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How to Build a Company Intranet on Google Sites

Since our founding, the “source of truth” for our company has always been the intranet, which is of course built using a Google Site. But as the team continues to grow, we needed to reformat the site’s layout and expand upon existing content – particularly around training, team responsibilities and processes. With a rapidly expanding workforce, it’s getting harder and harder to get new employees up to speed, but with our recently relaunched intranet, updated training content and detailed company history, we’re confident our newest team members will fit right in in no time.

If you’ve been wondering how to build a company intranet using a Google Site, here’s everything you need to know (and more).

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Creating the Google Site

First and foremost, you’ll need to create the actual site. To do so, simply go to your Gmail Inbox and select “Sites” in the black bar at the top. From here, select the red “Create” button on the left-hand side. You’ll be given the option of choosing a pre-made theme or starting with a “blank template.” We suggest using a premade theme and customizing it from there – this will simply be quicker and easier. There are even several “intranet” theme templates to help get you started. However, if you want to start completely from scratch choose the “blank template” option.

creating a google site

After selecting your theme or choosing the blank template, name your site – this will serve as the URL going forward. Google will automatically give you a very long URL (https://sites.google.com/a/domainname.com/sitename), but you can easily create a short custom URL in the Google Apps Control Panel. To do so, visit “Domain Settings” and “Add a domain or domain alias” in the Control Panel. Enter the desired redirect URL and proceed with Google’s instructions (Note: You’ll have to verify domain ownership with your domain registrar).

Your site is now set up and ready for editing.

Structure

After creating your site, you’ll want to set up the structure and page templates so there is a consistent look and feel across the entire intranet. No matter what theme you’ve chosen, you can heavily edit and customize the site layout. Editing the site layout allows you to add and / or alter a sidebar, header, custom footer or top navigation. Each of these options is of course customizable as well.

Let’s take a deeper look at the “Horizontal Navigation” option. To add a horizontal navigation, select the “More” dropdown menu and then choose “Edit site layout.” The header area will now turn blue when you scroll over it. You can now add pages, change the style of your header and remove the sitemap if you choose.

horizontal header To add pages to your header, you’ll need to first create those pages, so close the header window by clicking the blue “Close” button and then select the Page+ button at the top of the screen. If you want to put your new page in the header, select the option to “Put page at the top level” and click “Create” and “Save.”add new site page

Now that you’ve added the page, go back to “Edit site layout” in the “More” dropdown menu, click into the header section and select “Add page.” Here your new page should be surfaced in the list of pages to choose from. Select the appropriate page, click “Ok” and watch a new header tab appear.

add new site page to header

Styling your Site

Even if you’ve chosen to use a prefabricated theme, you can still heavily customize your site. To add custom colors, fonts and even background images to your intranet, select “Manage site” from the “More” dropdown menu. Then choose the “Colors and Fonts” tab. Here you can alter the page background color, the page background image, page font, link color and more. (If you’d like to add more customizations to your Google Site, check out this Google Gooru video explaining how to add CSS, javascript and jQuery to your site).

google sites custom color

If you’re unhappy with the theme you’ve chosen, you can also change the site theme under “Manage site.”

As for actual images already on the site (if you’re using a pre-fab theme), simply click the pen icon at the top of the page, click on an image and then click the “X” to remove the image. You can insert your own images using the dropdown “Insert” menu at the top of the page.

removing an old picture in sites You can also hyperlink images so they redirect to different pages within or outside of your intranet. Below, I’ve hyperlinked Gmail, Calendar and Drive icons to provide quick links for employees visiting the intranet.

To hyperlink an image, simply click on the image and click “change” then enter the correct URL.

There are literally hundreds of customization and formatting options in Google Sites, it’s best to play around to find the best options for you.

Embedding a Custom Company History Timeline

Though this feature is not essential, a custom company history timeline allows us to view BetterCloud’s short history in a clear and interactive manner. And best of all, the timeline is easily editable and uses Google Spreadsheets!

To begin creating your custom timeline, visit timeline.verite.co and then select “File Formats” at the top of the site and choose “Google Doc Template.” You’ll be redirected to a Google Spreadsheet Template that you can fill in with your own information – including images (or “Media”). Once you’ve added your company’s history, publish the spreadsheet and copy the URL and paste that URL into “Embed Generator” on timeline.verite.co. Finally, grab the iframe embed code from vertie and paste that into your intranet using HTML editing (found at the top of the screen).

To view a sample timeline, check out the About Page on our mock intranet.

Collaboration

Google Sites function just like Google Docs in terms of collaboration. You can share your site with others and give them view-only, editing or ownership rights. The level of control you give each collaborator will determine what they can and cannot edit. For instance, a user with editing rights will be able to add images, update text and create pages, but they will not be able to alter the actual structure of the site – “Edit site layout.” You can also give collaborators page level permissions, enabling certain team members to only edit or view certain pages.

Collaboration tools have been extremely useful during our intranet revamp – each department is responsible for updating their section of the intranet, which keeps the entire site up to date with accurate, vital information.

If you’re already using Google Apps, Google Sites is a great (free) way to create and house your company intranet, something every company should have!