Google Sites for Documentation

3 minute read

The title of this post is probably off-putting to a large number of people. Why on earth would I use Google Sites for blogging, wiki, and technical documentation? Isn’t that old, outdated tech even though Google did release a newer version? To be honest, I agree with those objections. This blog isn’t written with Google Sites. It’s written using the R package blogdown and Hugo and they are fantastic. However, there are some features of Google Sites that might make it a nice tool for you and your work colleagues.


Never underestimate the power of the WYSIWYG editor. This magical tool allows anybody, at any technical skill level, to contribute content. Creating and maintaing a good website requires constant updates and tinkering that a single person might not be able to keep up with. The graphical interface allows you to share work with non-technical contributors as they shore up and support your efforts.

Access Control Permissions

Static website generators are nice, but lack some more robust and intutive tools for granting permissions and access to your site. With Google Sites this comes standard. If your orgnization uses the Google Suite, this is one of the main reasons for sticking to Google Sites. You can contol view and edit permissions to any level of detail for individuals inside and outside of your organization. Again, this can all be with the click of a button or API calls, just take your pick.

Embedded Google Docs, Sheets, etc.

Not sure if this needs to be said, but adding it here for completeness. Google Sites plays well with embedding Docs, Sheets, Slides, and other Google products. If you already have a significant amount of content in these formats, you’ll find it easy to integrate into a single source.

Built In Google Search and Analytics

Your Google Site automatically comes with the powerful and handy Google Search technology. A good turn-key search solution on your website is critical, especially for wikis and technical documents. Users typically won’t frequent your site unless they are looking for something. The search bar is their window into the trove of information you’ve got. The search makes finding the content they need easy and encourages them to come back for their next quesion. User engagement fosters the virtuous circle where the contributors add more content and users consume more and more of it. And, of course, Google Sites makes it easy to plug in your Google Analytics code and track that user engagement.

Final Thoughts

Google Sites are alright in my book. I’ve used them and it’s worked out well, but each time I had a strong reason for wanting to use it and was committed from the beginning. Given my experience with R and willingness to use the Sites API I went ahead and created a collection of functions that make it easier to create, update, and delete content on your Google Site without ever leaving R. I’ve started bundling together the functions into an R packge called googlesites that’s currently on my GitHub. Please take a look to see the sorts of things you can do with the package at