using the insert tab, just remember to navigate first to where you want to add your content to avoid a painful moving job later!

The insert content tab

Adding text

Text is the foundation of your website's content, so it's probably just as well it's the easiest thing to add! Here's how to add text to your site:

Using the toolbar: While in edit mode, navigate to the section where you'd like to add the image or document. Double click on the section of your page where you want to insert text to bring up the toolbar. Use the Text box icon Text box icon in the centre of the toolbar to create a text box, and start typing your content.

Using the insert tab: Text boxes can also be added by going to the Insert tab on your edit pane and selecting Text Box.

Once your text box has been added, you can also format your text using the provided toolbar options, including headings, lists, and more. 

Adding images & videos


Using the toolbar: Navigate to the section where you'd like to add the image or document. Double click to bring up the toolbar. If you are uploading an image directly from your local storage or device, select the upload icon on the right:Upload iconOr, to add images via Google Drive, by link, through Google Images, or Google Photos, it’s the top option and the image icon: Image icon

Using the insert tab: After pressing the Images button, choose the Upload option to upload images directly from your local storage, or choose the Select option for images via Google Drive, link, Google Images, or Google Photos. You can also add an Image Carousel to upload multiple images with a slideshow scroller!



On Google Sites you have the flexibility to incorporate videos hosted on Google Drive, or embed videos from YouTube.

Adding videos from Google Drive: Navigate to where you wish to add your video. Double click to open the Toolbar or choose the Insert tab in the top menu. Select Drive, which will open a new menu where you can select your video file from Google Drive. If you are struggling to find your video, you can use the magnifying glass at the top of this menu to start a search for the item by name, or filter items by type to search for just video files. Once chosen, click Select to add the video to your page.

Adding videos from YouTube: For YouTube videos, the process is even easier. Navigate to where you wish to add your video. In the Insert tab, scroll down to the YouTube option. You can then search for a video, or paste the link to it in order to add this. You can also embed the video, which will let you choose to start the video at a specific time when played. To do this, find the YouTube video you wish to add to your site, click on the Share button located below the video, and select Embed from the menu that appears. Here, you can toggle options including the start time. Copy the provided HTML code and return to your Google Site. In the Insert tab, select Embed  and then paste the code into the provided embed box. 

Google Workspace items & embedded content

Google Workspace items

Integrating content from other Google Workspace apps is a great way of including Google Docs, Slides, Forms and more onto your site. Here's how to do it:

Navigate to where you want to embed your Workspace item. Select Insert from the top menu, then scroll down to select the specific Google app you'd like to include (e.g., Google Docs, Sheets, Forms). You can also find these files directly in your Google Drive and add them by double clicking to open the toolbar and selecting Drive. Select the document or content you want to embed, and click insert. Don’t panic just yet if the added Workspace item looks like it isn’t fitting in your site! An oddity of edit mode is that it looks like embedded Docs have been cut off. When you click to previewPreview iconyour site in the top right corner, you will see that a scrollbar has been added to your Doc and the full content is viewable. 

Embedded content

Embedding is the process of incorporating content from external sources into your Google Site. This type of content can enrich your Google Site by allowing you to integrate external elements, such as videos, widgets, interactive elements, or music players directly from their original sources.
To embed content on your Google Site, follow these general steps: go to the Insert option in the top menu or double click to open the Toolbar. Choose Embed Embed icon and paste the provided code or URL of the content you wish to embed.

For example, if you wanted to embed a Spotify player on your site, start by visiting the Spotify web player to find the music you wish to embed. Click on the three dots (...) next to the item, go to Share, select Embed, and then follow the general embedding steps mentioned above to have a mini-Spotify player embedded on your site! You can do this also for individual songs, playlists and albums.

Content blocks & moving your content

Content blocks

Content blocks are versatile elements that can help structure your site. You can add them by clicking the Insert tab and selecting Content block. These blocks can hold text, images, videos, or other content. They make it easy to organise your site and ensure it looks clean and professional.

The content within these does not just have to be images as the icons indicate. Once the content block has been added, hit the button to choose from a range of content types.

Moving content

You can move each item in your site by clicking, holding, and dragging them to their desired location.

Blocks of content can be moved by clicking and holding the dotted control to the left of each block and dragging it to its desired location. This can help you easily reorder content on your page.

You can also resize items by double clicking the item and dragging the resize controls to the desired height & width.

Additional content types

  • Collapsible group: This creates a section that can be collapsed when clicked: just like the headings you are collapsing on this guide!
  • Table of contents: This will create a table of contents that is determined by the heading styles of your text paragraphs. For more on heading styles, see below.
  • Button: This creates a simple button that can be used to link out to external pages, or existing pages on your own Site.
  • Divider: This creates a simple horizontal line that can be used to divide sections of your Site.
  • Spacer: Similar to a divider, but this creates an invisible space between sections.
  • Social links: These can be used to link out to your social media accounts. Add the link, and an image to represent where that link will lead to.
  • Placeholder: This creates a placeholder for a piece of content, similar to a content block. You can add items to this by clicking the + button in the middle of the placeholder.
  • Cloud search: This will allow your users to search for content within your organisation.
  • Calendar: This will create a widget on your Site that can contain the schedule of a chosen Google Calendar.
  • Map: This will embed a mini-Google Maps widget for a chosen location. You can use this to give people directions.
  • Docs: This can be used to embed a Google Doc.
  • Slides: This can be used to embed a Google Slides presentation.
  • Forms: This can be used to embed a Google Form.
  • Charts: This can be used to embed a chart from a spreadsheet you have uploaded to Google Drive.

Choosing how people navigate your Site

Adding pages to your Google Site is essential for structuring your content effectively. To create a new page, navigate to the pages tab in your site editor.

Google sites pages tab

Here, you'll find a + button  that allows you to add a new page. Select the appropriate page type based on your content and provide a clear name for the page.

Page types

Google Sites offers a variety of page types to suit your Site's needs:


  • Standard Page: This is your all-purpose page for adding text, images, videos, and more. It's the most versatile and commonly used page type.
  • New Menu Section: Use this page type to create collapsible menu sections. It's excellent for organising subpages or grouping content together.
  • Full Page Embed: If you want to embed external content like Google Docs, Sheets, or Forms and have it occupy the entire page, this is the ideal page type.
  • New Link: This page type allows you to link to external websites or files, making it useful for directing visitors to other online resources.

Navigation mode

You can control how your site's navigation is displayed to your audience. The default setting places the navigation at the top of the page, but you have the option to change it. By going into the Settings Settings cog and then the Navigation section, you can switch between top navigation or side navigation, depending on your site's layout and your preferences.

Changing how your website looks

Themes play a crucial role in defining your site's overall appearance. Google Sites offers a selection of preset themes to choose from, and you also have the option to create your own custom theme. All of this can be found under the Themes tab of your Site editor. 

Here, you can personalise your site's colours, fonts, and other design elements to create a unique style for your Site.

Site header & recolouring sections

At the top of your Site, you will notice what is called the Site header. This is where you can name the header for each page on your site and choose how it is displayed, To change this, first hover your cursor over the header to bring up the the choices menu. You can then either upload or select an image, and then choose how this is displayed by selecting Header type. You can choose how large your image header will be, or  maybe opt for something nice and simple with a title only header.


You can recolour individual sections and content blocks on your Site by hovering your cursor over the section you wish to alter. This will bring up the section options edit toolbar:

Section edit options: Here you can select from various styles for your sections, including colouring them or adding an image.

Select the colour palette option to recolour your section, or add an image behind it. The colours you can choose here are governed by your chosen theme. If you do not like the colour options, you may want to opt for a custom theme wherein you have a greater degree of freedom in choosing colour styles.

Brand images

Adding brand images to your site is great for branding and recognition. Within Settings Settings cog, you can upload a logo, which will be displayed at the top of your site, adding a professional touch. You can also upload a favicon, which is the small icon that appears in the browser's tab when users visit your site. 

Announcement banner

The announcement banner is a useful tool to communicate important updates or messages to your site visitors. It is located at the top of your site and can be easily enabled or disabled within the Settings Settings cog menu. You can convey your message effectively through this banner, ensuring that it catches your audience's attention as soon as they open your Site. 

Previewing Your Site

Before publishing your site, it's a good practice to preview it to see how it will appear to your visitors. This allows you to make final adjustments and ensure everything looks as intended. In the edit mode, simply click on the PreviewPreview button button at the top right of the screen. The preview will open, allowing you to review your site's appearance and functionality. You can also try the preview toggles at the bottom to see how your Site will appear on different devices. And when you're done, just hit the to take yourself back to edit mode.



What good is having a Site if not everyone can access it? 

Being mindful of accessibility on your Google Site is crucial for ensuring a smooth experience for all of your audience. Embracing Universal Design principles means creating content accessible to everyone, regardless of abilities or disabilities. By incorporating accessibility, you not only adhere to ethical design practices but also broaden the reach and impact of your content.

Heading styles

Using heading styles in your text boxes is a fundamental step in enhancing the accessibility of your site. These styles help organise and structure your content, making it easier for all users to navigate, including those who rely on screen readers. You can change your heading styles when editing text by clicking on the drop down box on the formatting toolbar: 

Heading style options from top to bottom: Normal text, title, heading, sub-heading, small text

Start with Heading 1 for main headings and use Heading 2, Heading 3, and so on for subheadings to create a clear hierarchy of information.

Alt text & captions

Adding alt text to your images is a critical accessibility feature. Alt text provides a brief, descriptive text that conveys the content and purpose of an image. This text is read aloud by screen readers, making visual content accessible to users who cannot see it. To add alt text to an image, click on your image, then the three dot menu, and select alt text. Then, simply provide a meaningful but concise description for your image. This practice ensures that everyone can understand and appreciate the visual elements on your site. Captions can be added in the same way, but are different to alt text. Instead of being hidden away in the background within the code of your Site, Captions are displayed to everyone. This is important if you need to reference images or data, or if you need to provide further context to an image beyond its visuals. You can find more guidance from us on how to add alt text and good practice when doing so in our Alt Text Guide.

Colour contrast

Maintaining proper colour contrast is essential to ensure that your site is accessible to individuals with visual impairments. Inadequate contrast levels between your text and background colours can pose significant challenges to many. You can use tools like WhoCanUse to check your site's colours for accessibility. This tool helps you identify colour combinations that might be difficult for some users to distinguish by assigning scores to different font & background colour combinations. For true accuracy, you can get the hex code of the exact colours you are using from the themes tab on your Site by clicking on your theme, and then the paint icon Paint can icon in the colour palette selection. You can then copy this into WhoCanUse, test your colours, and then copy out the hex codes back into Sites when you find that perfect combination that works for everyone!

Captions on embedded videos

Including captions on embedded videos is another crucial step for accessibility. Captions provide a textual representation of the audio content in videos, allowing individuals with hearing impairments to access the information. Most video hosting platforms, including YouTube, offer tools for adding captions. For more on how to add captions to videos, see the Subtitling section of our Video Editing Practical Guide.

Accessible hyperlinks

Creating accessible hyperlinks is about providing clear and informative link text. Rather than using generic phrases like "click here" or "read more", use descriptive link text that conveys the purpose or destination of the link. This approach benefits users who rely on screen readers, as they can understand the link's context without having to read surrounding text or a gigantic URL! For instance, instead of "Click here for more information", you could use "Learn more about our research." This makes it much clearer what the link leads to rather than a vague promise of "information." 

Publishing & sharing your site

There's more than one way to cook an egg, and there's more than one way to share your Google Site! Let's take a look at how you can collaborate on a Google Site, set who can see your Site, and then, at last: taking the plunge and publishing your Site to make it LIVE!

Collaborating on a Site

Collaboration is a key feature of Google Sites. You can add collaborators to work on your site together in the same way you can on other Workspace apps such as Google Docs, Slides, and so on. It's important to understand that when you add collaborators as Editors, you're sharing access to the Site editor, not just the published Site, so be careful about who you invite.

To collaborate on a Site, click on the Share With Others Share with others buttonbutton located at the top right of your Site editor. You can also do this within Google Drive by right clicking the item and selecting Share Share with others button Enter the email addresses of the individuals or groups you wish to invite and choose whether you want to give them access as an Editor, or if you want them to just be able to see the published Site and not the editor, set them as a Published Viewer. When adding Editors, you can select Settings Settings cog within the sharing dialogue box to enable or disable the option for Editors tor be able to publish, change permissions and add new people. 

For more on Sharing Google Workspace Items like Sites, see our guidance on sharing in My Drive and sharing in Shared Drive.

Storing your Site: Shared Drive vs. My Drive

As with all Google Workspace items, you have two options for storing your Site: Shared Drive and My Drive. It's crucial to understand the differences:

Shared Drive: Storing your site in a shared drive is recommended for collaborative projects. It allows multiple individuals to access and manage the site. This is ideal for ensuring that the site remains available and under control, even if the original owner leaves the University or organisation.

My Drive: Storing a site in your personal My Drive may lead to complications if you leave the university or if you're the sole owner. Access could be lost, and the site may become unmanageable.

Carefully consider the long-term use and ownership of your site when choosing. If you wish to move a Site from My Drive to Shared Drive, be aware that the access permissions of the Site will inherit the permissions of this Shared Drive. For more on how inheritance and ownership works, see our guidance on Managing content in Shared Drives.

Version history

Google Sites automatically maintains a Version History of your site. This feature allows you to view and restore older versions of your Site or specific pages. You can also create named versions to keep track of specific iterations of your site. This is a valuable tool for tracking changes, troubleshooting, or simply reverting to a previous design. 

To view your Version History, go to the three dot menu in the top right of your Site editor next to publish and select Version History. You will be able to see a date stamped list of all the changes you have made to your Site. You can restore, name, or make a copy of specific versions by clicking on the three dot menu beside each version. To restore specific pages, click on a version, select your page, and then click on restore this page version towards the top of your Site editor. If your Site has already been published, you will need to publish it again to see these changes go live.

Choosing who can see your site

Controlling who can see your Site is important to consider before you take the plunge and publish it.


The Sharing dialog box on Google Sites

You can manage who has access to the published version by adjusting sharing settings and permissions. To do this, go to the Share After hitting the share button a dialog box will appear. You can add people and groups by email in the text field box and then choose their level of access: editor or published site viewer. You can also change general access to the draft and published site as a whole. button to open the sharing dialog box, or when publishing, select Manage underneath Who can view my Site. Underneath General access, you can toggle the published Site to be Restricted, viewable only by the University of York, or Public. 

You can also toggle your site to appear in Google searches or keep it off the grid. When publishing a public Site, you will see an option for Search settings appear, where you can check or uncheck the option to Request public search engines not to display my site.

Publishing your site

And at last, we're here! You've created a wonderful, unique, accessible Google Site and it's time to share the fruits of your labour with your chosen audience! And guess what? To publish your Site all you need to do is hit that big beautiful Publish button:

Publish button

Who'd have thunk it?!

When you first publish your Site, you will need to give it a Web address which will form the Site's URL. You can change this at any point by clicking on the small drop-down arrow next to the publish button and going to Publish settings. Though bear in mind, if you have already given the previous URL out to people this will mean the old URL will not work for them and they will need the new one to access the Site, so be careful! This same drop-down arrow next to the publish button is also where you can Unpublish your site if you get cold feet or need to take it down.


For UOY members, where a Google Site is public facing – e.g a recognised conference, event, significant project or similar - you can request a customised name of the form "". You will need to include the University logo somewhere on your site (not distorted and in an appropriate size) and include links to the University's Legal Statements, Privacy statement, Cookies statement, and your adapted Google Sites Accessibility statement in the footer of your site. This then needs to be submitted to by your Departmental Computing Officer.

You are now free to continue editing your Site in the Site editor and your changes will not go live in the published version until you hit publish again. 


Here's some suggested exercises to start familiarising yourself with Google Sites:

  1. Create a content block: Use the content block feature to add a cluster of different forms of content: images, videos, & text.
  2. Create a button: Improve the user experience on your site by creating a button. Try linking this button to another page within your site or an external resource.
  3. Embed a Google Form: Add interactivity to your site by embedding a Google Form on one of your pages. Experiment with different question types and settings to create a survey, contact form, or feedback form. 
  4. Add a Theme: Change the look and feel of your site by selecting a new theme. Customise your site's colours, fonts, and overall design to match your brand or personal preferences.