The Ultimate Guide on How to Create a Google Sites Intranet in 12 Steps
As an intranet designer and consultant we are approached at many points in production, but typically we engage with a client at the beginning. So here's a roadmap to share the adventure of creating Google Sites for intranet.
Make a Plan
We already discussed planning and the three pillars of good planning: aesthetic, organization, functionality. Review your company's goals for the intranet? What is the intranet's purpose?
What kind of intranet does your company need? There are many types of intranet-type sites:
true intranet - multi-faceted that combines all the below concepts of resources, news and information
wiki - a company encyclopedia, pure knowledge base, also called source of truth within a company
apps dashboard/portal - a landing page or resource database to connect employees to resources or apps
team/project site - encompassing only a team or project as the primary subject
help desk - support, contacts, resources, FAQs, tutorials, articles and so forth
extranet - designed to serve clients, contractors and their needs related to your organization
2. Find Intranet Inspiration
You wouldn't believe how many queries we get traffic for involving searching for Google Sites intranet examples. Why is that? Because internal communications directors, managers and advisors all want a reference point for what to expect from an intranet in Google Workspace on the Sites platform. So find examples of intranets, wikis and portals. Take note of what works or what could be adopted by your organization.
An intranet doesn't always need to be a complete reinvention of the wheel. There are many common elements in design and development. So go explore inspiration in a few ways:
Google around for examples, like by using an image search
Review your company's own public-facing website
See what different platforms do like Office 365 with Sharepoint, or Notion, and then don't be afraid to borrow good ideas
Check out any existing Google Sites on the domain that might be for team or project sites
3. Determine Your Project Team
Every intranet-building project has a team. That team can be as simple as a project manager and a contractor. Here are some factors that may determine your team size and approach:
A project manager or a steering committee
Site owners, collaborators, content managers and overall site governance
And here are some common departments that get involved in the process:
IT for the technicalities, security and possible development needs
Marketing for ideas about brand, aesthetic, look and feel
Internal Communications for guidance on messaging
Designers for input regarding UX, user experience
4. Gather Knowledge & Content
Typically the project manager takes on a role like a middleman or coordinator. The individual in this role will need to remind and nudge departments for content or input. Therefore, strive to set expectations clearly for content managers and department heads. Make it easy for them to submit content, this leads us into our next point: content management.
5. Choose a Content Management Strategy
When you've gathered the content for the intranet, you need a place to dump it. Pick the CMS that is the most intuitive for your organization. Since we are usually working with Google Workspace clients, we recommend starting a Shared Drive. This team drive will be a backend parallel universe to the Google Site architecture. Use a combination of these tools in your CMS:
Folders to denote sections or pages
Google Docs for on page content
Google Spreadsheet for links, data and resources
Some teams lean more heavily into spreadsheets to share their thoughts, others use Google Docs. Do what feels most comfortable for the long term, because you'll be using this system the next couple weeks or months.
6. Organize Everything Site Wise
Organization has a strong correlation with points 4 and 5. The project manager is usually tasks with filing all this content, putting it into logical categorical buckets. Brainstorm about the hierarchy of the site. Here are useful tools for organization:
Mind mapping is the most organic means of mulling over your content, link your thoughts together
Sitemap Diagraming will help you bucket out your content
Considering a need for subsites? private sites? Basically, do you need break away sites with different permissions tied to them?
Wireframe / Mock Ups will put flesh on that metaphorical sitemap skeleton
Create a Sandbox Google Site is a great exercise that brings you closer to building the real thing
7. Assign or Hire a Designer / Developer
This is one or two individuals with strengths in graphic design, UX, HTML, CSS, Google Workspace Admin, Apps and API integration. Put simply, this is the primary builder of your intranet. The role is looking for content and guidance to go forth and create.
Your Google Sites designer/developer can be sourced from within your organization or brought in as a contractor. Our experience is that KWD is hired as a Google Sites intranet consultant because experience or bandwidth are lacking within the client company. It actually might be the most cost-efficient solution to hire this out because Google Sites experts work with such speed and efficiency that makes it worth it.
8. Build, Collaborate, Review, Repeat
This is where the bulk of time and effort are spent. Ideas become reality and content finds a home. There will be emails, comments, chats and weekly meetings surrounding the building process.
9. Request Feedback and Input
Feedback can and should be requested at many points in intranet conception and creation. Up to this point, the project manager has received approvals from management like the CEO, CIO or similar. When milestones are completed it is appropriate to reach back out and gather input so that the intranet development is not a surprise and expectations are realistic for the final product.
In addition to feedback from administrators and management, general requests for input can be sent out in the forms of:
Naming contests for the intranet
Questionnaire input (needs/wants/gripes)
10. Train Editors and Visitors by Making a Google Sites Intranet Tutorial
Google Sites permissions effectively creates two groups: site editors and site viewers. You want both of these groups to be confident when interacting with the site. Knowledge, instruction and training promotes confidence. Therefore, you can produce materials for this goal such as:
Video tutorials uploaded to Google Drive or private in Youtube
Written tutorials, how to's and instructional type articles
Training sessions with Google Meet, which can be recorded and Q&A format opportunities
Google Spaces or Google Groups for Business for help desk support and communication
This intranet documentation can address questions like: How do I navigate the intranet? How do I upload a news article? You will find plenty of support article documentation available from Google which can be borrowed and customized for your specific instance.
11. Launch the Intranet
The day has finally come and you can share your hard work freely with the company. There are a few ways to go live with your intranet:
Soft launch to a few departments and they might help you troubleshoot it.
Publish in a phased approach which will reveal results without diving in too hard to all areas. Also good for budgetary or timing constraints.
Also, before you launch, consider a few ways of increasing adoption, engagement and analysis:
Prepare an official announcement, like an email blast
Custom URL like intranet.company.com, hub.company.com, wiki.company.com all subdomains.
Make sure Analytics is up and running
12. Test & Quality Control
Get feedback from users with Google Forms, Google Spaces, etc.
Review updates from content managers via Version history
Send recurring calendar events for regular review sessions perhaps on a monthly or quarterly basis. On initial release this could be daily or weekly to immediately address issues, gaps in content or errors with third-party apps.
Make back up copies of the Google Site
Install Google Analytics to measure engagement
Regarding Google Analytics, employee engagement can be measured in objective terms via web traffic data. Using Google Analytics 4 installed on the client intranet I can track key statistics for engagement like page views, content engagement time, scrolling, clicking, goals, event counts and conversions.
To increase employee engagement I send weekly reports to content managers automatically via Google Analytics. This helps them to identify where users are engaging and where they are bouncing. These content managers can then identify anomalies and weak points on the intranet.