Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trying to live with Google Sites as my website hosting service

I guess it was a little over a year ago that I dropped the last pay-for-it web hosting service I was using. Partly it was because I was tired of paying for it--but that had a lot to do with the fact that I hadn't been updating my various Web sites for years, and continuing to pay for the hosting of a lot of out of date content was pointless.

So now that I'm reestablishing my online personas, I'm trying to live within the limitations of Google Sites' graphically based web design application. I started writing HTML code back in the mid-1990s, and so trying to limit myself to a graphical editor is--simply put--excruciatingly frustrating.

I'll qualify this by saying that I'm very much a huge proponent of Google. We use Google Apps for email and our website at the public library where I'm the IT/IS Manager, and I use Google Apps extensively for my own personal use as well.

Google Sites does allow one to manually insert HTML code (on the edit page toolbar there is an <HTML> button at the far right). Given that functionality, I imagined being able to essentially copy & paste existing HTML code into Sites. However, some preliminary testing with a rudimentary table reveals that the Sites graphical editor is quick to render code to its own liking. It's understandable that Google must process the code; otherwise, users with malicious intent could insert all kind of nefarious things. However, if we are talking a basic table with minimal tags, it's kind of frustrating to see it arbitrarily mangled.

My HTML code was always extremely simplistic, plain HTML. I never advanced to using fancy Java scripts or anything else of much complexity. Despite this, I'm guessing my attempts to copy & paste some existing website content is probably going to get severely mashed by the Sites HTML code processor.

Ironically, what I can design relatively quickly using HTML actually takes longer to do using Sites graphical tools. Image file management in Sites has literally been dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. Again, I understand that this is necessary to make it usable for people who have no conception of relative vs. absolute paths and how image files and web page documents reside on the server in relation to one another. However, what I don't understand is what appears to be a complete lack of more advanced management tools for those who can make use of them?
I read in a Google support forum thread where users were complaining about being unable to delete image files. It was from a few years ago, and at the time I suppose this really was a legitimate issue--for which the explanation was allegedly that image files could NOT be deleted because of the shared (i.e. collaborative) nature of Google Apps. Huh? It is possible to delete images (More Actions > Manage Sites > Attachments -- obvious, right?). What is puzzling to me is that as far as I can tell, all images are dumped in either the "root" or "home" directory (depending on how the image is inserted or uploaded), and the user has no control whatsoever over this.

Despite my dismay over such puzzling limitations and the lack of more advanced controls, I will give Google credit for always improving its products. Maybe someday advanced tools (for example, file management--which is a basic feature of any paid web hosting service) will be available. Until then, I guess I'll just keep trying to live with the limitations.

I will definitely be back with more commentary on Sites as I delve further into it...

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